Endocrine disruptors in plastics alter β-cell physiology and increase the risk of diabetes mellitus

Juan Martínez-Pinna, Roberto Sempere-Navarro, Regla M. Medina-Gali, Esther Fuentes, Ivan Quesada, Robert M. Sargis, Leonardo Trasande, Angel Nadal

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Plastic pollution breaks a planetary boundary threatening wildlife and humans through its physical and chemical effects. Of the latter, the release of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) has consequences on the prevalence of human diseases related to the endocrine system. Bisphenols (BPs) and phthalates are two groups of EDCs commonly found in plastics that migrate into the environment and make low-dose human exposure ubiquitous. Here we review epidemiological, animal, and cellular studies linking exposure to BPs and phthalates to altered glucose regulation, with emphasis on the role of pancreatic β-cells. Epidemiological studies indicate that exposure to BPs and phthalates is associated with diabetes mellitus. Studies in animal models indicate that treatment with doses within the range of human exposure decreases insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance, induces dyslipidemia, and modifies functional β-cell mass and serum levels of insulin, leptin, and adiponectin. These studies reveal that disruption of β-cell physiology by EDCs plays a key role in impairing glucose homeostasis by altering the mechanisms used by β-cells to adapt to metabolic stress such as chronic nutrient excess. Studies at the cellular level demonstrate that BPs and phthalates modify the same biochemical pathways involved in adaptation to chronic excess fuel. These include changes in insulin biosynthesis and secretion, electrical activity, expression of key genes, and mitochondrial function. The data summarized here indicate that BPs and phthalates are important risk factors for diabetes mellitus and support a global effort to decrease plastic pollution and human exposure to EDCs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E488-E505
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • diabetes
  • endocrine disruptors
  • insulin resistance
  • insulin secretion
  • β -cells


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