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For the longest time, we have known that the biggest contributors towards diabetes have been a bad diet, lack of physical activity, and genetics. But according to a new global study published in The Lancet Planetary Health, air pollution is one of the most unsuspicious factors contributing to the rising cases of type-2 diabetes in the world.
Air pollution has been one of this century’s biggest most menacing environmental hazards, and its impacts on health are also pretty concerning. From burning fossil fuels, to vehicular emissions and construction, there are hundreds of ways in which the air around us has been continuously contaminated. Inhaling this air, we are giving the harmful airborne particles a free passage into our lungs and the bloodstream, which in turn, often puts us at high risk of suffering from bronchitis, heart attacks, and other problems.
It is widely known that these harmful pollutants can act as a trigger for people with respiratory allergies. And apart from the fact that long-term exposure to particulate matter can even cause cardiovascular diseases, lung cancers, serious damage to the nerves, brain, kidneys, liver and other vital organs, the newest research claims that exposure to nanoparticles present in this can also be responsible for causing type 2 diabetes mellitus.
For those who do not know, particulate matter is a combination of dirt, dust, grit and smoke that together form the main components of air pollution. While there are some particulate matters that are visible to naked eyes, a major part of it is microscopic in size. PM10 and PM2.5, which means particles with a diameter of 10 micrometers or less and 2.5 micrometers or less, respectively, are two of the most commonly found particulate matter. It is often the smaller sizes of the pollutant particles that possess the higher risks to the human body.
A plethora of research in the past has linked air pollution to the increasing risk of developing diabetes. However, the recent study published in the Lancet Planetary Health presents a detailed evaluation of the relationship between levels of pollution and the risk of developing diabetes through a survey among 1.7 million US veterans.
None of these veterans had any history of diabetes. However, after observing them closely for 8.5 years, the results showed that upon breathing the air when the levels of particulate matter 2.5 were between 5 and 10 micrograms per cubic meter, about 21 percent of people ended up developing diabetes. This went up to 24 percent as the exposure to PM2.5 increased to 11.9-13.6 micrograms per cubic meter.
Over the years, similar research has also been conducted in Iran, Hong Kong and Germany. But despite all these studies, the reasons for poor air quality causing diabetes is still unclear and research is still being conducted to ascertain the correlation and understand the root cause.