Diabetes from car exhaust

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Air pollution increases the likelihood of insulin resistance

Car exhaust fumes increase the risk of insulin resistance in children, according to the latest study by the research team led by Elisabeth Thiering and Joachim Heinrich from the Helmholtz Center for Health and Environment in Munich. With the increased likelihood of insulin resistance, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases later in life, the scientists report in the journal "Diabetologia".

According to the scientists, the traffic-related air pollution with fine dust and nitrogen dioxide has already been associated with numerous health risks, such as the increased likelihood of respiratory diseases, arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) or acute cardiovascular diseases. There were also some indications regarding a possibly increased risk of diabetes from the exhaust gases, but the results of the previous scientific studies were partly contradictory and mainly related to adults, Heinrich and colleagues explained the reasons for their current investigation. The results are worrying: children who were exposed to increased air pollution showed an increased resistance to insulin, even if they had not previously suffered from diabetes.

Almost 400 children tested for insulin resistance Together with scientists from the universities of Augsburg, Leipzig and Düsseldorf, the Technical University of Munich, the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and the Marien Hospital in Wesel, Joachim Heinrich has the data from 397 ten-year-old children from the regions around Munich and Wesel evaluated. The researchers use the available data from the cohort studies "LISAplus" and "GINIplus". They formed a randomized test group and invited the almost 400 participants to a blood test. Air pollution at the place of residence of the children was calculated on the basis of the distance to the main traffic routes and the traffic volume there. The researchers then determined the so-called HOMA index, which reflects insulin resistance. To avoid bias, the data were adjusted for socio-economic factors and other factors such as passive smoking.

Car exhaust fumes significantly increase the risk of insulin resistance During the evaluation, the researchers found that the cells of the children who were exposed to high levels of air pollution showed increased insulin resistance. The likelihood of insulin resistance among children increased by around 19 percent if the fine dust pollution increased by ten micrograms per cubic meter of air. The result was similarly dramatic in terms of nitrogen dioxide concentration. An increase in the concentration of more than ten micrograms per cubic meter of air meant that the risk of insulin resistance increased by 17 percent. In general, the proximity to the busy main roads has shown a crucial role in terms of insulin resistance, the scientists report. For children living near a busy street, the risk of insulin resistance for every 500 meters they lived closer to the street increased by around seven percent.

Relationship between the rise in diabetes and car emissions? The researchers emphasized that their results do not provide any information about the actual risk of developing diabetes in children later in life. However, Joachim Heinrich likewise stated that the results would support the thesis "that the development of diabetes in adulthood is linked to environmental factors of earlier stages of life." Air pollution may actually play a far more decisive role in the observed increase in diabetes diseases than previously assumed . Because over the years the increasing volume of traffic has increased the particulate matter levels and nitrogen dioxide concentrations in the air, especially in cities. Only in the recent past have some cities taken countermeasures, such as the establishment of an environmental zone, to significantly reduce particulate matter pollution. Also with regard to the cardiovascular diseases and respiratory diseases, which are associated with the high exhaust gas pollution, certainly a good decision, although this was initially heavily criticized by many drivers. (fp)

Image: Gabi Eder / pixelio.de

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