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April 2013

Mercury Exposure Linked to Diabetes Risk

A recent study suggests that mercury exposure in young adulthood may be linked to an increased risk for diabetes later in life.

Mercury is a neurotoxin, meaning it affects the nervous system. Mercury exposure may lead to excessive mercury levels in the body that can permanently damage or fatally injure the brain and kidneys. Mercury can also be absorbed through the skin and cause allergic reactions. Health problems caused by mercury depend on how much has entered the body, how it entered the body, how long the individual has been exposed to it, and how the individual's body responds to the mercury. People are at risk when they consume mercury-contaminated fish and when they are exposed to spilled mercury.

In a new study, researchers evaluated data on 3,875 non-diabetic individuals who were 20-32 years-old at the beginning of the study. Toenail mercury levels and data on glucose levels were collected throughout the study from 1987-2005

Throughout the 18 year follow up period, 288 cases of diabetes were identified. After adjusting the data for other potential factors, such as age, sex, alcohol consumption and family history, the researchers found that higher mercury exposure was linked to an increased risk for developing diabetes, noting that those with the most exposure had a 65 percent increased risk of diabetes when compared to those with the lowest.

According to the authors, these findings confirm previous laboratory research suggesting a potential association. However, further research is warranted.

Theoretical data suggests that some integrative therapies, such as algin, may reduce the absorption of toxins, including mercury. A preliminary study of apple pectin in children exposed to mercury showed that pectin may be effective in mercury intoxication treatment. Further research is required in this field.

For more information about mercury poisoning or diabetes risk factors, please visit Natural Standard's Medical Conditions Database.


  1. He K, Xun P, Liu K, et al. ury Exposure in Young Adulthood and Incidence of Diabetes Later in Life: The CARDIA trace element study. Diabetes Care. 2013 Feb 19. 
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 

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