New report: “Review of the Science Linking Chemical Exposures to the Human Risk of Obesity and Diabetes”

Sarah Howard
Coordinator of the CHE Diabetes and Obesity Spectrum Working Group

The UK nonprofit organization CHEM Trust (Chemicals, Health and Environment Monitoring Trust) just released a report on the links between chemicals and diabetes/obesity. Studies published in recent years provide compelling evidence that human chemical contamination can play a part in both conditions. The report concludes that the chemicals that we accumulate throughout life, via our everyday lifestyles, is likely to contribute to these modern epidemics. This is the same conclusion reached by the National Toxicology Program’s review of the scientific evidence on chemicals and diabetes/obesity, published last month.  

The CHEM Trust report, entitled Review of the Science Linking Chemical Exposures to the Human Risk of Obesity and Diabetes, is written by two of the world’s leading experts: Professor Miquel Porta, MD, MPH, PhD, of Spain and Professor Duk-Hee Lee, MD, PhD, of South Korea.

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Exploring and Building Models

In recognition of CHE’s 10th anniversary, colleagues who have been particularly instrumental to shaping CHE this past decade will be invited to write an introduction. This month’s introduction is by Ted Schettler, MD, MPH, CHE Science Director, Science Director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, and Coordinator of CHE’s Science Working Group.

Beginning a decade ago, CHE formed working groups with interests in specific aspects of environmental health science. Most were organized around health outcomes, since individuals and organizations frequently focus on a specific disease or disorder, often for very personal reasons, and it seemed logical to build on that structure.

Periodically, however, we come up against the limits of our taxonomies. For example, naming the diabetes-obesity spectrum working group was challenging from the beginning-it was once known as the metabolic syndrome working group—because of the common co-occurrence of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and lipid abnormalities, not only in individuals but also in populations. Moreover, midlife diabetes and obesity are themselves risk factors for cognitive decline, dementia, and certain kinds of cancer. But, since these conditions are so commonly mixed together, what is the disease? Does our routine use of the International Classification of Diseases coding system hinder our ability to see patterns and identify common environmental threads that create the conditions giving rise to the diseases of our time?

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