A new study performed by researchers at Helmholtz Zentrum München, in collaboration with researchers at the German Center for Diabetes Research, has revealed that common levels of air pollution in homes notably increase the risk of developing insulin resistance as a pre-diabetic state of type 2 diabetes.
What this means is that risk is strongly associated not just with “lifestyle” and genetics, but also with the environmental factors that most people have no control over, but which governments have the ability to regulate.
Notably, the levels of air pollution observed in the study (in Germany) are well within European Union limits, but above those proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Whether the disease becomes manifest and when this occurs is not only due to lifestyle or genetic factors, but also due to traffic-related air pollution,” commented Professor Annette Peters, director of the Institute of Epidemiology II at Helmholtz Zentrum München and head of the research area of epidemiology of the DZD.
The press release continues, noting that, in collaboration with German Diabetes Center Düsseldorf and the German Heart Centre, the researchers “analyzed the data of nearly 3,000 participants of the KORA study who live in the city of Augsburg and two adjacent rural counties. All individuals were interviewed and physically examined. Furthermore, the researchers took fasting blood samples, in which they determined various markers for insulin resistance and inflammation. In addition, leptin was examined as adipokine which has been suggested to be associated with insulin resistance. Non-diabetic individuals underwent an oral glucose tolerance test to detect whether their glucose metabolism was impaired. The researchers compared these data with the concentrations of air pollutants at the place of residence of the participants, which they estimated using predictive models based on repeated measurements at 20 sites (for particle measurements) and at 40 sites (for nitrogen dioxide measurements) in the city and in the rural counties.”
“The results revealed that people who already have an impaired glucose metabolism, so-called pre-diabetic individuals, are particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution,” stated Dr Kathrin Wolf, lead author of the new study. “In these individuals, the association between increases in their blood marker levels and increases in air pollutant concentrations is particularly significant! Thus, over the long term — especially for people with impaired glucose metabolism — air pollution is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.”
With regard to the implications of the findings, researcher Dr Alexandra Schneider, noted: “Lowering the threshold for acceptable air pollution levels would be a prudent step. We are all exposed to air pollution. An individual reduction by moving away from highly polluted areas is rarely an option.”
The new findings are detailed in a paper published in the journal Diabetes.
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