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Environmental Toxins, Obesity, and Diabetes: An Emerging Risk Factor

Mark A. Hyman, MD

The inviolable assumption that obesity is simply a thermodynamic problem of calories in/calories out is being dissembled by the science linking environmental toxins to obesity and diabetes. Exposure to environmental toxins in the absence of increased caloric intake induces weight gain and insulin resistance. Stated simply, toxins are an invisible, unappreciated cause of obesity and diabetes.

Clearly, our sedentary, high-stress lifestyle and our highglycemic, trans fat– and saturated fat–rich, low-fiber, phytonutrient- poor diet contributes to the epidemic of diabetes and obesity. But the increasing burden of environmental toxins, including persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals, can no longer be ignored as a key etiologic factor in the epidemic of obesity and diabetes, or what should be called “diabesity,” the continuum of metabolic dysfunction mild insulin resistance to end-stage diabetes.

Diabesity is our modern plague. The many conditions that exist under the umbrella of diabesity affect more than one billion people worldwide. More than 100 million Americans (including 50% of those over age 65) suffer from the condition in its various forms.

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