Insecticides and garden products exposure may increase risk of diabetes

Household chemicals - Photo by: Dennis van Zuijlekom- Source: Flickr Creative Commons

A new study found convincing evidence about a previously unsuspected risk of diabetes after long-term exposure to insecticides and garden products. Carbamates may, in fact, mimic melatonin and bind to its receptor, disrupting circadian rhythms and leading to a substantial damage to our biological clock which may lead to chronic conditions such as diabetes. The study has been published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology, and was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Wet-laboratoy experimentation combined with big data analysis, let the team led by the pharmacologist and toxicologist Dr. Raj Rajnarayanan find how environmental exposure to household chemicals and insecticides may harm our health on the long-term. Researchers from the University at Buffalo screened many synthetic chemicals used in gardening with an integrated pharmacoinformatics-based approach, and found that many insecticides bind to the MT1 and MT2 melatonin receptors.

Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the homeostasis of the internal clock in humans, and directly and indirectly affects glucose metabolism through insulin secretion. By upsetting its pathways, substances such as carbofuran and carbaryl have a detrimental effect on the whole body, increasing the risk of metabolic diseases such as diabetes as well as causing sleep disorders. For example, insulin release is finely regulated in the pancreas within very narrow time frames over the course of the day. If this physiological balance is upset continuously, it may prevent cells from properly receive the glucose they need to fuel their activities, paving the road for metabolic diseases. Other critical regulatory processes may be impacted as well.

Although both these two substances have been banned since 2009 because of their high toxicity, they’re still used on food crops for human consumption in countries such as Mexico and persist in the environment, wildlife and plants. Recently, other popular garden products such as Monsanto’s Roundup (glyphosate) flared up vast controversies over their alleged dangerous effects on humans. Continuous or chronic exposure to garden products may, in fact, exert harmful long-term effects rather than just acute toxicity. The ability of some substances to disrupt circadian rhythms has never been properly addressed by regulatory agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration, and may require a general safety re-assessment of most products that have otherwise determined as harmless.


Article written by Dr. Claudio Butticè, Pharm.D.



  1. Marina Popovska-Gorevski, Margarita L. Dubocovich, Rajendram V. Rajnarayanan. Carbamate Insecticides Target Human Melatonin Receptors. Chemical Research in Toxicology, 2017;