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Diabetogens: Toxins that cause diabetes

March 26, 2018 (Updated: August 3, 2021)
Lily Moran

Type 2 diabetes affects more than 30 million people in this country. Another 8 million are thought to have it but are yet undiagnosed.

This is a major health crisis, by anyone’s standards. And it’s only going to get worse.

According to a study published in February 2017, “The prevalence of diabetes…will increase by 54 percent to more than 54.9 million Americans between 2015 and 2030; annual deaths attributed to diabetes will climb by 38 percent to 385,800; and total annual medical and societal costs related to diabetes will increase 53 percent to more than $622 billion by 2030.”

What’s causing this diabetes epidemic? If you’re thinking sugar overconsumption, obesity, and sedentary lifestyle, you’re only partially correct.

Of course, these factors will always play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes. But an increasing number of scientists and medical experts are starting to recognize another underlying cause that appears to be just as, if not more, sinister than sugar: diabetogens.

What Are Diabetogens?

This term is nothing new, but it’s just now starting to come to light. In fact, its origins date all the way back to the early 1960s, with a researcher coining the term diabetogens to reference the chemicals and toxins in the environment that mimic human hormones. These compounds enter our bodies and wreak havoc on our hormonal systems. In the case of diabetes, they cause dysfunction within the pancreas, affecting insulin release and blood sugar control.

You see, the pancreas can be described as a “velvety” organ. Its anatomy makes it very susceptible to the accumulation of toxins and other inflammatory compounds, which eventually leads to pancreatitis and/or pancreas dysfunction and diabetes. And unlike other organs, the pancreas is not able to cleanse itself of these harmful compounds.

Diabetogen Sources

Researchers have noticed a strong correlation between the rise of chemical production over the past five decades and a corresponding and steady rise in diabetes. In the last 50 years, chemical production (in pounds) has risen more than 1,000 percent. Today, it’s impossible to fully avoid these substances. They’re everywhere.

Some of the most problematic diabetogens include:

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  • Arsenic: Exposure to arsenic is primarily through diet (seafood, poultry, rice) and drinking water.
  • Bisphenol A (BPA): BPA is utilized in the production of plastics, including food and drink packaging and liners in canned food.
  • Dioxins: These “persistent organic pollutants” are used in many industrial processes.
  • Pesticides: Countless amounts of pesticides are sprayed on conventionally grown produce to repel bugs and other nuisance critters, but runoff is also a problem. Pesticides routinely contaminate drinking water and the air around farms.
  • Phthalates: These chemicals increase flexibility and durability in plastics. They’re also utilized in health and beauty aids, fragrances, and cosmetics. These toxins have been detected in milk, butter, and other fatty foods that are stored in plastic containers (because they are easily absorbed and stored by fats).

Research has found that these chemicals, among others, affect blood sugar control and pancreas function in a variety of ways.

Most notably, BPA stimulates the pancreatic beta cells—which are responsible for making insulin. BPA also disturbs insulin signaling, which leads to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance increases risk of not only diabetes, but also obesity and visceral fat—the most dangerous kind of fat that accumulates around the organs.

In addition, research shows a direct connection between arsenic and decreased insulin production.

What Can You Do?

Ideally, you want to avoid diabetogens as much as possible. But unfortunately, this is really hard to do.

The next best thing is to get tested to see what levels of various diabetogenic toxins you’re carrying. Helpful tests that are readily available include complete blood count (CBC), platelet count, homocysteine, bilirubin, and C-reactive protein. Urine and blood testing can also measure the presence of specific toxins, as can a test called the GGT (which measures levels of glutathione, a master antioxidant that is involved in detoxification). Even toenail clippings can be tested to measure arsenic levels.

If it is determined that your toxin levels are high, there are a few things you can do to reduce your load. (And to be frank, I think everyone should be taking these steps, whether you get a medical workup or not, because of the noxious world we live in.)


  • Sauna and detox baths. Sweating is a phenomenal (and easy…and free!) detox technique. Through exercise, you not only achieve weight loss, blood sugar control, better heart health, and many other benefits, you also work up a good sweat. So working out most days of the week for at least 30 minutes is my number one recommendation. You can also get an excellent sweat session by sitting in a sauna, or by taking a detoxifying bath with Epsom salt.
  • Another good detox method is fasting—forgoing food for a certain amount of time. It can be as drastic as one to three days, or a much less extreme form called intermittent fasting—where you either consume low calories (about 500-600) for one or two days a week then eat normally the remaining days, or avoid eating for up to 18 hours every single day (usually between the hours of 8 pm until lunchtime the next day). Obviously, you should also focus on eating fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, and completely avoid sugar to give your pancreas a rest.
  • N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC). NAC is a precursor to glutathione, an extremely powerful antioxidant that contains sulfur compounds—sticky substances that “catch” and eliminate free radicals, heavy metals, and other toxins. There are no food sources of NAC, but the body converts NAC first to cysteine, then to glutathione—and cysteine is present in high-protein foods such as chicken, turkey, dairy, and eggs. Add organic varieties of these proteins to your diet to naturally boost levels of glutathione. You can also supplement NAC—a good preventive dose is 600 mg per day.
  • Increase your fiber intake. Fiber is so important because it binds to toxins in the gut and excretes them. Up your intake of organic veggies—the most effective and nutritious source of fiber.
  • Include a daily probiotic. Beneficial bacteria have a multitude of important jobs in the body. In the case of toxins, some preliminary research indicates that certain strains of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus bacteria bind to BPA, reducing its absorption in the intestines and facilitating its elimination.
  • Take Zeolite. Zeolite is a supplement that works by trapping heavy metals and removing them from the body. It can be found online from a variety of sources.

I think over the next several years, as we see diabetes cases continue to soar, we’ll be hearing a lot more about diabetogens. But now that you know how these dangerous substances can harm your pancreas, don’t delay. Start detoxing now to protect this important organ—and your precious health.


  1. Rowley WR, et al. Diabetes 2030: Insights from yesterday, today, and future trends. Popul Health Manag. 2017 Feb 1;20(1):6-12. Last accessed March 6, 2018.
  2. Diabetogens vs. Sugar. Last accessed March 6, 2018.
  3. Fenichel P and Chevalier N. Environmental endocrine disruptors: New diabetogens? CR Biol. 2017 Sep-Oct;340(9-10):446-52. Last accessed March 6, 2018.
  4. Is the diabetes epidemic primarily due to toxins? Last accessed March 6, 2018.
  5. Oishi K, et al. Effect of probiotics, Bifidobacterium breve and Lactobacillus casei, on bisphenol A exposure in rats. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2008 Jun;72(6):1409-15.

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