Insecticides Could Increase Diabetes Risk

| February 21, 2017

Getting a good night’s sleep is important for preventing, and helping to control, type 2 diabetes, as I explained in a previous post here. And hormone-disrupting pesticides and other pollutants can also be a contributory cause of the condition, as I mentioned here. Now scientists have shown how these two risk factors can be connected, with the finding that some kinds of insecticide mimic the sleep hormone melatonin in the body.

In my earlier post, I wrote about persistent organochlorine pesticides, such as DDT, dieldrin and heptachlor, most of which have now been banned. These dangerous toxins are not broken down in the soil, so they remain in the environment indefinitely. But the new research involves a more recent, ‘safer’ class of insecticides, called carbamates, which are not so long-lasting.

Researchers at the University of Buffalo (USA) investigated two insecticides of this type – carbaryl and carbofuran. Both have been banned in Europe on safety grounds since 2007, but carbaryl is still used widely in the US, for crop spraying and in anti-louse shampoos. Carbofuran can no longer be applied to human food crops in the US, but is still used in many other countries, including Mexico.1

Computer imaging showed that these two insecticides are structurally very like the hormone melatonin, which helps to regulate sleep patterns and other aspects of the body’s daily (or circadian) rhythms. The study also showed, for the first time, that carbaryl and carbofuran latch onto melatonin receptors on human cells, blocking melatonin signalling. Most human melatonin receptors are located on cells in the brain and the retina of the eye.

Lead researcher Dr Margarita Dubocovich explained that by blocking the action of melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain, these insecticides could disrupt key physiological processes – leading to sleep patterns, circadian rhythms and metabolic functions becoming disordered and increasing the risks of diabetes and blood sugar problems. Previous studies have shown that glucose metabolism is closely controlled by our biological clock.2

So, this is one more good reason to avoid pesticides like the plague and buy organic produce when you can. In my next blog post, I report on new findings that exposure to certain pollutants during early pregnancy could increase the risk of gestational diabetes.

Wishing you the best of health,

Martin Hum
PhD DHD Nutritionist
for Real Diabetes Truth

Bear in mind we are not addressing anyone’s personal situation and you should rely on this for informational purposes only. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.


1. Popovska-Gorevski M, Dubocovich ML, Rajnarayanan RV. Carbamate insecticides target human melatonin receptors. Chem Res Toxicol. 2017 Jan 11 (Online ahead of print).

2. Kalsbeek A, La Fleur S, Fliers E. Circadian control of glucose metabolism. Mol Metab. 2014; 3(4):372-383.


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Category: Diabetes Risks

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