If you have diabetes, you would probably do well to stay away from higher levels of air pollution. Then again, that can be a challenged in many towns and cities where chronically high levels of air pollution have become the norm from Poland to India.
According to a team of researchers who published their findings in in The Lancet Planetary Health, reducing air pollution levels could lower the rates of diabetes. In their study, the researchers estimate that air pollution contributed to 3.2 million new diabetes cases worldwide in 2016, accounting for 14% of all new cases that year.
In the United States alone, air pollution may be responsible for 150,000 new cases of diabetes annually, while a total of 350,000 years of healthy life are lost each year, the scientists say. Unhealthy dietary habits and lifestyle choices, as well as genetic disposition, still remain the main causes of type 2 diabetes, but air pollution, too, may be having a marked effect on the worsening of the diabetes epidemic worldwide, according to the report.
The scientists say that high levels of air pollution reduce the production of insulin and trigger inflammation, which prevents the body from converting blood sugar into energy. However, it remain unproven whether air pollution in itself can cause diabetes. “Our research shows a significant link between air pollution and diabetes globally,” the study’s senior author Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, an assistant professor of medicine at Washington University in the US, said.
“We found an increased risk, even at low levels of air pollution currently considered safe by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization,” he added. “This is important because many industry lobbying groups argue that current levels are too stringent and should be relaxed. Evidence shows that current levels are still not sufficiently safe and need to be tightened.”
In recent years chronic air pollution has been linked with a growing number of diseases from pulmonary ailments to Alzheimer’s disease in adults to memory loss in children.