Metabolic syndrome caused by DDT

ddtMetabolic syndrome is characterized by a cluster of conditions that increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and related conditions.

The UC Davis study revealed that early exposure to DDT caused significant health problems later in life, increasing the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, and that there was a gender difference. Exposure to DDT before birth slowed the metabolism of female mice and made them more susceptible to feeling the effect of cold weather

DDT has been banned in the US but is still used pervasively in other countries including South Africa. DDT was developed as the first of the modern insecticides early in World War II. It was initially used with great effect to combat malaria, typhus, and the other insect-borne human diseases among both military and civilian populations. A persistent, broad-spectrum compound often termed the “miracle” pesticide, DDT came into wide agricultural and commercial usage in this country in the late 1940s. During the past 30 years, approximately 675,000 tons have been applied domestically. The peak year for use in the United States was 1959 when nearly 80 million pounds were applied. From that high point, usage declined steadily to about 13 million pounds in 1971, most of it applied to cotton.

The gender difference observed in this study was stark. Females were at higher risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cholesterol. The same impact was not observed in males.

A high fat diet also caused female mice to have more problems with glucose, insulin and cholesterol but was not a risk factor for males. The sex differences require further research, the authors said.

“The women and men this study is most applicable to in the United States are currently at the age when they’re more likely to develop metabolic syndrome, because these are diseases of middle- to late adulthood,” said lead author Michele La Merrill, assistant professor of environmental toxicology at UC Davis.


Michele La Merrill, Emma Karey, Erin Moshier, Claudia Lindtner, Michael R. La Frano, John W. Newman, Christoph Buettner. Perinatal Exposure of Mice to the Pesticide DDT Impairs Energy Expenditure and Metabolism in Adult Female Offspring. PLoS ONE, July 30, 2014 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0103337

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