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Pesticides, Weight Gain, and Insulin Resistance

Posted Sep 26 2008 12:00am
By THB Health 09/23/2008

Tractor spraying pesticide
If you are having difficulty losing weight even after dieting and exercising more, you are not alone. Over the years, I have helped probably thousands of people with the same problem, but I am finding this scenario to be much more common now than in the past. What I want you to know is that when you’ve tried everything and weight loss or lowering of blood sugar or lipids seems impossible, it could be that environmental toxins are disrupting your body.

Some pesticides, for instance, have been linked with suboptimal thyroid function and others to insulin resistance (IR). Certain pesticides that haven’t even been used for years, like DDT, are still a problem because they are so persistent in the environment, and from there can get into our bodies.

Researchers call these substances persistent organic pollutants (POPs). The insecticide, dieldrin, is an example. This organochlorine pesticide was used on cotton and corn from the 1950s until 1970. And although its use was banned on crops in 1974, it was still used for termite control until it was finally banned by the EPA completely in 1987. Because it is tightly bound to soil and it evaporates very slowly, dieldrin persists in the environment even though it’s no longer used.1

So how does dieldrin affect us today? Plants absorb it from the soil, and water runoff carries the soil with the chemical into water supplies. When we eat plants grown in soil still contaminated with dieldrin, it enters our bodies. We can also get it from the flesh of animals eating contaminated plants or fish living in contaminated waters.1

After being consumed, dieldrin is then stored in our body fat. And here’s the problem: dieldrin may be linked to disruption in the thyroid hormones, T4 and TSH. One study found that women with significantly high dieldrin in their blood had decreased T4 levels and increased TSH.

This is exactly what is seen in a condition known as subclinical hypothyroidism. The body is still making thyroid hormone, but levels are lowered and so the person will start to see the symptoms of lowered thyroid, like weight gain and being cold, even with only moderately skewed levels.

In the study mentioned above, blood levels of dieldrin were significantly high in the hypothyroid of women with disrupted thyroid hormones compared to those with normal thyroid levels.2 People do not realize there are many environmental pollutants that have this same effect.

People with high levels of POPs like organochlorine pesticides and PCBs are more likely to develop IR as well.3 And down the road, there is an increased risk of high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and heart disease. And sure enough, the link has now been made between POPs and diabetes.4

So what is the solution to this problem? We have to try to reduce our exposures as much as possible by drinking water that has been purified with a good filtration system (reverse osmosis systems remove the most contaminants) and eating certified organic foods . This can help reduce any further pesticide load, but obviously does nothing to address the pollutants that permeate our soils and water from years past.

We can however help our body remove existing pesticides from our tissues by supplying nutrients and other substances that either promote detoxification enzymes in the body or that directly help remove toxic substances.

Glutathione is one of the primary detoxification enzymes in the body. It needs a steady supply of the amino acid cysteine (found in eggs, whey, and cabbage family vegetables), plus trace minerals like selenium and zinc, and B vitamins to prevent a build up homocysteine. Several supplement manufacturers make products that combine these nutrients to support internal production of glutathione.

However, since many pesticides tend to reside in the fatty components of our body, they can be very difficult to remove, and so far, the only effective way to remove them is through sweating, with the use of saunas for instance. Far infrared saunas are a new type of sauna technology that has been researched in Japan. This type of sauna is reported to be even more effective in removing toxic substances than traditional saunas because the rays penetrate deeper into the tissue. But any form of sweating is helpful, even sweating from exercise.

Unfortunately, weight and blood sugar management issues are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to health problems from environmental pollutants. Many of the substances are neurotoxic, and some suppress our immune system. So start doing what you can today to reduce the effects of pesticides on your health –and be aware that the research is really starting to explode on this topic.

We will be hearing more and more on this important topic, but as our knowledge progresses, I am sure we will also see new and improved products and technologies to help us remove these extremely harmful substances from our bodies.



2. Rathorea M, Bhatnagan P. The Science of The Total Environment. Volume 295, Issues

1-3. 5 August 2002, Pages 207-215.

3. Lee DH, et al. Diabetes Care. 30:622-628, 2007

4. Lee DH, et al. Diabetes Care. 30:1596-1598, 2007

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