The link between toxin exposure and chronic disease is ever increasing. Diabetes is one such disease that deserves particular attention when it comes to toxin exposure. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, and has been linked to toxin exposure, particularly to heavy metals such as lead and mercury. Type 2 diabetes, which is the more common type and the precursor to heart disease, is also being linked to toxin exposure.

A recent study published in the journal Diabetes Care has linked mercury exposure in young adults to a 65 percent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. This study is the first to link mercury exposure to this type of diabetes. In the study, participants with the highest mercury levels also had the healthiest lifestyles, interestingly—they had lower body mass index (BMI) and smaller waists, they exercised more and ate more fish. When the researchers controlled for omega-3 intake and other healthy dietary factors, however, they found a substantial increase in risk.

The main source of mercury exposure comes by way of fish consumption, unfortunately. Fish consumption can be a double edged sword—it’s obviously one of the healthiest foods you can eat, but certain fish are high in mercury and other toxins that can build up in the body and negatively impact health. I recommend eating fish low in mercury, and taking a purified fish oil supplement to be sure you are getting enough omega-3.

This study suggests that the intake of omega-3 fats and other components of a healthy diet may help counteract the negative effects of mercury. That’s reassuring. But due to the nature of mercury accumulation and build up in the body—it’s not easy to get rid of—avoiding this toxin is your best bet, when possible.