An Environmental Perspective of the American Diabetes Association’s 75th Scientific Sessions

written by Sarah Howard
Coordinator of the Diabetes-Obesity Spectrum Working Group

Sarah HowardOver 18,000 people from around the globe gathered in Boston June 5-9, 2015, for the American Diabetes Association’s premier annual scientific conference. Thanks to CHE, I was able to attend, and here summarize information I found on the development of diabetes—including environmental factors (especially chemicals), developmental origins, and the natural history of the disease.

Environmental chemicals

sign from the ADA meetingWhile there were not any sessions on environmental chemicals per se, I did find ten posters on this topic (see below for links to abstracts and online e-posters). The one that struck me most was by Su Hyun Park, who found an association between levels of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and beta cell dysfunction in 7-9 year old Korean children. Exposure to POPs, as well as to other chemicals, have been associated with beta cell dysfunction in other studies before, but there are few studies in humans, even fewer in children, and few at exposure levels found in the general population. (I told her I thought that hers was the most important poster of all 2373 of them and she laughed, but I stand by my opinion).

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Vitamin D—The Sunshine Vitamin: Low Levels and a New Health Concern

Ted Schettler MD, MPH
Science Director of CHE
and the Science and Environmental Health Network

Vitamin D plays an essential role in a number of biologic processes throughout the body. In addition to its long-recognized importance for bone health, vitamin D deficiency is increasingly acknowledged to be associated with a number of other diseases and disorders, including various kinds of cancer. A recently published study adds considerable support to yet another health impact—earlier age of menarche in otherwise healthy girls. If this finding holds up in future studies, the implications are profound.

If sunlight exposure is sufficient, adequate amounts of vitamin D are synthesized in the body. But many people, particularly those living in higher latitudes, are not exposed to enough sunlight to generate adequate stores. And, even in sunny places, skin cancer concerns limit sun exposure. Some foods are fortified with modest amounts of vitamin D in an attempt to address the deficiency. Nonetheless, vitamin D insufficiency remains extremely common in the general population. A recent report from the Institute of Medicine addresses this.

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