Exposure to pesticides and diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Environ Int. 2016 May:91:60-8. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2016.02.013. Epub 2016 Feb 22.


Background: Diabetes mellitus has a multifactorial pathogenesis with a strong genetic component as well as many environmental and lifestyle influences. Emerging evidence suggests that environmental contaminants, including pesticides, might play an important role in the pathogenesis of diabetes.

Objectives: We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies that assessed the association between exposure to pesticides and diabetes and we examined the presence of heterogeneity and biases across available studies.

Methods: A comprehensive literature search of peer-reviewed original research pertaining to pesticide exposure and diabetes, published until 30st May 2015, with no language restriction, was conducted. Eligible studies were those that investigated potential associations between pesticides and diabetes without restrictions on diabetes type. We included cohort studies, case-control studies and cross-sectional studies. We extracted information on study characteristics, type of pesticide assessed, exposure assessment, outcome definition, effect estimate and sample size.

Results: We identified 22 studies assessing the association between pesticides and diabetes. The summary OR for the association of top vs. bottom tertile of exposure to any type of pesticide and diabetes was 1.58 (95% CI: 1.32-1.90, p=1.21×10(-6)), with large heterogeneity (I(2)=66.8%). Studies evaluating Type 2 diabetes in particular (n=13 studies), showed a similar summary effect comparing top vs. bottom tertiles of exposure: 1.61 (95% CI 1.37-1.88, p=3.51×10(-9)) with no heterogeneity (I(2)=0%). Analysis by type of pesticide yielded an increased risk of diabetes for DDE, heptachlor, HCB, DDT, and trans-nonachlor or chlordane.

Conclusions: The epidemiological evidence, supported by mechanistic studies, suggests an association between exposure to organochlorine pesticides and Type 2 diabetes.

Keywords: Diabetes mellitus; Heterogeneity; Meta-analysis; Organochlorines; Pesticides; Type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / analysis*
  • Pesticides / analysis*


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Pesticides