Heavy metals, islet function and diabetes development

Islets. 2009 Nov-Dec;1(3):169-76. doi: 10.4161/isl.1.3.9262.


It has long been believed that heavy metals possess many adverse health effects. Uncontrolled industrialization has released heavy metal pollution in the world. Heavy metal pollutants damage organ functions and disrupt physiological homeostasis. Diabetes mellitus is growing in prevalence worldwide. Several studies have indicated that the deficiency and efficiency of some essential trace metals may play a role in the islet function and development of diabetes mellitus. Some toxic metals have also been shown to be elevated in biological samples of diabetes mellitus patients. In the present work, we review the important roles of heavy metals in islet function and diabetes development in which the in vitro, in vivo or human evidences are associated with exposure to zinc, arsenic, cadmium, mercury and nickel. Through this work, we summarize the evidence which suggests that some heavy metals may play an important role in diabetes mellitus as environmental risk factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / chemically induced*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / pathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Environmental Pollution
  • Humans
  • Islets of Langerhans / drug effects*
  • Islets of Langerhans / pathology
  • Islets of Langerhans / physiology
  • Metals, Heavy / pharmacology
  • Metals, Heavy / toxicity*
  • Models, Biological
  • Risk Factors


  • Metals, Heavy