Exposure to air pollution may increase the risk of developing diabetes, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
To test the impact that air pollution has on health, researchers from the University of Cardiovascular Research Institute created an environment that mimicked a polluted day in New Delhi or Beijing, by concentrating fine particulate matter pollution (PM2.5).
Using a mouse model study, the researchers observed the health impacts of three groups, a control group receiving clean filtered air, a group exposed to polluted air for 24 weeks and a group fed a high-fat diet.
The researchers found that being exposed to air pollution was comparable to eating a high-fat diet. Both air pollution and the high-fat diet group showed insulin resistance and abnormal metabolism – just like you would see in a pre-diabetic state.
These changes were associated with changes in the epigenome, a layer of control that can turn on and off thousands of genes, representing a critical buffer in response to environmental factors.
The researchers highlighted that if you live in a densely polluted environment, then taking actions such as wearing a mask, using a portable indoor air cleaner, using air conditioning or closing the car windows while commuting can all help to mitigate the impacts.
For the next step of the research, the researchers will meet with a panel of experts, as well as the National Institutes of Health, to discuss conducting clinical trials that compare heart health and the level of air pollution in the environment.
Sanjay Rajagopalan, first author of the study added: ‘The good news is that these effects were reversible, at least in our experiments.
‘Once the air pollution was removed from the environment, the mice appeared healthier and the pre-diabetic state seemed to reverse.’
In related news, last month (July 7), researchers from the University of Lancaster found that toxic metallic air pollutants from industry and vehicle emissions are causing a ‘silent heart disease epidemic.’
In the report, the researchers have said that repeated inhalation of these metallic nanoparticles may account for the well-established association between exposure to particulate matter (PM2.5) and increased cardiovascular disease.