Titanium dioxide is an ingredient in many foods (including candy), non-prescription medicines, sunscreens, and other products. The titanium dioxide is used to make whites "whiter" and colors "brighter". But... are titanium dioxide particles somehow contributing to the development of type 2 diabetes in people? The results of a small Univ. of Texas study suggest that titanium dioxide migrates to and is found in the pancreas in people with type 2 diabetes, but not in healthy persons (without type 2 diabetes).
Note that the small study examined only 11 pancreas specimens. But the researchers said the results raise the possibility that type 2 diabetes could be a titanium dioxide particle associated inflammatory disease of the pancreas. Similar to chronic crystal-caused inflammatory lung diseases like silicosis and asbestosis. Whew.
The following article (a press release) about the study does not mention that titanium dioxide particles can vary in size, with a large increase in the use of tiny nanoparticles (diameters less than 100 nm) in recent decades. (In contrast, larger titanium dioxide particles are usually in the 200–300 nm range.) But the actual journal article does discuss this - as well as pointing out health harms in animals and humans from all size particles of titanium dioxide. Titanium dioxide is inhaled or ingested, and both animal and human studies show that they enter the bloodstream, they cause inflammation, and even cell death. [Post about some nanoparticle titanium dioxide health concerns.]
So the first question is - will these same results also be found in a larger group of people? And then the big question is - how come it's in the pancreas of those with diabetes and not those without diabetes? Is their diet different? Medicine use? Occupations? Or...? From Medical Xpress:
In a pilot study by a team of researchers at The University of Texas at Austin, crystalline particles of titanium dioxide—the most common white pigment in everyday products ranging from paint to candies—were found in pancreas specimens with Type 2 diabetes, suggesting that exposure to the white pigment is associated with the disease.
Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is not a known constituent of any normal human tissue. Our body normally has plenty of salts and compounds of metallic elements such as sodium, potassium, calcium, iron and magnesium, as well as lesser amounts of other metallic elements like cobalt or molybdenum but not of titanium.
The team examined 11 pancreas specimens, eight of which were from donors who had Type 2 diabetes (T2D) and three from donors who did not. Whereas the three non-diabetic pancreatic tissue specimens contained no detectable TiO2 crystals, the crystals were detected in all of the eight T2D pancreatic tissue specimens. The UT Austin researchers found more than 200 million TiO2 crystallites per gram of TiO2 particles in the specimens from T2D donors but not in the three specimens from non-diabetic donors.
The UT study was led by Adam Heller, professor in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering in the Cockrell School of Engineering, a 2007 recipient of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation and a lifelong champion for diabetes research. ... "Our initial findings raise the possibility that Type 2 diabetes could be a chronic crystal-associated inflammatory disease of the pancreas, similar to chronic crystal-caused inflammatory diseases of the lung such as silicosis and asbestosis," Heller said.
In the mid-20th century, titanium dioxide pigment replaced highly toxic lead-based pigments. It became the most commonly used white pigment in paints and in foods, medications, toothpaste, cosmetics, plastics and paper. As a result, annual production of titanium dioxide has increased by 4 million tons since the 1960s.
According to the World Health Organization, the number of people with diabetes has quadrupled during the past four decades, affecting approximately 425 million people, with T2D comprising the majority of recorded cases. Although obesity and an aging population are still considered major factors leading to a rise in T2D cases worldwide, Heller's study suggests that increased use of titanium dioxide may also be linked to the rapid rise in the number of people suffering from the disease.
"The increased use of titanium dioxide over the last five decades could be a factor in the Type 2 diabetes epidemic," Heller said. "The dominant T2D-associated pancreatic particles consist of TiO2 crystals, which are used as a colorant in foods, medications and indoor wall paint, and they are transported to the pancreas in the bloodstream. The study raises the possibility that humanity's increasing use of TiO2 pigment accounts for part of the global increase in the incidence of T2D."