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Pesticides and Diabetes

Exposure to pesticides may increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 64 percent, according to a new analysis of 21 studies by researchers in Greece and England. Another investigation reported that women who had elevated blood levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) during the first trimester of pregnancy were more than four times more likely than normal to develop gestational diabetes. While the researchers who conducted the analysis said that their results don’t prove that pesticides cause some cases of diabetes, they maintained that the findings add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that environmental contaminants play a key role in the development of the disease. After reviewing the studies, which included data on nearly 67,000 people, the researchers concluded that the increased risks seen were associated with the organic pollutants DDT, dieldrin, heptachlor, and HCB.  Most of the studies included in the review identified pesticide exposure via urine and blood analyses, methods that are considered very accurate. The authors of both analyses said that while diet, weight and exercise factors are also key to diabetes’ risk, the role of chemicals cannot be ignored. Animal and laboratory studies have shown that endocrine-disrupting chemicals can provoke precursors to diabetes and even diabetes itself. Results of both new analyses were presented at the September 2015 meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.

Want a Nontoxic Garden this Spring?

Creating a garden that is free of pests but does not rely on pesticides is simple – and better for your family and the planet! Try these three techniques for a safe, thriving garden this year!
If you are planting a garden, try natural, nontoxic approaches to pest control:

  1. Pyrethrum. This mixture of insecticidal compounds found in some species of African chrysanthemums controls aphids, whiteflies, stinkbugs and mites. You should be able to find pyrethrum products in your local garden center (some will say they contain "pyrethrins.") Check labels carefully to make sure you choose the product intended for the crops you're growing or the pests you're trying to eliminate.
  2. Neem. From the seeds and leaves of the neem tree, Azadirachta indica, which is native to India, the compounds neem contains (such as azadirachtin) act as insect repellents. Neem is nontoxic to animals and humans and beneficial to bees. Although neem products are somewhat more expensive than most synthetic pesticides, they are worth it for both personal and environmental health.
  3. Insects. Consider adding beneficial insects such as ladybugs and praying mantis to your garden (both are commonly sold at garden centers).

Also ask your local garden shop about simple soap solutions you can spray on plants to help eliminate insects, and about pheromone traps (useful against some insects, including Japanese beetles). You can always use netting or pick or brush insects off manually or wash them off with forceful streams of water.

Environmental Working Group – 2014 Shopper’s Guide with Dr. Weil (Video)

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes an annual Shoppers Guide. It consists of two lists - one of the "Dirty Dozen" produce varieties that have most pesticide contamination, the other of the "Clean 15" that are the least contaminated. Here's my discussion of why shoppers should be concerned about pesticide levels, and how the Shopper's Guide can help them avoid these worrisome chemicals.

More information:

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