Home-EditorialsCan Someone Safely Ingest a Sulfonylurea Chemical?

Can Someone Safely Ingest a Sulfonylurea Chemical?

How many of us are familiar with the term sulfonylurea? It is the chemical name for a family of pesticides, primarily herbicides (SUs). There are over 20 aerial labels for sulfonylurea herbicides. There are many, many more chemical labels with sulfonylurea as a primary ingredient; too many to mention in this editorial. The label generally carries the code word “CAUTION,” meaning that it is basically non-toxic to humans if properly handled.

Would it surprise you to learn that sulfonylureas are found in many medicines for human treatments? Evidently, certain pesticides are not all harmful to warm-blooded animals, including us—even when consumed! This is amazing, and I imagine it would be earth-shattering for those with chemophobia.

SUs are a class of organic compounds used in agriculture and medicine. SUs are the most widely used herbicide. I found this to be true when I searched for more information as it relates to medicine. The reason being that SUs interfere with plant biosynthesis of certain amino acids. It comes in many chemical formulations. These are broad-spectrum herbicides that kill (there is “that” word) plant weeds or pests by inhibiting the enzyme acetolactate synthase. In the 1960s, more than one kilogram per hectare (0.89 lb/acre) of crop protection chemicals were typically applied, while SUs allowed as little as 1% as much material to achieve the same effect (per Wikipedia).

Sus role in medicine is equally important as applied to the treatment of type 2 diabetes. It is widely used as an anti-diabetic drug for managing diabetes mellitus type 2. This is accomplished by increasing the secretion of insulin from the pancreas. However, SUs are ineffective when it comes to the treatment of type 1 diabetes. There is at least one drawback to SUs in diabetes treatment. It can induce hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) as a result of excesses in insulin production and release. Other drawbacks are weight gain, stomach upset, headache, and hypersensitivity. It appears that SUs work better for weed control than diabetes control.

SUs work to inhibit acetolactate synthase (ALS), the enzyme common to the biosynthesis of amino acids. But for all the good SUs are, there is a rapid evolution of resistance to these herbicides in some plants. According to PubMed, an official government website, this is mainly due to SUs having a single mode of action and long residual activity.

The gist of this editorial is of all the negative hoopla about pesticides, particularly herbicides. I found it a bit ironic that a key agricultural herbicide has an important role in medicine. I have not researched to substantiate this assumption, which could also be true for many other pesticides.

I tire easily of defending pesticides, mainly because this world could not exist in the way it is today without them. Ignorance is bliss, so it has been said. Those who live in such an ill-informed way, I don’t mind; just don’t impose your ignorant beliefs on the rest of us!

Until next month, Keep Turning…





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