Air pollution can make you diabetic, India at greater risk: Lancet study

Katie Ramirez
July 4, 2018

The study said that air pollution alone contributed to 3.2 million new cases of diabetes in 2016.

Previous research had already advanced the link between air pollution and diabetes, but this study is the first to make this connection explicitly.

"Our research shows a significant link between air pollution and diabetes globally", said Ziyad Al-Aly, from the University of Washington in St. Louis, US.

We've long known that exposure to air pollution can contribute to heart disease and cancer over time, and a new study finds another potential side effect of dirty air: diabetes.

"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.

Scientists believe that tiny particles of pollution enter the body and lead to reduced insulin production, as well as chronic inflammation, thus preventing the body from converting blood glucose (sugar) into energy.

A new study published by researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the Veterans Affairs (VA) St. Louis Health Care System suggests that heavily polluted countries such as India or the USA could see major health benefits - should they adopt tighter air pollution regulations. Our data, on the contrary, show that current levels are not sufficiently safe and need to be even more stringent, "said Al-'Ali". After taking care of all the medically approved cases of diabetes, and sporting a series of statistical models, it is been compared with the levels of diabetes of veterans in contrast to pollution, as documented by the NASA and EPA. When that exposure increased to 11.9 to 13.6 micrograms per cubic meter of air, about 24 percent of the group developed diabetes.

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They then devised a model to gauge diabetes risks over different pollution levels and used data from the annual worldwide Global Burden of Disease study, to estimate the prevalence of diabetes caused by bad air.

"We found an increased risk, even at low levels of air pollution now considered safe by the U.S. EPA and the World Health Organization (WHO)".

The researchers that every year nearly 14 percent of all cases of diabetes are caused by the pollution.

The researchers also found the overall risk of pollution-related diabetes is tilted more toward lower-income countries, such as India. A new report warned that outdoor air pollution may be a significant contributor to diabetes cases around the world.

The findings were published June 29 in the Lancet Planetary Health.

This article has been republished from materials provided by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. For instance, poverty-stricken countries facing a higher diabetes-pollution risk include Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea and Guyana, while richer countries such as France, Finland and Iceland experience a lower risk.

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. The US is at a moderate risk level for pollution-related diabetes.

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