Pesticides and Metabolic Health

Science by Dr. Ben Bikman

Pesticides are a broad classification of chemicals that share a collective use in deterring or killing insects. The use of pesticides and our subsequent exposure is remarkable; the worldwide use is billions of pounds. Pesticides are everywhere.  At one time, one of the most common was organochlorine (OC) pesticides, though this has expanded to include organophosphates (OP), as well. 

Though OCs are used less frequently these days, they have been shown to highly predict insulin resistance; in people followed for 20 years, those with the highest OC levels in their blood were the most likely to develop insulin resistance [1]

One critical feature of OC is how they linger.  Our bodies have a remarkable ability to retain these toxins. For pesticides, once exposed, our bodies will often store these harmful foreign molecules in fat tissue. Someone with more fat already in their body thus likely has a greater capacity to store these toxins once they enter the blood. Of course, of the two main fat depots on the body, the visceral adipose is much more likely to accumulate these toxins—potentially up to 10 times more than subcutaneous [2]. 

However, while OC use is going down globally, the use of OP pesticides is going up. Like OCs, OPs can accumulate in various cells throughout the body, including fat cells. Once in the body, OPs begin to wreak metabolic havoc by increasing both inflammation and oxidative stress, and OP exposure is known to increase the risk of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes later in life [3]. 

Glyphosate, a member of the broader OP family, is actually an herbicide (killing weeds vs. insects) that has become the most commonly used worldwide, to the point that it is detectable around the world in the soil, water, and even the air. Glyphosate is a well-established metabolic irritant. In lab rodents fed a high fructose diet (to induce insulin resistance), animals that were also given glyphosate in the diet had a much harder time with metabolic health [4]. Blood glucose levels were 90% higher, and insulin levels were 40% higher. Just by adding glyphosate to the diet!

Thankfully, pesticides, including OPs and OCs, are naturally cleared from the body over time. There is no known method to accelerate this clearance–they just need time. Thus, in the absence of any clear offensive strategy, the best offense is a good defense. If you’re worried about the metabolic (and more) consequence of pesticides, scrutinize the foods you eat to ensure they’re from pesticide-free farms and sources. Of course, a diet that controls carbohydrates will reduce the consumption of pesticides/herbicides by its very nature–you’re simply consuming less of the foods that carry OPs and OCs. Additionally, by prioritizing protein and not fearing dietary fat, you can enhance insulin sensitivity to offset some of the metabolic consequences of OPs and OCs.




This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.