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Environmental cause of diabetes?

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From New Scientist:

Eating fish contaminated with mercury could put people at risk of developing diabetes. That’s because methyl mercury, the form of the metal that accumulates in fish, can kill the cells in the pancreas that make insulin.

At least, this is what Shing-Hwa Liu and colleagues at the National Taiwan University in Taipei discovered when they exposed beta and islet cells to methyl mercury at levels typically found in contaminated fish (Chemical Research and Toxicology, vol 19, p 1080). Methyl mercury is a powerful oxidant, and this seemed to explain the effect: Lui’s team was able to protect the cells from damage by adding the antioxidant N-acetyl cysteine.

Diabetes is on the rise in many countries, and has doubled in the US over the past 30 years. While obesity is thought to be the major cause, suspicion is also falling on pollutants. In July, a South Korean team revealed a connection between persistent organic pollutants and diabetes. They found that people with diabetes tended to have elevated concentrations of pollutants including dioxin in their blood, although they have failed to find any link with mercury.

Vivian Fonseca, a diabetes specialist at Tulane University in New Orleans, points out that very little of the methyl mercury found in fish actually makes it into the human bloodstream, which means the Taiwanese findings could overestimate the risk to human health.

“There might be many chemicals besides methyl mercury which kill pancreatic cells in experimental settings, but might not cause diabetes in humans,” says Duk-Hee Lee of the Kyungpook National University in Daegu, who led the South Korean study on persistent organic pollutants. Liu agrees that researchers will need to carry out further studies in humans to confirm a link between mercury and diabetes. However, he has already discovered that mice fed low levels of methyl mercury for just a month produce less insulin, have higher blood glucose levels and sustain more oxidative damage to their fat cells.

“I think people should eat less fish,” Liu says, restricting themselves to perhaps two servings of fish a week.

Lee’s studies have also shown that the links between pollution and diabetes can be subtle and complex. In people in the US, blood concentrations of persistent organic pollutants have declined over the past few decades. However, Lee’s team found that the association between diabetes and levels of pollutants in the blood was strongest in obese people (Diabetes Care, vol 29, p 1638). This may be because pollutants like dioxin are retained more readily in fatter people.

Fonseca argues that the epidemic of obesity is the main reason why more and more people are developing diabetes, but agrees that pollutants may be a subsidiary factor. “Additional factors such as pollutants may be playing a subtle role in some individuals,” he says.

Obviously, one should choose fish found to be low in mercury content. Here’s a PDF pocket guide and here’s a PDF brochure. And here is quite a bit of information on which fish are best/safest to eat, both on the linked page and via other links on that page.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2006 at 6:12 pm

One Response

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  1. I’m a medical doctor. In the early 1980s, I came to realize that persons in Houston, Texas were suffering ill effects from inhalation of airborne cyanide. Cyanide is produced by the burning of fossil fuels and cigarettes, and has an estimated half-life in the atmosphere of one to three years. Most airborne cyanide remains in the lower atmosphere. It is a beta-cell toxin (beta cells in the pancreas produce insulin). Airborne cyanide may slowly destroy beta cells over time. Cyanide may also bind to beta cells and function as a hapten (an entity too small to cause an immune response, but one that may bind to protein and cause immunity against the resultant molecule); thus, cyanide may trigger autoimmunity against beta cells. In short, I believe that cyanide may cause both type II and type I diabetes.
    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
    There is a strong association between diabetes and air pollution (see the following Internet sites— ; ; ). And as would be expected if cyanide is the causative agent for diabetes, there is also a strong association between diabetes and smoking (see — ; ). In regards to natural defenses against cyanide, sulfur-containing amino acids (such as found in nuts and peanut butter) help the body convert cyanide to thiocyanate (thiocyanate is 50 times less toxic than cyanide, though it may contribute to hypothyroidism); and the consumption of nuts notably decreases chances of developing diabetes (see ). These are a few of the factors that indicate cyanide as the causative factor in diabetes, and The Poisoned Planet presents more data in that regard—available in paperback through Amazon books on the Internet, and per Kindle Press. I have had great results treating diabetic patients with safe antidotes for cyanide poisoning, such as with combinations of hydroxocobalamin, methylcobalamin, sodium thiosulfate, and alphaketoglutaric acid (see below). These agents should be used in addition to the patient’s usual diabetic medications, unless directed otherwise by a treating physician. The compounding pharmacies mentioned below will ship to locations nationwide (if not worldwide); and a local compounding pharmacy near you should be able to provide the same treatments. Diabetics who suffer fatigue and other symptoms of cyanide intoxication generally feel better the day they begin treatment for cyanide intoxication; and such treatment may prevent the usual progression and ill effects of diabetes. Cyanide is a neurotoxin (diabetics often suffer neuropathies); and may lower serotonin levels in the brain (depression is associated with diabetes). Other than the “Vital B12” described below, the treatments for cyanide intoxication are available without a doctor’s prescription.
    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
    A prescription may be written as per the sample below, and may be mailed or faxed to any of the compounding pharmacies listed. (Note — a compounding pharmacy near you may be able to provide the same treatments.)

    Patient: __________________________________
    DOB: ________________________

    Rx: 25mg/cc Vitamin B12 as—12.5mg hydroxocobalamin/12.5mg methylcobalamin.
    Quantity: 10cc
    Sig: 0.3cc SC (subcutaneously) or IM (intramuscularly) every 3 days (or up to 1cc every 3 days) (Note — if needed, the dose may be increased up to 0.4cc daily; and also note that compounding pharmacies can make a transdermal gel that delivers the Vital B12 via application to hairless skin, such as the inner thigh. The gel should be kept refrigerated, and has a storage life of 6 months.)
    Signature of Provider: _______________________________________________
    Refills: ____________________
    (Note: May also have 30 to 90 of the B12 syringes and needles if requested.)
    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
    Note to Patient: (You may cut along the dotted line and keep the bottom of this sheet.)
    The above B12 (Vital B12) may be acquired through Jefferson Compounding Pharmacy in Oak Ridge, TN—phone number (865) 483-3007—fax number (865) 483-3071—address 22 N Jefferson Circle. When using this product, also take Vitamin B6, 50mg four times daily; Folic Acid, 400mcg am and pm.; Vitamin D 1,000 IU daily.
    If desired, Jefferson Compounding Pharmacy sells ‘cyanide treatment kits’ that contain the Vital B12, B12 needles and syringes, sodium thiosulfate salt (see the last paragraph below), vitamin B6, and folic acid.
    Note: You may get a receipt from Jefferson Compounding Pharmacy to use in filing for insurance coverage in the event that your insurance will cover the cost of Vital B12. There may be the possibility that some insurance companies will cover the cyanide treatment kits. However, Jefferson Compounding Pharmacy does not file insurance. (The last pharmacy listed below, Hopewell Pharmacy, files insurance.)
    *Note: Keep the Vital B12 refrigerated. Storage life is 3 months. A usual dose is anywhere from 0.3cc to 1cc either IM (intramuscular) or SC (subcutaneous) every 3 days. When taking 0.3cc every three days, 10cc should last 3 months. A 10cc vial generally costs around $100.
    ** I also recommend taking another antidote for cyanide intoxication, namely Sodium Thiosulfate. Take 1/64th to 1/32nd tsp (a pinch) every 2 to 3 hours. Either dissolve the salt in water & drink, or just let it dissolve in your mouth and swallow it. It is sold at Jefferson Compounding Pharmacy mentioned above for around $4.00 per ounce, or may be purchased via the Internet from such sites as . If the salt causes any gas or diarrhea, then lower the quantity taken with each dose, but do not decrease the frequency of dosing, since the half-life of sodium thiosulfate in the bloodstream may be as little as 20 minutes. It is handy to carry some of the salt in a ziplock bag in your pocket. One may also eat some nuts and/or drink a protein drink (should contain sulfur-containing amino acids) before bed.
    ***One additional antidote for cyanide that I recommend taking is alpha-ketoglutaric acid. Jo Mar Labs sells the alpha ketoglutaric acid for $24.30 for 150 grams, and this product may be found per the following Internet site — . The phone number for Jo Mar Labs is 1-800-538-4545. Jefferson Compounding Pharmacy in Oak Ridge, TN sells this powder for $10.95 an ounce or so. Alpha Keto Glutaric Acid is an antidote for cyanide intoxication, and works synergistically with sodium thiosulfate.
    Note: I recommend drinking 1/8th teaspoon (about 563 mg) of alpha ketoglutaric acid in 8 ounces of water 3 times daily, in the middle of each meal. It dissolves easily in cool water. Smaller doses may be used, but take at least 1/16th teaspoon. If your stomach tolerates the acid drink well, you may also take doses between meals, for up to 6 doses daily; but heartburn may occur if taking doses on an empty stomach. Take doses at least 2 hours apart. When taking alpha ketoglutaric acid apart from a meal, swish and swallow a mouthful of water after each dose.
    Following is data regarding two other compounding pharmacies that provide Vital B12:
    P3 Compounding, with address, phone, and fax as follows: 8848 Cedar Springs Lane, Suite 100 Knoxville, TN 37923.
    Phone: (865) 769-5180 Fax: (865) 769-5179
    (P3 Compounding will give a receipt, but does not file insurance.)

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
    Reportedly, the pharmacy listed below will file insurance for you in the event that your insurance covers costs for Vital B12:
    Vital B12 may be acquired per Hopewell Pharmacy. Contact information for Hopewell Pharmacy is as follows: Phone: 1-800-792-6670 Fax: 1-800-417-3864 Contact Person: Debra Halton, pharmacist
    Hopewell Pharmacy & Compounding Center
    1 West Broad Street
    Hopewell, NJ 08525

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
    For those with a phobia of needles, Vital B12 may be applied topically as follows:

    Patient: __________________________________
    DOB: ________________________

    Rx: Lipoderm gel with 15mg/cc Vitamin B12 as—7.5mg hydroxocobalamin/7.5mg

    Quantity: 20cc or 10cc
    Sig: Rub 1/2cc into hairless skin, such as the inner thigh, once every 3 days. May be increased up to 1/2cc daily.

    Signature of Provider: _______________________________________________

    Refills: ____________________

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
    A note in closing — I’m cyanide sensitive myself, and I am taking all of the treatments listed above, using the Vital B12 injections rather than the topical gel. E-mail me at if you have any questions. (Tim “underline” Oesch at
    Tim Oesch, MD.


    Tim Oesch, MD.

    15 April 2011 at 4:55 am

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