Washington, Aug 20 : A new study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has found that inorganic arsenic, commonly found in ground water in certain areas, may increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
In the study, researchers found that individuals with diabetes had higher levels of arsenic in the urine compared to individuals without diabetes.
"Our findings suggest that low levels of exposure to inorganic arsenic may play a role in diabetes," said Ana Navas-Acien, MD, PhD, lead author of the study and assistant professor with the Bloomberg School's Department of Environmental Health Sciences.
"While prospective studies are needed to establish whether this association is causal, these findings add to the existing concerns about the long-term health consequences of low and moderate exposure to inorganic arsenic," Navas-Acien added.
For the study, researchers examined randomly selected urine samples taken from 788 U.S. adults 20 years or older that participated in a 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
The results were adjusted for diabetes risk factors, including body mass index and for organic arsenic compounds found in seafood.
The authors concluded that given widespread exposure to inorganic arsenic from drinking water worldwide, clarifying the contribution of arsenic to the diabetes epidemic is a public health research priority with potential implications for the prevention and control of diabetes.
Inorganic arsenic is found naturally in rocks and soils. Foods such as flour and rice can also provide small quantities of inorganic arsenic, particularly if grown or cooked in areas with arsenic contamination in soil or water.
Seafood is a source of organic arsenic compounds that have little or no toxicity.
The study is published in the August 20, 2008, issue of JAMA.