A new study from Indiana University has found a link between high levels of mercury and diabetes.
After studying about 4,000 people over nearly two decades, researchers found people who consumed higher levels of mercury were 65 percent more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.
IU Epidemiology and Biostatistics Department Chair Ka He, who led the study, says scientists do not know exactly how mercury could cause diabetes, but the chemical likely damages body cells and the pancreas—the organ that creates insulin to breakdown sugar.
“Fish consumption might be a marker of a healthy lifestyle or a healthy diet, but if you eat more fish, you of course are more likely to have high mercury exposure or mercury levels,” He says.
He adds mercury levels can vary depending on whether a fish is farm-raised and where it is caught. But IU Health Southern Indiana Physicians diabetes educator Cheri Towell says one of the biggest contributors to getting diabetes is being overweight.
“You can’t control your age. You can’t control your genetics. You can’t control your race, but you can control your diet and physical activity,” she says.
And Towell says fish can be a healthy alternative to fattier meats.
Ka He agrees. He says people should choose fish that have lower levels of mercury such as salmon and tilapia while avoiding others with high mercury levels such as swordfish and shark.