Study: Insecticide exposure linked to diabetes

Chemicals found in insecticides can disrupt the hormone signaling for melatonin, which can increase an individual's risk for metabolic diseases like diabetes, according to a recent study published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.

For the study, researchers focused on the impact of two chemicals used in insecticides on human circadian rhythms, which are regulated by melatonin. Melatonin is also involved in visual functions, cerebrovascular activities and reproductive functions among other corporeal influences. The two chemicals of focus were carbaryl, which is illegal in several countries but widely used in the U.S., and carbofuran, the most toxic carbamate insecticide. Carbofuran has been banned in the U.S. since 2009.

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Using computational modeling and experiments involving cells that operate similarly to human melatonin receptors, researchers discovered carbamates selectively interact with these receptors. The interface can upset melatonin signaling and alter regulatory processes in the body. This disruption can alter the balance between the release of insulin and glucose in the pancreas at specific times during the day, thus increasing a person's risk for developing diabetes.

"Altogether, our data points to a potentially new mechanism through which carbamate insecticides carbaryl and carbofuran could impact human health by altering the homeostatic balance of key regulatory processes by directly binding to melatonin receptors," wrote the study's authors.

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