July 12, 2011

Are Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Found in Meat Causing Rise in Diabetes?

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are dangerous chemicals that have been banned but still remain in our environment and food supply because they take a long time to degrade. PCBs and DDT are some of the most infamous POPs.

If you are an omnivore, you are exposed to these chemicals, as they are stored in the fatty tissues of animals. A new study has found a link between POPs and the increase of diabetes, according to Mother Jones.

I've always associated our diabetes problem with the steady rise in sweetener consumption since the early '80s, triggered by the gusher of cheap high-fructose corn syrup that opened up at that time. But another culprit may be contributing, too: exposure to certain pesticides and other toxic chemicals. A new peer-reviewed study published in the journal Diabetes Care found a strong link between diabetes onset and blood levels of a group of harsh industrial chemicals charmingly known as "persistent organic pollutants" (POPs), most of which have been banned in the United States for years but still end up in our food (hence the "persistent" bit--they degrade very slowly)...

The researchers identified a group of 725 diabetes-free elderly Swedes and tracked them for five years, studying the level of POPs in their blood. Thirty-six of them ended up contracting Type 2 diabetes--and the ones who did had significantly higher POP levels than the ones who didn't. The researchers stress that the study's sample size is small, but their findings build on other recent data suggesting a POP/diabetes connection. Evidence for such a link is "piling up," David Carpenter, head of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany, told Reuters...

How are these awful chemicals sticking around and still causing trouble decades after being banned? POPs accumulate in the fatty tissue of animals--and transfer to the animals that eat them, including humans who eat meat and fish. In industrial animal farming, livestock are often given feed that includes animal fat, which helps POPs hang around in the food chain. "We feed the cow fat to the pigs and the chickens, and we feed the pig and chicken fat to the cows," one expert told Elert. The widespread practice of feeding "poultry litter"--chicken feces mixed with feathers, dead chickens, and feed remnants, including beef products--to confined cows is another way these toxins keep cycling though the food chain. Why would the meat industry engage in such feeding practices? Simply put, because they're cheap.

Photo:  Attribution Some rights reserved by Wildebeast1

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Posted by Jennifer Lance at July 12, 2011 2:03 AM

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