Last updated on Jul 7th, 2020 at 04:27 pm

Who would have thought that, even at seemingly low levels, air pollution would be linked to diabetes?

Affecting more than 420 million people worldwide, diabetes is one of the fastest growing diseases.

While the main causes of type 2 diabetes include an unhealthy diet, a sedentary lifestyle, and obesity, new research has found that outdoor air pollution plays a role too.

“Our research shows a significant link between air pollution and diabetes globally,” said Ziyad Al-Aly, MD, the study’s senior author and an assistant professor of medicine at Washington University.

“We found an increased risk, even at low levels of air pollution currently considered safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). This is important because many industry lobbying groups argue that current levels are too stringent and should be relaxed. Evidence shows that current levels are still not sufficiently safe and need to be tightened.”

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Related: Osteoporosis linked to air pollution

Air pollution linked to poor health

The researchers looked at the particulate matter, airborne microscopic pieces of dust, dirt, smoke, soot and liquid droplets.

Previous studies have found that such particles can enter the lungs and invade the bloodstream, contributing to major health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and kidney disease.

In diabetes, pollution is thought to reduce insulin production and trigger inflammation, preventing the body from converting blood glucose into energy that the body needs to maintain health.

Related: Air pollution can cut your life short by 10 years

Air pollution contributed to estimated 3,2 million new diabetes cases

Overall, the researchers estimated that air pollution contributed to 3,2 million new diabetes cases globally in 2016, which represents about 14 percent of all new diabetes cases globally that year.

About the study

The Washington University team and scientists at the Veterans Affairs’ Clinical Epidemiology Centre examined the relationship between particulate matter and the risk of diabetes by first analysing data from 1,7 million U.S. veterans who were followed for an average of 8,5 years.

The data was then linked with air pollution levels via the EPA’s land-based air monitoring systems as well as space-borne satellites operated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

They also analysed data from the ‘Global Burden of Disease’ study, which is conducted annually with contributions from researchers worldwide.

The data helped to estimate annual cases of diabetes and healthy years of life lost due to pollution.

Source: Washington University in St. Louis via 

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.