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Perfluorinated compounds disrupts secretion of insulin from the pancreas

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Several environmental contaminants such as PCB, pesticides, and phthalates have been linked to diabetes. In a new study, Uppsala University examined if other kinds of contaminants, perfluorinated compound (PFCs) are also associated with diabetes.

Perfluoroalkyl substance (PFAs) is high-volume chemicals that have been produced for more than 50 years. Because the compounds have both hydrophobic and hydrophilic groups they have unique properties and are used in a number of applications, such as fire-fighting foams, impregnation agents for textiles paper and leather, and in wax, polishes, paints, varnishes and cleaning products.

Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are the two PFAS most commonly found in humans and in the environment, although a large number of other PFAS exist.

A total of 1,016 individuals were chosen at random to participate during 2000 to 2004. All participants were aged 70 living in Uppsala Sweden.

All participants attended the examination in the morning after an overnight fast. Since they were asked to fast from midnight and blood was drawn between 08:00 and 10:00 hours, the fasting period was at least 8 hours. No medication or smoking was allowed after midnight. The participants were asked to answer a questionnaire about their medical history, education level, exercise habits, smoking habits and regular medication. Education level was divided into three groups: Under 9 years, 9 to 12 years and over 12 years.

Exercise habits were divided into four groups; light exercise (no sweat), under two times a week, (no sweat), light exercise over two times a week (light sweat), heavy exercise (sweat) moderate exercise at one to two times a week and heavy exercise two times a week (athlete). Blood samples were collected and were measured for lipid variables and fasting plasma blood glucose. Participants were asked if they had diabetes. Among the participants 88 had a history diabetes (mean duration of 8.9±7.7 years) and four participants had diabetes for a duration of over 20 years.

The results showed that among the 14 PFAs measured at baseline, seven different perfluorinated compounds were measured in the blood (PFHpA, PFHxS, L-PFOS, PFOA, PFNA, PFOSA, PFUnDA) along with incidences of insulin secretion and resistance which were at high levels.

The researchers write “The present cross-sectional study showed that PFNA was related to prevalent diabetes.”

Monica Lind, associate professor at the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at Uppsala University, commented "We saw that high levels, especially of one of the perfluorinated compounds, perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), were linked to diabetes. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) was also associated with diabetes in this group. We also saw that PFOA was linked to disrupted secretion of insulin from the pancreas.”

The study raises the question of whether high levels of certain perfluorinated compounds, which were found in all individuals in this study, are linked to the development of diabetes.

This study appears in the journal Diabetologia.

Abbreviations in article:

PFAS Perfluoroalkyl substances

PFHpA Perfluoroheptanoic acid

PFHxS Perfluorohexane sulfonic acid

L-PFOS Linear isomer of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid

PFOA Perfluorooctanoic acid

PFNA Perfluorononanoic acid

PFOSA Perfluorooctane sulfonamide

PFUnDA Perfluoroundecanoic acid

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