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Biol Trace Elem Res. 2012 Aug;148(2):224-31. doi: 10.1007/s12011-012-9355-3. Epub 2012 Feb 22.

Exposure to low level of arsenic and lead in drinking water from Antofagasta city induces gender differences in glucose homeostasis in rats.

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Departamento de Química, Universidad Católica del Norte, Angamos 0610, Antofagasta, Chile.


Populations chronically exposed to arsenic in drinking water often have increased prevalence of diabetes mellitus. The purpose of this study was to compare the glucose homeostasis of male and female rats exposed to low levels of heavy metals in drinking water. Treated groups were Sprague-Dawley male and female rats exposed to drinking water from Antofagasta city, with total arsenic of 30 ppb and lead of 53 ppb for 3 months; control groups were exposed to purified water by reverse osmosis. The two treated groups in both males and females showed arsenic and lead in the hair of rats. The δ-aminolevulinic acid dehydratase was used as a sensitive biomarker of arsenic toxicity and lead. The activity of δ-aminolevulinic acid dehydratase was reduced only in treated male rats, compared to the control group. Treated males showed a significantly sustained increase in blood glucose and plasma insulin levels during oral glucose tolerance test compared to control group. The oral glucose tolerance test and the homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance demonstrated that male rats were insulin resistant, and females remained sensitive to insulin after treatment. The total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol increased in treated male rats vs. the control, and triglyceride increased in treated female rats vs. the control. The activity of intestinal Na+/glucose cotransporter in male rats increased compared to female rats, suggesting a significant increase in intestinal glucose absorption. The findings indicate that exposure to low levels of arsenic and lead in drinking water could cause gender differences in insulin resistance.

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