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How Air Pollution Causes Diabetes – Study

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A report has warned that exposure to airborne particles such as dust, dirt, smoke and other air pollutants can lead to diabetes. TUNDE OGUNTOLA writes.

Air pollution caused 3.2 million new cases of diabetes worldwide in 2016, according to a new estimate.

Fine particulate matter, belched out by cars and factories and generated through chemical reactions in the atmosphere, hang around as haze and make air hard to breathe. Air pollution has been linked to chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes  but this study is one of the first attempts to quantify the connection for diabetes.

The findings published in the ‘Lancet Planetary Health,’ said that air pollution caused one in seven new cases of diabetes in 2016. This is even as low levels of pollution raised the chances of developing diabetes. The link between diabetes and air pollution grows stronger. Air pollution and diabetes are responsible for millions of death globally.

According to the research, “Pollution is thought to 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 found an increased risk even with levels of air pollution currently considered safe by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The risk does not dissipate, researchers warned, even if the pollution is at levels deemed “safe” by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The study titled “The 2016 global and national burden of diabetes mellitus attributable to PM2•5 air pollution” was published in the journal Lancet Planetary Health on June 29.

Diabetes, often referred to by doctors as diabetes mellitus, is described as a group of metabolic diseases in which the person has high blood glucose (blood sugar), either because insulin production is inadequate, or because the body’s cells do not respond properly to insulin, or both. Normally, the pancreas (an organ behind the stomach) releases insulin to help your body store and use the sugar and fat from the food you eat.

To understand why insulin is important, it helps to know more about how the body uses food for energy. Your body is made up of millions of cells. To make energy, these cells need food in a very simple form. When you eat or drink, much of your food is broken down into a simple sugar called “glucose.” Then, glucose is transported through the bloodstream to the cells of your body where it can be used to provide some of the energy your body needs for daily activities.

The amount of glucose in your bloodstream is tightly regulated by the hormone insulin. Insulin is always being released in small amounts by the pancreas. When the amount of glucose in your blood rises to a certain level, the pancreas will release more insulin to push more glucose into the cells. This causes the glucose levels in your blood (blood glucose levels) to drop.

To keep your blood glucose levels from getting too low (hypoglycemia or low blood sugar), your body signals you to eat and releases some glucose from the stores kept in the liver.

The findings suggested that reducing pollution might lead to a drop in diabetes cases in heavily polluted countries.

They also estimated that 8.2 million years of healthy life were lost in 2016 due to pollution linked diabetes, representing about 14 per cent of all years of healthy life lost due to diabetes from any cause. The study’s senior author, Ziyad Al-Aly said: “Our research shows a significant link between air pollution and diabetes globally.”



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