Air pollution linked to insulin resistance in children

Growing up in areas where air quality is poor might set children up for insulin resistance, according to a new study published in Diabetologia.

While previous research has linked air pollution to other chronic conditions, like heart disease and atherosclerosis, studies about its link to diabetes have been inconclusive so far.

Pollutants act directly and indirectly on the body

Study author Joachim Heinrich of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes says that while toxicity differs between air pollutants, they all act directly on fats and proteins in the body or indirectly through intracellular pathways.

"Oxidative stress caused by exposure to air pollutants may therefore play a role in the development of insulin resistance," Heinrich said in a press release. "In addition, some studies have reported that short-term and long-term increases in particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) exposure lead to elevated inflammatory biomarkers, another potential mechanism for insulin resistance."

Insulin resistance levels increase with air pollution

The research team collected blood samples from 397 10-year-old children. Using data about road traffic emission, land use and population density, they estimated the levels of air pollutants in the subjects' bodies based on where they were born. They calculated the association between air pollution and insulin resistance after accounting for things like family history, BMI, birthweight or living in a home where second-hand smoke was present.

In children who were exposed to more air pollution, levels of insulin resistance were much higher - increasing 17 percent for every 10.6 µg/m3 increase in ambient nitrogen dioxide (NO2). If children lived near a major road, insulin resistance increased 7 percent for every 500 meters closer they lived to the road.

"Insulin resistance levels tended to increase with increasing air pollution exposure, and this observation remained robust after adjustment for several confounding factors, including socioeconomic status, BMI and passive smoking," the authors wrote.

The research team is conducting a 15-year follow-up study on the participants to determine how these results might alter health outcomes later in life.

Source: Science Daily

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