A recent analysis of trends done by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi revealed an increase in diabetes prevalence among the rural population at a rate of 2.02 per 1,000 population per year. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
A recent analysis of trends done by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi revealed an increase in diabetes prevalence among the rural population at a rate of 2.02 per 1,000 population per year. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Heavy metals in fertilizers raise risk of diabetes, heart diseases in farmers

The health ministry has been running screening programs in rural areas to get to the bottom of the rising incidence of non-communicable diseases in these areas

New Delhi: Synthetic fertilizers used in farming can trigger diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, government scientists have found.

The scientists, from the nanoscience and water research unit of the central government’s department of science and technology, found a close link between toxic heavy metals used in fertilizers and the prevalence of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases among farmers.

The government funded research was carried out in a village in Tamil Nadu on around 900 people whose urine samples were tested.

“Around 82.5% of the study population was involved in farming and high levels of toxic metals were detected in the synthetic fertilizers used in the study village. The prevalence of pre-diabetes, diabetes and atherosclerosis was 43.4%, 16.2% and 10.3%, respectively," said Pradeep Thalappil, professor of chemistry at the Indian Institute of Technology- Madras. The samples were analysed at Kovai Medical Center and Hospital (KMCH) Research Foundation, Coimbatore.

Pre-diabetes is a condition in which blood sugar is high, but not high enough to be type 2 diabetes in which the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin, or it resists insulin. Atherosclerosis is a cardiovascular disease in which there is narrowing of the arteries due to plaque buildup on the artery walls.

“Interestingly, no association of traditional risk factors for all the three non-communicable disease conditions (pre-diabetes, diabetes and cardiovascular disease) such as body mass index, blood pressure and total cholesterol with disease conditions was observed," said Thalappil.

“But urinary levels of metals such as arsenic, chromium, aluminium and zinc showed an association with diabetes, while arsenic and zinc showed an association with pre-diabetes and atherosclerosis," he said.

The health ministry has been running screening programs in rural areas to get to the bottom of the rising incidence of non-communicable diseases in these areas.

The phase one results of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)-INDIAB (India diabetes) study have also shown that the prevalence of non communicable diseases is higher in both urban and rural areas of India compared to earlier studies.

A recent analysis of trends done by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi revealed an increase in diabetes prevalence among the rural population at a rate of 2.02 per 1,000 population per year.

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