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   Thursday, September 19, 2019
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Pesticides linked to diabetes


A new study done at Stanford University reinforces the link between type 2 diabetes and organochlorine (OC) pesticide exposure by pioneering a new method for assessing the contribution of environmental factors to disease formation more generally. More than 23 million people in the U.S. suffer from the disease, which is on the rise, and genetics have thus far offered little insight. The studies specific findings were that the development of type 2 diabetes correlates strongly with the presence of the OC pesticide-derivative heptachlor in blood or urine, with environmental contaminant polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) also showing a significant association. Beta-carotenes had a protective effect against the development of type 2 diabetes. At least as significant as the study's findings were its methodological advances in documenting environmental contributions to health outcomes.

Disease formation is enormously complex, requiring analysis of myriad causal factors over long time frames. Accordingly, the demonstration of causality for increased incidence of chronic diseases like cancer, type 2 diabetes and other autoimmune and metabolic disorders has been difficult. Over the last few decades, much more money has been devoted to the study of genetic and lifestyle causal factors than to environmental ones -- one effect of which has been the "gross underestimation" of environmental contributions to disease-formation.

The Stanford authors piloted an Environment-Wide Association Study (EWAS) in which epidemiological data are comprehensively and systematically interpreted in a way that builds upon Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS). Using National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data, scientists performed multiple cross-sectional analyses associating 266 environmental factors with the occurrence of type 2 diabetes. Of those 266 environmental factors, OC pesticide-derivative heptachlor showed the strongest correlation. According to Scientific American, the idea for conducting what amounts to a "mass-screening" of environmental risk factors came from a Stanford graduate student, Chirag Patel, the study's lead author. Patel wanted to find a way to "use bioinformatics for the environment," in part to address widespread dissatisfaction with what genetics have been able to explain about disease risk factors. "The time is ripe, to usher in 'enviromics'," claim the study's authors.

To read the Stanford report, click on the link below:


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The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

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Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

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