Can Exposure to Air Pollution Lead to Increased Diabetes Risk?

HealthDay News — Short-term exposure to air pollutants adversely affects glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity, and blood lipid concentrations in Mexican-American populations, according to a study published online February 11 in Diabetes Care.

Zhanghua Chen, PhD, from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and colleagues examined whether air pollution would adversely affect insulin sensitivity and secretion and serum lipid levels in 1,023 Mexican-American participants from the BetaGene study. Participants underwent a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scan and oral and intravenous glucose tolerance tests, and completed questionnaires relating to diet and physical activity.

The researchers observed correlations for short-term (up to 58 days cumulative lagged averages) exposure to particulate matter (PM)2.5 with lower insulin sensitivity and high-density lipoprotein-to-low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol ratio, and with higher fasting glucose and insulin, homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR), total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol (all P ≤ 0.036). There was a correlation noted for annual average PM2.5 with higher fasting glucose, HOMA-IR, and LDL-cholesterol (P ≤ 0.043). Obese participants exhibited the largest effects of short-term PM2.5 exposure on insulin sensitivity. There were no significant associations seen between traffic-related air pollution and metabolic outcomes.

“Our findings suggest that ambient air pollutants may contribute to the pathophysiology in the development of type 2 diabetes and related sequelae,” the authors write.

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