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Emerging Novel Risks for Diabetes & Other Chronic Diseases

For those living on Guam, or for that matter, on this planet Earth have you ever wondered what may be new causes of diabetes mellitus, insulin resistance, and other chronic diseases relevant today such as hypertension, hormone imbalances and even renal failure. For this blog, I will focus primarily on diabetes and related health conditions.

Diabetes is a significant problem and common disease on Guam. With my 23 years on Guam working in Functional Medicine and Nutrition, I have concluded that there are more risk factors than just a poor diet and lack of exercise that is causing the high rates of diabetes and even renal failure. One such risk factor is the effect of heavy metals like mercury, arsenic, lead, cadmium and aluminum that I have seen high in my patients over the years doing nutrient and toxic element testing with Metametrics, Genova Diagnostics and now with Oligoscan International. The majority of the time, these five heavy metals were tested high in my patients. In addition, minerals and trace minerals were tested deficient.

One such study supporting this is an article written by Dr. YW Chen, et al, "Heavy Metals, Islet Function and Diabetes Development" Islets, 2009. He writes in his abstract, "It has long been believed that heavy metals possess many adverse health effects. Uncontrolled industrialization has released heavy metal pollution in the world. Heavy metal pollutants damage organ functions and disrupt physiological homeostasis. Diabetes mellitus is growing in prevalence worldwide. Several studies have indicated that the deficiency and efficiency of some essential trace metals may play a role in the islet function and development of diabetes mellitus. Some toxic metals have also been shown to be elevated in biological samples of diabetes mellitus patients. In the present work, we review the important roles of heavy metals in islet function and diabetes development in which the in vitro, in vivo or human evidences are associated with exposure to zinc, arsenic, cadmium, mercury and nickel. Through this work, we summarize the evidence which suggests that some heavy metals may play an important role in diabetes mellitus as environmental risk factors."

Another look at this relationship between metals and diabetes is Andy Menke, et al. "Metals in Urine and Diabetes in U.S. Adults" Diabetes, January 2016. They wanted to look at even ordinary or small levels of heavy metals and the risk of diabetes. They concluded "We found evidence of an association of urine levels of molybdenum, antimony, tungsten, and uranium with the prevalence of diabetes, even at the relatively low levels seen in the U.S. general population. Additionally, barium, molybdenum, and antimony were positively associated with HOMA-IR in our study. Metals associated with diabetes, if causal, may also increase the risk of diabetes through pathways unrelated to insulin resistance, such as directly damaging the β-cells (17). Considering that our study included a nationally representative sample of the U.S. population, our results may have important public health implications, as the concentrations of metals in our study may be typical or lower than what is seen in other populations around the world."

These are reasons that I now have a heavy metal and mineral testing equipment in my clinic called the Oligoscan. This assessment is much more convenient and affordable for my patients and provides accurate tissue levels of minerals and heavy metals. Below is a copy of the results of a scan.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) also has been associated with heavy metal toxicity but not addressed here on Guam. For a population of only 160,000 people why are there so many renal dialysis centers on Guam? Currently there are 5 or more centers for dialysis.

Juan Daniel Diaz Garcis, "Renal Damage Associated with Heavy Metals", Review of Nephrology, 2018 writes. "Several heavy metals are recognized, including Cadmium (Cd), Lead (Pb), Arsenic (As) and Mercury (Hg), which are clearly associated with renal damage and progression of CKD. Studies in animals and humans primarily demonstrate a clear association between exposure to these metals and the presence of chronic renal damage, where the pathophysiology of each of these metals is important in understanding the mechanism of renal damage."

Fortunately, there may be natural ways of avoiding heavy metal toxicity and having healthy levels of important minerals and trace elements that our body needs for good health. It is important to start with assessing the levels and then plan for possible detoxification of heavy metals and replenishment of needed minerals through diet and supplementation.

In future blogs, I will discuss diabetes risk including stress, hormonal imbalances and other lifestyle related risk factors.