Newly published research is pointing to yet another possible consequence of glyphosate exposure, an increased risk of liver disease.
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto Roundup, has already been declared a probable human carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The designation came in March 2014, after the group’s independent review linked occupational glyphosate exposure to an increased risk of cancer, especially non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and its various subtypes.
Although Monsanto worked aggressively to discredit the IARC review, thousands of people throughout the United States have filed Roundup lawsuits the seek compensation for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancers allegedly caused by glyphosate. Bayer AG inherited the litigation when it acquired Monsanto last year.
Three Monsanto Roundup lawsuits have gone to trial since August 2018, and Bayer has yet to win a single case. The most recent trial concluded earlier this month, when a jury in Alameda County Superior Court awarded more than $2 billion to an elderly married couple, both of whom suffer from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
According to Bloomberg News, that jury award stands as the largest in the U.S. so far this year and the eighth-largest ever in a product-defect claim. The two previous Roundup cancer trials resulted in damage awards totaling about $159 million.
In the past, animal studies have suggested glyphosate exposure might harm the liver.
To determine if the herbicide could negatively impact the human liver, scientists at University of California San Diego School of Medicine examined glyphosate excretion in the urine samples of two patient groups — those with a diagnosis of NASH (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, a type of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD), and those without.
A total of 93 patient participated in the study. Forty-one percent were male; 42 percent were white or Caucasian; 35 percent were Hispanic or Latino. The research team conducted liver biopsies to determine the presence or absence of NAFLD.
According to their paper, which was published online last month by Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, glyphosate residue was significantly higher in urine samples obtained from patients with NASH than it was in patients with a healthier liver.
They speculated that the findings were reflective of the growing presence of glyphosate in the food supply, which has increased considerably in the last 25 years. The frequency of NAFLD has also been on the rise over the last two decades.
“The increasing levels [of glyphosate] in people’s urine very much correlates to the consumption of Roundup treated crops into our diet,” said lead-author Paul J. Mills, PhD, professor and chief in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine.
But while the study does point to a link between glyphosate exposure and human liver disease, Mills acknowledged the need for further research.
“There are so many synthetic chemicals we are regularly exposed to,” he said. “We measured just one.”
According to a press release from UC San Diego, his team will next investigate the impact of an herbicide-free diet on biomarkers for liver disease. To do so, they’ll be tracking a group of patients on an all-organic diet over the next several months.