Improving air quality could reduce type 2 diabetes diagnoses, research suggests

Jack Woodfield
Mon, 02 Jul 2018
Improving air quality could reduce type 2 diabetes diagnoses, research suggests
Reducing air pollution could result in less people developing type 2 diabetes, new research has suggested.

Researchers at Washington University used NASA satellites to predict that almost 15,000 people get type 2 diabetes in the UK every year because of polluted air.

Eating a diet high in processed and sugary foods and poor lifestyles are both significantly linked to type 2 diabetes, and now this research suggests living in smoggy urban locations is too a risk factor.

The scientists behind the study say air pollution could be responsible for at least one in 10 cases of type 2 diabetes in the UK, adding the problem could be worse in polluted cities such as London.

"Air pollution is a major driver of illness and should not be ignored," said study author Dr Ziyad Al-Aly, assistant professor of medicine at Washington University. "In the UK, in 2016 there were about 14,900 incident cases of diabetes attributable to air pollution and 31,800 healthy life years lost. We did not look at the city level or London. However, it is very clear from our results that higher (pollution) is associated with higher risk."

Air pollution has been more and more associated with type 2 diabetes in recent years, and while the exact mechanisms behind this link are not clear, scientists have suggested that where people live and their income could be noteworthy factors.

The new findings were based on an analysis of 1.7 million US veterans across an average of 8.5 years. Researchers also used data from NASA satellites and readings from ground stations, which monitored air pollution in the locations of the study participants.

These results were then cross referenced with air pollution statistics from 194 other countries to identify if the prevalence of type 2 diabetes increased in high-pollution areas.

The results of the analysis showed that 3.2 million cases of type 2 diabetes across the world were down to air pollution in 2016. This represents a total of 14% of new cases of the condition.

Approximately 21% of people living in environments where there were 5-10 micrograms per cubic meter of air pollution developed type 2 diabetes. This rose to 24% when the pollution was at 11.9-13.6 micrograms per cubic meter.

In London and other UK cities, the level can rise to up to 60 micrograms per cubic meter, while the average level of air pollution in Britain is 12.

The study was published in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health.

Editor's note: It is clear that steps need be to taken to improve air quality standards, and these findings suggest even small improvements could help reduce type 2 diabetes rates. However, people can further reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes by eating a healthy, real-food diet. For more information visit our award-winning Low Carb Program.
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