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What causes diabetes? Not just diet or lifestyle, air pollution too triggers type 2 diabetes

Diabetes causes: It is not just an improper diet and a sedentary lifestyle that can cause diabetes. A new study shows a link between low levels of air pollution and an increased risk of diabetes.

fitness Updated: Jun 30, 2018 14:35 IST
Soma Das
Soma Das
Hindustan Times
Diabetes,Diabetes causes,Diabetes causes and symptoms
Diabetes causes and symptoms: According to statistics, air pollution caused one in seven new cases of diabetes in 2016 in the US.(Shutterstock)

Air pollution is becoming a regular feature across India’s metro cities, especially Delhi. And it doesn’t just irritate the lungs and lead to coughing bouts, it is also linked to health problems like heart disease, lung cancer and asthma. Now, a new study done by the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, suggests that air pollution caused one in seven new cases of Type 2 diabetes in 2016 in the US, and even low levels of it can raise chances of developing the chronic disease.

The Lancet Planetary Health report said the overall risk of pollution-related diabetes is actually tilted more toward lower-income countries, such as India, that lack the resources for environmental mitigation systems and clean-air policies.

In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that close to 90% of people globally were exposed to severely polluted air, and about seven million died around the world due to reasons attributed to air pollution. The State of Global Air Report published by Boston-based Health Effects Institute (HEI), points out that more than 95% of the world’s population is breathing unhealthy air, with India and China together contributing to over 50% of global deaths attributed to pollution. Ahead of alcohol abuse and blood pressure, air pollution was found to be the leading cause of death, according to the study.

Type 2 diabetes is one of the world’s fastest growing diseases. (Shutterstock)

What the study says

Diabetes affects more than 420 million people globally and is one of the world’s fastest growing diseases. It has primarily been associated with lifestyle factors like diet and a sedentary lifestyle, but new research suggests that pollution may also play a major role. The study estimated that pollution contributed to 3.2 million new diabetes cases globally in 2016 — or around 14% of all new diabetes cases globally that year.

“Our research shows a significant link between air pollution and diabetes globally,” said Ziyad Al-Aly, the study’s senior author. The study explains that pollution may reduce the body’s insulin production, preventing the body from converting blood glucose into energy that the body needs to maintain health.

Al-Aly said the research, published in the Lancet Planetary Health, found an increased risk even with levels of air pollution currently considered safe by the World Health Organization (WHO). “This is important because many industry lobbying groups argue that current levels are too stringent and should be relaxed. Evidence shows that current levels are still not sufficiently safe and need to be tightened,” he added.

A Mediterranean diet is low in meat and dairy but rich in fish, nuts and vegetables. (Shutterstock)

What you can do about it

Eat a Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet is low in meat and dairy but rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, beans, nuts and ‘healthy’ fats. A study by the New York University School of Medicine in the US shows that following a Mediterranean diet may protect people from some of the harms of air pollution, and reduce their risk of dying from heart attacks and stroke.

Take a daily dose of Vitamin B

Research done by the Hong Kong’s City University shows that vitamin B supplements could potentially reduce the impact of the tiny particles of air pollution on the human body, although they stressed that research was in its early stages and the sample size was small.

Wear a mask

One of the best ways to reduce the impact is to wear a N95 grade mask, which fits around the mouth and nose. A basic surgical mask won’t do as it offers no protection against air pollutants and microbes.

(With inputs from AFP)

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First Published: Jun 30, 2018 13:42 IST