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Your Environment. Your Health.

Obesity and Diabetes

Program Leads

Michael C. Humble
Michael (Mike) Humble, Ph.D. (
Health Scientist Administrator
Division of Extramural Research and Training
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
P.O. Box 12233 (MD K3-15)
Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709
Tel (919) 316-4621
Fax (919) 541-5064
Jerrold Heindel
Jerrold (Jerry) Heindel, Ph.D. (
Health Scientist Administrator
P.O. Box 12233
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
Tel (919) 541-0781
Fax (919) 541-0462


Program Description


Over the last two decades, rates of obesity have significantly increased in the United States. About a third of adults in the U.S. are obese, which puts them at risk for conditions such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Although many factors are involved in obesity, environmental health scientists are studying how environmental exposures and manmade surroundings influence obesity and related conditions.


What NIEHS is doing


NIEHS funds researchers who are studying the role of air pollution and high fat diet in obesity; how BPA exposure might promote obesity and metabolic complications; and the mechanisms of dioxin-induced metabolic syndrome. From 2005 to 2009, the NIEHS Obesity and the Built Environment research program supported studies exploring how manmade surroundings such as a person’s home, workplace, and neighborhood sidewalks cause and exacerbate obesity and related conditions.

Low activity level, poor diet, and excess body weight are known to increase risk for type 2 diabetes. There is also increasing evidence that environmental exposures can influence risk for developing diabetes. NIEHS supports research that is assessing the effects of exposure to dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), DDT, and arsenic on the development of type 2 diabetes. For example, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are examining the association between long-term exposure to inorganic arsenic and diabetes. This research aims to reveal some of the mechanisms underlying the adverse effects of arsenic exposure and to gather data that will help establish biomarkers that would identify individuals at greatest risk for arsenic-induced diabetes.

For additional information on what NIEHS grantees are doing, visit our Who We Fund tool.

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