Background: The global prevalence of type 2 diabetes continues to increase in both developed and developing countries. Environmental exposure to mercury may be an important and modifiable risk factor for type 2 diabetes. However, the epidemiological results are controversial.
Objectives: This study aimed to examine the association between blood mercury levels and prevalence of type 2 diabetes.
Methods: A total of 646 adult participants were selected from the National Nutrition and Health Survey in Taiwan (NAHSIT) 2005-2008. The participants were interviewed using structured questionnaires to record data on basic demographics, socioeconomic status, lifestyle, medical history, and 24-h dietary recall. Specimens of blood and urine were collected at the health examination. Type 2 diabetes was defined as a fasting blood glucose level ≥ 126 mg/dL or intake of hypoglycemic medications. The mercury concentration in red blood cells (RBC-Hg) was quantified by cold vapor atomic absorption spectrometry.
Results: Participants with type 2 diabetes had a significantly higher RBC-Hg than those without type 2 diabetes. A significant association between the RBC-Hg and prevalence of type 2 diabetes was observed [odds ratio (OR): 1.64; 95% confidence intervals: 1.14-2.35] after potential confounders were well considered, including age, sex, body mass index (BMI), hypertension, total cholesterol, saltwater fish consumption, geographical strata, seasonality and hemoglobin (Hb) level.
Conclusion: Our findings showed that elevated RBC-Hg is significantly associated with type 2 diabetes prevalence. Future research, particularly for longitudinal cohort studies with suitable specimens, needs to be performed to verify our findings.
Keywords: Mercury exposure; Methylmercury; National Nutrition and Health Survey in Taiwan; Type 2 diabetes.
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