Growing up in areas with high levels of air pollution greatly increases the risk of developing diabetes, a new study shows.
In new research published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, German scientists have found children living in very polluted areas are more likely develop insulin resistance — the precursor to diabetes — later in life.
Past studies have linked air pollution and other chronic conditions such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and heart disease. But the new study is the first to associate long-term exposure to traffic-related air pollution and type 2 diabetes in adults.
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“Although toxicity differs between air pollutants, they are all considered potent oxidizers that act either directly on lipids and proteins or indirectly through the activation of intracellular oxidant pathways,” said researcher Joachim Heinrich.
“Oxidative stress caused by exposure to air pollutants may therefore play a role in the development of insulin resistance. In addition, some studies have reported that short-term and long-term increases in particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide [NO2] exposure lead to elevated inflammatory biomarkers, another potential mechanism for insulin resistance.”
For the new study, researchers analyzed fasting blood samples collected from several hundred 10-year-old children. They the kids’ insulin resistance rates to their levels of exposure to traffic-related air pollutants based on emission from road traffic in their neighborhoods.
The results showed levels of insulin resistance were greater in children with higher exposure to air pollution.
“To our knowledge, this is the first prospective study that investigated the relationship of long-term traffic-related air pollution and insulin resistance in children,” said Heinrich.
“Insulin resistance levels tended to increase with increasing air pollution exposure, and this observation remained robust after adjustment for several confounding factors, including socioeconomic status, BMI and passive smoking.”
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