New Study Establishes Link between Diabetes and Titanium Dioxide Pigments

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Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin found traces of titanium dioxide in pancreas specimens with Type 2 diabetes.

Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is a white pigment found in products such as paints and candles. Human body consists of variety of salts such as sodium, potassium, calcium, iron and magnesium and lesser amounts of cobalt or molybdenum. However, a team of researchers from University of Texas at Austin recovered traces of TiO2 crystals in tissues of pancreas specimens.

The team analyzed 11 pancreas specimens, eight of which possessed Type 2 diabetes (T2D) and the rest three were from healthy donors. The report revealed that the three healthy tissues possessed no detectable TiO2 crystals. However, the eight T2D pancreatic tissue specimens contained considerable traces of crystalline TiO2. Around 200 million TiO2 crystallites per gram of TiO2 particles were recorded in the specimens from T2D donors. The study led by Adam Heller, professor in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering was published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology on June 20, 2018.

The study raises possibilities of chronic crystal-associated inflammation in Type 2 diabetes similar to chronic crystal-caused inflammatory diseases of the lungs. TiO2 pigments were majorly used instead of toxic lead-based pigments in mid-20th century. It finds its application in foods, medications, toothpaste, cosmetics, plastics and paper industry. According to World Health Organization (WHO), annual production of titanium dioxide increased by 4 million tons since the 1960s. The organization further states that the number of diabetic patients quadrupled during the past four decades, of which T2D is evident in majority of cases. Although obesity and an aging population are mostly responsible for T2D cases worldwide, Heller’s study links increased use of TiO2 to the rapid rise of the disease.

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