Diabetes and Dioxins

Finding higher diabetes rates among those heavily exposed to toxic pollutants—such as those exposed to Agent Orange, chemical plant explosions, toxic waste dumps, or heavy metals in fish from the Great Lakes—is one thing. Would the same link be found in a random sampling of the general population? Yes. A strong dose-dependent relationship was found between the levels of these pollutants circulating in people’s blood and diabetes. Those with the highest levels of pollutants in their blood stream had 38 times the odds of diabetes.

Interestingly, there was “no association between obesity and diabetes among subjects with non-detectable levels of pollutants.” In other words, “obesity was a risk factor for diabetes only if people had blood concentrations of these pollutants above a certain level.” We know obesity predisposes us to diabetes, but according to this study, this is perhaps true only if our bodies are contaminated with industrial pollutants. This finding implies that virtually all the risk of diabetes conferred by obesity is attributable to these pollutants, and that obesity might only be a vehicle for such chemicals. Could we be carrying around our own little toxic waste dump on our hips?

Now it’s entirely possible that the six pollutants they looked at were not themselves causally related to diabetes. Rather, they could just be surrogates of exposure to a mixture of chemicals. After all, 90% of these pollutants in our diet come from animal foods. Except for individuals living or working around industrial sites where these chemicals were used or dumped, the most common source of exposure to PCBs is from diet, from foods of animal origin, especially seafood. The strong relationship the researchers found between certain pollutants and diabetes may just be pointing to other contaminants in animal products.

If these pollutants are particularly found in seafood, are people who eat fish at higher risk for diabetes? See my videos Fish and Diabetes, and Pollutants in Salmon and Our Own Fat.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of DeathMore Than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.

Eggs and Diabetes
Flaxseeds for Diabetes
Mad Fish Disease


Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rogers2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Veronica Danie
.2 years ago

Thank You!

New G.
W. C2 years ago

Thank you.

William C.
William C2 years ago


Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran4 years ago


heather g.
heather g4 years ago

One can have a blood-test to check what pollutants are in your blood. There is normally a list of them and, when pregnant, mother's pass these on to their babies.

I haven't heard any concern expressed by local or federal govt.

Karen K.
Karen K4 years ago

Comments are as much interest to read as the article!

Mahmoud Khalil
Mahmoud Khalil4 years ago


Muff-Anne York-Haley

I don't eat fish! My brother has type 2 diabetes brought on by obesity and he does eat quite a bit of fish!

Kamia T.
Kamia T4 years ago

That totally explains why diabetes has escalated rampantly even though our ancestors ate such heavy meals 100 years ago. They weren't subjected to all the toxins we are. They may find that diabetes is just the breakdown of natural cell processes in an effort to control the poisons, and that detoxing will be the ultimate solution.