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Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 17:30 EDT

Arsenic Linked to Increased Diabetes Risk

August 19, 2008

Higher levels of arsenic in the urine appear to be associated with increased prevalence of type 2 diabetes, U.S. researchers said.

Millions of individuals worldwide are exposed to drinking water contaminated with inorganic arsenic, including 13 million Americans whose public water supply contains more than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standard of 10 micrograms per liter.

Dr. Ana Navas-Acien of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore and colleagues studied 788 adults age 20 and older who had their urine tested for arsenic levels as part of a government-conducted survey.

Arsenobetaine, an organic arsenic compound derived eating seafood, is considered non-toxic.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that overall, 7.7 percent of the participants had type 2 diabetes, but after adjusting for diabetes risk factors and biomarkers of seafood intake — arsenobetaine — participants with type 2 diabetes had a 26 percent higher level of total arsenic in their urine than those without the disease. Levels of arsenobetaine were similar between the two groups.

In addition, study participants in the top one-fifth of total urine arsenic levels — 16.5 micrograms per liter — had 3.6 times the odds of having type 2 diabetes as those in the lowest one-fifth — 3.0 micrograms per liter.