Approximately 24 million people in the United States have diabetes and about 6 million more have it and don’t know it. There seems to be an exploding pandemic of type-2 diabetes. Just how bad is it? The CDC states that by the year 2050 diabetes may affect one in three people.
Doctors have known for some time that exercise and diet plays a huge role in diabetes, but new studies shows that where you live could be a major determinant as well.
These studies - one in Germany and another in the United States–provide compelling evidence that diabetes rates increase as air pollution increases. In other words, if you live in an area that is strongly polluted with tiny airborne particles you are more likely to develop type-2 diabetes.Studies show real-world pollution is sabotaging our blood sugar control.
This isn’t a novel idea. There have been other studies that suggested pollution could lead to the onset of diabetes in humans, but the data came from small studies with animals. The new data, on the other hand, provides strong evidence that our polluted world is sabotaging blood sugar control in more and more people.
Both studies involved tiny airborne particles from traffic, industrial boilers, and coal-fired power plants. This kind of particulate pollution could cause obesity as well as diabetes, because it triggers chronic inflammation. This inflammation is usually found in the lungs but it also affects other tissues, including fat tissue. Obesity and diabetes often go hand in hand.
One study involved mice exposed to airborne pollution 2.5 µm in diameter or smaller. The mice were fed a high-fat diet and eventually became obese. This is significant because for the first time it was demonstrated that pollution plus obesity can promote metabolic disease. The mice in the study were compared with other fat mice that were breathing clean air. The mice in the study that inhaled real-world pollution developed inflammation, insulin resistance, and developed belly fat as well as other prediabetic changes.
Even after accounting for known diabetes risk factors such as a poor diet, lack of exercise, obesity, and population density, the association between air pollution and the onset of diabetes remains strong.If you’re breathing highly polluted air, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is especially crucial.
If you live in a highly polluted area this news is certainly something to think about. While most of us don’t have the luxury of relocating to a cleaner part of the country, the risk of developing type-2 diabetes because of air pollution should make us even more diligent in our efforts to keep diabetes at bay. This means eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise–two things we should all be doing for our over all health anyway.