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Air Pollution Plays Significant Role in Diabetes

02 July 2018

By analyzing this data, physicians have noticed that all the countries covered by the "epidemic" of diabetes, were United by one problem - the high level of air pollution.

As shown by these calculations, the risk to get diabetes begins to increase even at relatively low concentrations of aerosols and harmful substances in the air, more than 2.4 micrograms per cubic meter. It has primarily been associated with lifestyle factors like diet and a sedentary lifestyle, but new research suggests that pollution may also play a major role. In the year 2016, a study was reported where air pollution was reported to be contributing up to 3.2 million of the new diabetes cases that are 14% of the total across the globe. Pollution is thought to reduce insulin production and trigger inflammation, preventing the body from converting blood glucose into energy.

It finds that the risk of diabetes is increased even at relatively low levels of pollution.

Over 30 million Americans have diabetes, and the numbers worldwide are staggering: According to World Health Organization, 422 million adults had been diagnosed by 2014, compared with 108 million in 1980. "Many industry lobbying groups argue that current levels are too stringent and should be relaxed".

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The findings are published June 29 in The Lancet Planetary Health. "Evidence shows that current levels are still not sufficiently safe and need to be tightened", he added.

This study is the first to attempt to quantify the connection between air pollution and diabetes.

"Over the past two decades, there have been bits of research about diabetes and pollution", said Dr. Al-Aly. Health concerns and diseases, including morbidity-contributing illnesses such as heart and kidney disease, stroke, and cancer, have also been linked to these levels of air pollution. "We wanted to thread together the pieces for a broader, more solid understanding".

The Lancet study examined data from 1.7 million USA veterans who did not have a history of diabetes and were followed for 8.5 years.

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

Recently, Chinese doctors chose to evaluate both the prevalence of diabetes affects the life expectancy of the Chinese, and came to the conclusion that the acquisition of this disease shortens a typical life span of nine years, and their American colleagues found that diabetes is associated with approximately 12% of deaths in the United States. 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.

In veterans exposed to air pollution between 5 and 10 micrograms per cubic meter of air, much less than the EPA safe level of 12 micrograms, approximately 21 percent developed diabetes. After controlling for all medically known causes of diabetes and running a series of statistical models, they compared the veterans' levels of diabetes to pollution levels documented by the EPA and NASA.

Ziyad Al-Aly, an assistant professor of medicine at Washington University, served as the study's senior author.

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Air Pollution Plays Significant Role in Diabetes