A new peer-reviewed study published this month in the journal Scientific Reports found that low exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer caused non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in rats. NAFLD is a serious disease that can lead to increased risk of cirrhosis, diabetes, stroke and heart attack.
The study is sure to add to the heated debate surrounding Roundup and its active ingredient, glyphosate. The herbicide’s safety has been regularly called into question after a number of studies have linked Roundup to cancer, namely non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Headed by Dr. Michael Antoniou of Kings College in London, the new study is the first to demonstrate a causative link between extremely low level exposures to Roundup and liver disease.
Researchers used innovative profiling methods to describe the molecular constitution of livers among female rats, which were exposed to Roundup through their drinking water over a span of two years. The dosages administered to the rats were two-thousand times lower than what is permitted by regulators around the world.
According to the study, the daily dose of Roundup was only four nanograms per kilogram of body weight, which is roughly 75,000 times below allowable Roundup exposure in Europe and 437,000 times below allowable Roundup exposure in the U.S.
Despite the extremely low dosage of Roundup, the study found the animals still suffered from NAFLD. The results are troubling because toxicity studies on rats are generally accepted among regulators around the world as indicators for risks to human health.
“The findings of our study are very worrying as they demonstrate for the first time a causative link between an environmentally relevant level of Roundup consumption over the long-term and a serious disease—namely non-alcoholic fatty liver disease,” said Dr. Antoniou. “Our results also suggest that regulators should reconsider the safety evaluation of glyphosate-based herbicides.”
In a statement to the media, Monsanto denounced the study by calling it “pseudoscience” and accused the researchers of using “flawed data” from a 2012 study, which Monsanto said was retracted by the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology.
However, the editor-in-chief of Food and Chemical Toxicology issued a statement saying the data used in the study cited by Monsanto was “not incorrect,” but “inconclusive.” According to the statement, the editor-in-chief “found no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data.”
The journal only retracted the study because of the inconclusiveness of one paper, the statement said. It was later republished by the journal Environmental Sciences Europe.
What is Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?
NAFLD presently affects roughly 25 percent of the U.S. population. Risk factors for NAFLD include obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol or high triglycerides in the blood. Some people develop the disease without having any of the risk factor indicators listed above, which raises the question of whether the link between Roundup and liver disease might make exposure to the glyphosate herbicide an unrecognized risk factor.
NAFLD symptoms include fatigue, weakness, weight loss, jaundice, appetite loss, nausea, abdominal pain, spider-like veins under the skin, bruising, itching, swelling of the legs and abdomen, as well as mental confusion.
The disease can progress to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a more serious condition that causes the liver to swell and become damaged. NASH typically affects individuals between 40 and 60 years of age, and is more common among women than men. It is also one of the leading causes of cirrhosis in the U.S.
Glyphosate Levels Rising
A number of reports have found a correlation between the increased use of herbicides like Roundup and increased glyphosate levels in people’s blood and urine. In 2005, global use of glyphosate was roughly 402,350 kilograms. In 2015, the amount more than doubled to 825,804 kilograms.
Dave Schubert, a medical research scientist and professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, says levels of glyphosate found in people’s bodies have grown “exponentially,” in large part due to the prevalence of the chemical in food. In the U.S., glyphosate residues have been reported in everything from cereal to baby food, which is why further study on how glyphosate impacts human health is needed.
Roundup Side Effects
Roundup and its active ingredient, glyphosate, have been the subject of controversy for years. In March of 2015, the International Agency for Research issued a report that classified glyphosate as a “probable human carcinogen.” The IARC report also found that there is “limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).
It isn’t just cancer or the connection between Roundup and liver disease that has people concerned—a number of studies have linked glyphosate to a wide variety of serious side effects, including:
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Birth Defects
- Celiac Disease
- Heart Disease
- Irritable Bowel Disease
- Kidney Disease
- Parkinson’s Disease
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