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Published on February 14th, 2017 | by James Ayre


Study: Air Pollution & Heightened Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes Tied Together (In Obese Latino Children, & Possibly Others As Well)

February 14th, 2017 by  

A new study led by USC researchers has found that Latino children who live in places with high levels of air pollution are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes — as a result of high levels of air pollution apparently working to make insulin-creating cells less efficient.

While the research was focused solely on low-income Latino children, the findings are very likely to have relevance to others living in areas with high levels of air pollution — in particular, in areas with high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NOx) and particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) in the air, the pollutants that were especially high in the regions in question.

“Exposure to heightened air pollution during childhood increases the risk for Hispanic children to become obese and, independent of that, to also develop Type 2 diabetes,” stated Michael Goran, co-director of the Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “Poor air quality appears to be a catalyst for obesity and diabetes in children, but the conditions probably are forged via different pathways.”

The press release provides more:

“Scientists tracked children’s health and respective levels of residential air pollution for about 3.5 years before associating chronic unhealthy air exposure to a breakdown in beta cells, special pancreatic cells that secrete insulin and maintain the appropriate sugar level in the bloodstream.

“By the time the children turned 18, their insulin-creating pancreatic cells were 13% less efficient than normal, making these individuals more prone to eventually developing Type 2 diabetes, researchers said.”

Additionally, as might be expected, the fully functioning beta cells were overworking themselves to make up for the less efficient ones, but then that burns them out. Going on:

“As the cells failed to secrete insulin efficiently, regulation of sugar in the bloodstream overwhelmed the system, heightening the risk of Type 2 diabetes. …

“Each year the participants fasted and then came to the Childhood Obesity Research Center at USC for a physical exam and to have their glucose and insulin levels measured over a span of 2 hours. When they turned 18, the participants had nearly 27% higher blood insulin after having fasted for 12 hours. During their 2-hour glucose test, they had about 36% more insulin than normal, indicating that the body was becoming less responsive to insulin. This observation illustrated that increased exposure to air pollution was associated with increased risk factors for Type 2 diabetes.”

Interestingly, when the data was adjusted for socioeconomic status and body fat, the effect of long-term exposure to air pollution (as measured at age 18) was greater than that of a 5% gain in body weight. That’s pretty “amazing,” and makes it clear that the modern diabetes epidemic is not simply a matter of drinking too much branded sugar water.

Using data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we can see that diabetes occurrence in the US has roughly quadrupled during just the last 4 decades. If this trend was to continue, then 1 out of every 3 US residents would have diabetes by 2050. That’s 1 out of every 3 US residents, not just 1 out of every 3 adult residents — kids, babies, everyone.

“Diabetes is occurring in epidemic proportion in the US and the developed world,” commented Frank Gilliland, senior author and a professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine. “It has been the conventional wisdom that this increase in diabetes is the result of an uptick in obesity due to sedentary lifespans and calorie-dense diets. Our study shows air pollution also contributes to Type 2 diabetes risk.”

It should probably be noted here that there are an estimated ~8.1 million people in the US who have diabetes but haven’t been diagnosed for whatever reasons. So, essentially, roughly 28% of people who have diabetes in the US may not know it (having not been diagnosed by a medical professional).

The new research was published in the journal Diabetes.

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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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