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Pesticide DDT Associated With Obesity And Diabetes, Study Finds

Update Date: Jul 31, 2014 01:46 PM EDT

Pesticide DDT when exposed to pregnant mice led to increased risk of obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and related conditions in female offspring later in life, according to a new study. 

The study is first to show that developmental exposure to DDT increases the risk of females later developing metabolic syndrome. 

DDT has been banned in the United States in the 1970s but it is still being used for malaria control in countries such as India and South Africa. 

"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.

Exposure to DDT before birth slowed the metabolism of female mice and lowered their tolerance of cold temperature, the study found. 

"As mammals, we have to regulate our body temperature in order to live," La Merrill said. "We found that DDT reduced female mice's ability to generate heat. If you're not generating as much heat as the next guy, instead of burning calories, you're storing them."

The study further found that a high fat diet also caused female mice to have more problems with glucose, insulin and cholesterol. However it was not a risk factor for males, it added. 

The study has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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