White pigment found in food and household products linked with type 2 diabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on June 25, 2018

A white pigment found routinely in household paint, toothpaste and foods could be associated with the rise in the number of cases of type 2 diabetes being diagnosed, scientists believe.

Crystalline particles of titanium dioxide, the most common white pigment in everyday products, were found in pancreas specimens from people with type 2 diabetes.

Titanium Dioxide

(By Kateryna Kon/Shutterstock.com

Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is not a known constituent of any normal human tissue. But when the team of researchers working on a pilot study at the University of Texas in the United States examined 11 pancreas specimens, eight of which were from donors who had type 2 diabetes and three from donors who did not, they found the particles.

Whereas the three non-diabetic pancreatic tissue specimens contained no detectable TiO2 crystals, the crystals were detected in all of the eight T2D pancreatic tissue specimens.

The researchers found more than 200 million TiO2 crystallites per gram of TiO2 particles in the specimens from type 2 diabetes donors, but not in the three specimens from non-diabetic donors.

‘Our initial findings raise the possibility that type 2 diabetes could be a chronic crystal associated inflammatory disease of the pancreas, similar to chronic crystal caused inflammatory diseases of the lung such as silicosis and asbestosis,’ said Adam Heller, professor in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering in the Cockrell School of Engineering.

Titanium dioxide pigment replaced highly toxic lead based pigments in products in the middle of the 20th century and has become the most commonly used white pigment in paints and in foods, medications, toothpaste, cosmetics, plastics and paper. As a result, annual production of titanium dioxide has increased by four million tons since the 1960s.

According to the World Health Organization, the number of people with diabetes has quadrupled during the past four decades, affecting approximately 425 million people, with type 2 diabetes comprising the majority of recorded cases.

Although obesity and an aging population are still considered major factors leading to a rise in type 2 diabetes cases worldwide, Heller’s study suggests that increased use of titanium dioxide may also be linked to the rapid rise in the number of people suffering from the disease.

‘The increased use of titanium dioxide over the last five decades could be a factor in the type 2 diabetes epidemic. The dominant type 2 diabetes associated pancreatic particles consist of TiO2crystals, which are used as a colorant in foods, medications and indoor wall paint, and they are transported to the pancreas in the bloodstream,’ Heller pointed out.

‘The study raises the possibility that humanity’s increasing use of TiO2 pigment accounts for part of the global increase in the incidence of type 2 diabetes,’ he added.

Given the wide-reaching implications of his findings, Heller is keen to repeat the pilot study, but this time using a larger sample. ‘We have already begun a broader study. Our work isn’t over yet,’ he said.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ivan June 29, 2018 at 8:51 am

Every thing seems to cause type2 diabetes. Too little is being studied about excessive food intake and zero activity causing type2 along with decades of unhealthy lifestyle.


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