Air Pollution Linked to Insulin Resistance in Children, Diabetes Warning Sign
Air pollution is considered to be harmful for the lungs. However, a recent study conducted by researchers at the German Research Center for Environmental Health found that air pollution may increase the risk for insulin resistance, which, in turn, is a risk factor for diabetes.
According to the BBC, the study was conducted on 397 10-year-olds who lived in Germany. The researchers took blood samples of the children, from which glucose and insulin measurements were taken. The researchers took into account birth weight, body mass index and their exposure to secondhand smoke at home. The researchers calculated the children's air pollution risk by estimating their level of exposure using data from 2008 and 2009 and linking it to the children's address at birth.
For every 10.6 micrograms per cubic meter increase in ambient nitrogen dioxide, insulin resistance increased by 17 percent, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. For every six micrograms per cubic meter elevation in particulate matter, insulin resistance increased by 19 percent.
The study is linked to a growing body of research that has found that high levels of air pollution are linked to diabetes in adults. Experts say that children are even more susceptible to the risk because their bodies are smaller, so the same amount of air pollution would affect them more deeply.
Studies in adults have found that particles in the air invade the respiratory system. From there, the particles lodge into the heart and blood vessels, which increases inflammation. The researchers suggest that another explanation for the findings is that air pollutants may react with the fat and proteins in the body, which could lead to cell damage, according to Diabetes.co.uk.
Researchers are not sure yet whether the study has any clinical significance. They will perform a follow-up study on the students when they are 15 years old in order to assess whether puberty plays a role, or whether moving to cleaner area may help.
However, some researchers uninvolved with the study are skeptical about its findings. They say that, in order for the research to be truly conclusive, the scientists would have needed to perform air pollution tests on the day of the children's testing.
The study was published in the journal Diabetologia.