A Link Between Air Pollution and Type 2 Diabetes

The prevalence of diabetes has risen substantially in the past decade all over world, which has been linked to an "epidemic" of obesity. Besides obesity, it appears that there is a direct cause and effect link shown by correlation studies that air pollution exposure is linked to increase risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

These studies confirm a correlation between the level of air contaminants and the severity of insulin sensitivity in human subjects. What is even more alarming is that the levels of harmful particulate matter in the environment are positively correlated with the levels of blood glucose level of people, who live in these areas.

Scientists of Helmholtz Zentrum M√ľnchen, in collaboration with colleagues of the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD), reported in the journal Diabetes that exposure to air pollution at the place of residence increases the risk of developing insulin resistance as a pre-diabetic state of type 2 diabetes.

Furthermore, it acts as a catalyst for obesity and diabetes in children. In a study, it has been found that children 8 to 15 years when exposed to its higher levels developed lower insulin sensitivity, a decline in beta-cell function of pancreas, and a higher body mass index (BMI) at age 18 independent of initial excess weight.

What is air pollution? -

According to the World Health Organization, it is contamination of the indoor or outdoor environment by any chemical, physical or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere. Household combustion devices, motor vehicles, industrial facilities and forest fires are common sources of air pollution. Pollutants of major public health concern include particulate matter, carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. Outdoor and indoor air pollution cause respiratory and other diseases, which can be fatal.

The WHO further states that 92% of population of the world lives in places where air pollution exceeds safe limits. So, the immensity of the problem of air pollution related diseases, including type 2 diabetes, can be clearly understood.

How does air pollution cause type 2 diabetes? -

It has been found by the researchers that chemicals contained in polluted air have been linked to causing inflammation in the body. This link may be stronger in obese people because many chemicals accumulate in fat. Obesity may play a critical role in priming the body for pollution-induced inflammation and disordered metabolism. But more research is needed to validate it.

In animal studies, chronic inflammation has been shown to promote insulin resistance, which leads to diabetes. Insulin resistance means that body can't respond properly to the insulin it makes. Over time, this sends the blood sugar levels up, which can set an individual up for type 2 diabetes.

The mechanisms underlying initiation of systemic inflammation in response to air pollution may involve multiple pathways.

The bottom line -

The world is facing an unprecedented epidemic of diabetes. About 415 million adults have diabetes worldwide or about one in every 11, according to International Diabetes Federation (IDF). Moreover, the IDF estimates that in 2015 five million people died from causes associated with having diabetes, which means 1 death every 6 seconds.

It is a well-known fact that it is a lifestyle disease, to which air pollution adds its contribution. So, the onus of its reduction rests not only on governments of individual countries but also on people living in them.

The researchers agree that there exists an unholy alliance between it and type 2 diabetes. Being a lifestyle disease, Diabetes Mellitus can be controlled by making specific changes in our lifestyle. Nevertheless, we need to break up this alliance to mitigate the burgeoning rate of prevalence of type 2 diabetes by reducing air pollution.

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