Diabetes and Endocrine Disruption: Connecting the Dots

I consider myself fairly well-read, and educated about health. I’ve researched the endocrine disruption effects of chemicals—that is, the ways that certain chemicals interfere with the production function of various hormones in our bodies. So I was shocked and surprised last week when I had an endocrine disruptor epiphany in the burn center at the hospital.

Neither diabetes nor endocrine disruption were top of mind for me that day. I was at the burn center because my beautiful and rambunctious 3-year-old, in her eagerness to eat my homemade chicken noodle soup (it was steaming-hot, in a small bowl on the kitchen table), spilled it on herself and ended up with second-degree burns. I was totally shocked that soup could cause that much damage—and felt guilt and horror at seeing her in so much pain. But after a trip to the ER and a next-day visit to the burn center, I knew she was going to be fine.

But while I was filling out the pages and pages of paperwork I saw something I had never seen before. Do you know how the forms ask (even if you are 3) if you have ever had cancer, heart disease, and/or other diseases? Well, I got to a question that asked if she had ever had an “endocrine disease.” Huh? Never really heard of that, what would that be?


Now, I have been reading and writing about chemicals that cause endocrine disruption for years. I don’t claim to have the name of every known endocrine disruptor memorized; there are hundreds and hundreds of them. But I do know that the major endocrine-disrupting chemicals most of us come in contact with include:

Bisphenol A (BPA)—this endocrine disruptor is found in almost every plastic item we use, which is a lot: from baby bottles to plastic bags to food storage containers to toys to water bottles to plastic soda bottles (and the linings of cans, too).

Organichlorine pesticides—a major one is atrazine, which has contaminated almost every farm well in America.

• Mercury and lead—well known as toxic metals, but not everyone knows they cause endocrine disruption. The former is being emitted into our air and water by coal-fired power plants, and the latter, although it’s been removed from gasoline, is still ubiquitous and surrounds us from old pesticide usage and industrial pollution. Take it from me; I had to have the soil from my old backyard removed because the property once a dump site for leaded paint.

According to a recent, and first ever, scientific statement from the Endocrine Society, there are tons of reasons to be very concerned about the overabundance of these chemicals in our environment. Potential effects range from reproductive problems to cancer to thyroid dysfunction. But I had never made the connection between endocrine disruptors and diabetes. Buried deep in their statement—towards the end—the Endocrine Society says:

“Based on the links between endocrine disruptors and disturbances of reproduction, metabolism, and links to adult dysfunctions and cancer, it is reasonable to propose a connection between EDCs and diabetes as well as pre-diabetic disturbances.” (EDCs=endocrine disruption chemicals.)

Over the last decades, and there have been countless studies and investigations into the reasons that diabetes is becoming more and more prevalent. WHAT IF WE’VE BEEN LOOKING AT THE WRONG THING ALL THESE YEARS?

What if, rather than sugar and fat (which are naturally occurring substances), it’s really all the chemicals we’ve been ingesting and exposed to that are truly causing the pandemic of diabetes in our society (and the societies who pick up our lifestyle)? Could obesity also be a consequence of exposure to endocrine disruptors? The Endocrine Society’s statement does, in fact, say that these chemicals can influence obesity. What if it’s not the actual hamburgers and fried chicken that are making people fat, but all the toxic artificial ingredients that are added, and the chemicals used to make those ingredients (including agricultural chemicals), along with the poisoned packaging that leaches out chemicals into our foods?


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17 Responses to Diabetes and Endocrine Disruption: Connecting the Dots

  1. Maya September 16, 2009 at 9:07 am #


  2. Carl September 16, 2009 at 9:22 am #

    You go girl, you are on to something. Looking forward to further enlightenment on the effects of chemicals to our well being.

  3. Hillary September 16, 2009 at 9:58 am #

    Wow, so intriguing. Could this be why all the science is saying that exercise doesn’t necessarily help you lose weight, then?

  4. Hillary September 16, 2009 at 9:59 am #

    Oh and glad your daughter is okay. Burns are so scary!

  5. Bonnie September 16, 2009 at 10:05 am #

    That’s why I try to stay away from so many things. We can’t stay away from everything it’s in the air we breathe. I wish we could go back to the goodtimes where all the pesticides and contaminates were not used. Glad your daughter is doing ok, God bless.

  6. Shelly September 16, 2009 at 10:14 am #

    I think that, while it may be a piece of the puzzle, there is no denying that overeating and lack of exercise are the primary causes of obesity and/or diabetes. People who eat too much and/or the wrong kind of food and don’t exercise are fat. Period. I have never seen anyone who eats healthy, home cooked food and has an active lifestyle, be overweight. I’m sure we would all like to place the blame somewhere other than on ourselves though.

  7. Anita September 16, 2009 at 10:33 am #

    If you look into Paleo diets, which is the way man early settlers ate, you would notice that fat was large part of the diet. I to believe that the major problem with todays society is all the additives that are put in food. At one time I was very unhealthy with major endocrine problems. I no longer eat food with all the garbage in it and have been doing fine for a number of years now. Real food is the way to go.

  8. Loretta September 16, 2009 at 11:34 am #

    RE food additives: Several years ago, suffering from headaches, brain fog, lack of energy, and numbness in my hands, as I was looking for answers to my vague and disruptive symptoms, I started reading about MSG (and the numerous different names it goes by), and Aspartame (Sweet & Low, Nutrasweet). I read “In Bad Taste” by Dr. Schwartz, and “Excitotoxins, the Taste that Kills” by Dr. Blaylock. I went through my cupboards & fridge throwing out everything with food additives in it. That was the beginning of a journey back to good health and strength for me. Let the buyer beware: go back to whole, minimally processed foods, avoid all food additives, especially MSG & Aspartame. See http://www.msgmyth.com and http://www.truthinlabeling.com for a wealth of information on the subject.

  9. Donna in Delaware September 16, 2009 at 12:40 pm #

    It is true about endocrine disruptors and it is also true that being overweight is in large part because of our diet and the lack of exercise. Please don’t forget that genetics also play a large part. I know of several people that are quite healthy looking, thin, shapely,full of energy and exercise regularly and are diabetics. Suffice it to say that there are a number of factors that causes these problems, but I do believe that a large part comes from the environment and the way that our food is grown and processed. Everyone, if you can help it, please stop eating processed and canned processed foods with all those additives and preservatives. I have been trying to get my mother, brother and sister-in-law from using sugar substitutes, but I suppose that it can’t be helped since they are diabetic and need the sweetener for their drinks and baked goods. I find that if the fruits for making desserts are ripe and sweet enough, then no sugar is necessary. I use to get one of the best no sugar apple pies from an orchard in Westchester Co. N.Y. every autumn,when I lived there. It was delicious. The fruit was at it’s peak in flavor (organic, of course) and needed nothing but a little spice. Perfect!

    I do hope that your daughter will be ok Maria. Any liquid that has been boiled and simmered for long periods will cause scalding and very bad burns, even if it’s just a little. Other foods that causes severe burns are oatmeal, cream of wheat and grits because they hold lots of heat and stick to the skin when they come into contact with it. Try to keep these foods away from young children until they have cooled to where they are very warm for them to eat or you have added cold milk, to cool the temperature enough.
    Just think what will happen to their mouths if consumed hot!

    All the best and have a blessed day.

  10. Chris September 16, 2009 at 1:59 pm #

    It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that there’s more to diabetes and other illnesses than just diet. But, as for obesity, while I won’t entirely discount the possibility of chemicals playing a role, I think the main culprit is lack of exercise and a comfortable lifestyle. As Anita pointed out, paleo peoples had diets where a very high percentage of calories would come from fat. Sure, their diet did not have the additives that ours does. But, their lifestyle was also vastly different. They walked everywhere, carried everything they needed on their backs, used basic hand tools (made by hand, no less) to work, hunted and gathered all their food, and braved the elements every day. Don’t underestimate just how much fat and calories are burned doing all that. A modern example: Appalachian trail hikers are advised to eat at least 4000 calories a day. Eat that much and then ride in a vehicle (instead of hiking rugged terrain), sit indoors (instead of sweating the heat or shivering the rain/cold), keep most of your possessions conveniently in your home/office (instead of strapped to your back) and you’re going to gain weight.

  11. Anonymous September 16, 2009 at 2:22 pm #

    Not only is diabetes and issue but BPA acts as a synthetic estrogen and can cause a variety of issues. There are studies that show that baby boys who’s mother’s have higher levels of BPA have “genital” issues at birth… this could also be a reason why girls are ‘maturing” faster than decades ago. If you start researching it, it’s mind-blowing how many products you use on a daily basis have BPA in them… Tupperware, canned food, aluminum soda cans, even your toothbrush! Liquid baby formula cans are even lined with it which puts those who aren’t fortunate enough to be breastfed at a disadvantage right from the start!

  12. Amanda September 17, 2009 at 2:32 pm #

    And endocrine disruption is often hard to detect. It’s also almost completely disregarded in EPA testing for chem approvals. They’re set to BEGIN testing specifically on potential endocrine disruptors this fall, but leading endocrinologists say the assays are seriously deficient. Scary.

  13. cb September 24, 2009 at 11:37 am #

    Exactly ! I am excited that someone is finally seeing this connection. I am 54 years old, 5 foot 2, weigh a consistant 115 lbs since I was 18 years old (except for child bearing), eat fats & sugars, balanced diet of veggies, fruits, meats, & starches (no processessed flours). I avoid any product that has been processed, particularly any product that is fat or sugar free. Let’s face it, whatever is being removed (fat or sugar) needs to be replaced with something in that product. Whatever that “something” is, isn’t good for us. My dad, who is 82 this year, looks & feels the best that he has in his entire life, despite diabetes. He has cut out every fat-free, sugar free, diabetic – diet reccommended zero calorie food from his “health-care professional” recommeded diet. Except for the grey hair, he looks like an 18 year old guy. So, please, Everyone, if you can help it, please stop eating processed and canned processed foods with all those additives and preservatives. Our health & our planet depend on these changes !

  14. Donna from Southern Ohio September 24, 2009 at 12:28 pm #

    As a child, I watched my dad fill the tanks to spray pesticides on the fields. I remember thinking, “OH, that smells awful!” Farmers shouldn’t be blamed. My dad was a very hard-working man who was just grateful that there was a way (pesticides) to keep more of his crop to sell and feed the family. I tagged along with him, even rode on the tractor when this was going on for years. We shouldn’t be bitter at the mistakes of our parents and grandparents, just do better. We grow as much of our food as we can, buy balancing pure foods against what we can afford. I have thyroid issues, fybromyalgia, some other form of arthritis, and yes, severly overweight. I keep my blood sugars in perfect levels and try to stay active. Please don’t judge–you other people who have made comments–unless you’ve walked in someone else’s shoes (or breathed in the chemicals). My dad died at an early age, but I think the chemicals are slowly killing many of us. Enjoy your corner of God’s earth and protect it.

  15. pandoras_boqs September 24, 2009 at 3:19 pm #

    I do hope your daughter is well by now. I have always wondered about my great grandparents generation. They ate primarily home grown and unprocessed foods along with plenty of fried foods and things cooked with bacon fats and other things that have been deemed “taboo” in our modern so-called healthy diet. However, they did not suffer from the cancers and endocrine problems and other health issues that are so prevalent today. I have often wondered how much of that was due to the lack of chemicals and preservatives that we now have.
    We have propelled ourselves into an unhealthy state in the name of progress, but, to what end? A return to the most natual and clean life that we can acheive seems to be the best and healthiest option to us today.

  16. Kate September 24, 2009 at 4:31 pm #

    I want to point out that the highest level of BPA is in canned goods (the epoxy lining). So even if you’re buying organic canned goods, you are still being exposed. Every canned soup, bean, vegetable and fruit has high levels of BPA. I have even contacted many different companies that will confirm with me that they do contain BPA, but they won’t disclose the amount.
    The plastics industry has being attacked because so many children are exposed to plastic products, but be wary of canned goods.

  17. Charla June 22, 2011 at 3:06 pm #

    Geez, that’s unbleieavble. Kudos and such.

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