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Nitrates in Drinking Water Linked to Diabetes

The results of a recent study conducted in Colorado suggest that the exposure to low levels of nitrates in drinking water may play a role in the development of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.

It is suspected that a geographically varying factor could be a contributor to the onset of insulin dependent diabetes. Large variations of Type I incidence and trends of increasing incidence in several European countries support this theory. Among the suspected contributors to the onset of type I diabetes is exposure to nitrates in drinking water.

Researchers from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver conducted a study to determine if there was a significant relationship between the levels of nitrate in Colorado’s drinking water and the onset of Type I diabetes. The report of their study was published in Diabetes Care, November 1992.

The researchers gathered the incidence rates of diabetes in people under the age of 18 between 1978 and 1988 for all 63 counties in Colorado. They compared this data to the average nitrate levels from the water districts in each county and found that there was a positive correlation.

Nitrate can be reduced to nitrite, which in turn can lead to the formation of nitrosamines. Previous studies have shown that toxic doses of nitrosamines can lead to the damage of the insulin producing beta cells of the pancreas, causing the onset of diabetes.

Through their analysis of the results, the researchers suggest that low-level nitrates found in drinking water could play a role in the development of Type I diabetes.

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