Pollution plays significant role in diabetes

Study: Even low pollution levels can pose health risk — (Details)

New research links outdoor air pollution - even at levels deemed safe - to an increased risk of diabetes globally, according to a study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the Veterans Affairs (VA) St. Louis Health Care System.

The findings suggest that reducing air pollution may also help curb cases of diabetes in heavily polluted countries or areas.

Diabetes affects more than 420 million people worldwide and 30 million Americans.

Traditionally, the main causes of diabetes are linked to poor diets of unhealthy foods, sedentary lifestyles, and obesity.

"Ten or 15 years ago, we thought that air pollution caused pneumonia, asthma and bronchitis and not much more than that", said Dr. Philip Landrigan, dean for global health at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in NY.

'This is important because many industry lobbying groups argue that current levels are too stringent and should be relaxed. "Evidence shows that these current levels are still not healthy enough and need to be lowered", said Professor Ziyad Al-Aly.

The findings are published June 29 in The Lancet Planetary Health. "We wanted to thread together the pieces for a broader, more solid understanding".

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In diabetes, air pollution is believed to reduce the production of insulin and trigger inflammation, preventing the body from converting blood glucose into energy. A new report warned that outdoor air pollution may be a significant contributor to diabetes cases around the world. That is about 14 percent of all new diabetes cases that year. In the USA air pollution was accompanied to 150,000 new cases of diabetes per year.

This study involved 1.7 million US veterans with no history of diabetes who were followed for an average of more than eight years. None of the veterans had a history of diabetes. They first looked at the levels of particulate matter - microscopic bits of dust, dirt, smoke, soot, and fluids that float around in the atmosphere - as recorded by the EPA's land-based air monitoring systems and NASA satellites. Accordingly, one in seven cases of diabetes is due to air pollution, say researchers in the study's report.

New European research has found that as many as 4.5 million people died prematurely from diseases related to air pollution in 2015, including almost 240,000 children under the age of five.

Finally, the researchers analyzed data from the Global Burden of Disease study, which is conducted annually with contributions from researchers worldwide.

Researchers say that while there have been several concerns about the growing pollution and cases of diabetes around the world, but till now, it has not been actually quantified. Such countries like Afghanistan, Guyana amongst others lack resources for making the environment cleaner-had a significant number of pollution-diabetes patients but for countries like France, Finland etc. on the other hand, the number was quite small.

The U.S. ranked moderately on the scale of pollution-related diabetes among its population. They focused their research on particulate matter as these materials can pass into the bloodstream from the lungs, contributing to major health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, or kidney disease.

It was found that even with 2.4 micrograms of particles per cubic meter of air slightly increased the risk of diabetes. At exposures of between 11.9 to 13.6 micrograms per cubic meter of air, roughly 24% developed diabetes.

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