22% Spike in Diabetes Risk with 10% Air Pollution Rise, 1 in 5 Global Cases Linked

May 26, 2024
1 min read
People commuting on the streets.
People commuting on the streets.

Air pollution is a major factor for type 2 diabetes. This is confirmed by a study published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care. It followed 12,064 adults residing in Delhi and Chennai over seven years. One’s risk of getting type 2 diabetes could be increased by breathing polluted air, with particulate matter (PM2.5) being the biggest culprit.

Globally, 9 out of 10 people breathe unhealthy air. This leads to more than 4 million premature deaths annually around the world. Short-term and long-term risks are carried by air pollution, mainly for the heart and lungs. Asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchitis, and types of cancer are caused by air pollution.

The study found that a 10 µg/m³ rise in monthly average exposure to PM2.5 was associated with a 0.4 mg/dL increase in finger-prick blood glucose levels and a 0.021 unit increase in HbA1c levels. Air pollution acts as an endocrine disruptor by affecting the pancreas, leading to a drop in beta cell function, and adversely affecting insulin action in the liver, adipose tissues, and muscles, thus increasing insulin resistance. It also causes oxidative stress and central nervous system inflammation.

A fifth of the type 2 diabetes cases worldwide have been attributed to air pollution. An editorial in the Journal of the Association of Physicians of India (JAPI), titled “Air Pollution: A New Cause of Type 2 Diabetes,” highlights this issue. According to Dr. Mangesh Tiwaskar, editor-in-chief of JAPI, India is known as the diabetes capital of the world, but air pollutants are a significant contributor to the disease burden. Other factors include soil pollution, drugs given to animals, and poor sanitation, all of which act as endocrine disruptors.

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Dr. Tiwaskar also noted the concerning conditions under which vegetables are grown in Mumbai, contributing to the burden of non-communicable diseases like diabetes. The linkage between air pollution and deaths is evident, with a study by Greenpeace Southeast Asia reporting that Delhi records the highest number of air pollution-related deaths annually, followed by Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing, and Mumbai.

However, the connection between diabetes and PM2.5 presents a silver lining: air pollution is a preventable cause. According to researchers from the Public Health Foundation of India, efforts can be made to check air pollution, thus reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Rahul Somvanshi

Rahul, possessing a profound background in the creative industry, illuminates the unspoken, often confronting revelations and unpleasant subjects, navigating their complexities with a discerning eye. He perpetually questions, explores, and unveils the multifaceted impacts of change and transformation in our global landscape. As an experienced filmmaker and writer, he intricately delves into the realms of sustainability, design, flora and fauna, health, science and technology, mobility, and space, ceaselessly investigating the practical applications and transformative potentials of burgeoning developments.

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