Exposure to air pollution at the place of residence increases the risk of developing insulin resistance as a pre-diabetic state of type 2 diabetes.
Scientists of Helmholtz Zentrum München, in collaboration with colleagues of the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD), reported these results in the journal Diabetes.
“Whether the disease becomes manifest and when this occurs is not only due to lifestyle or genetic factors, but also due to traffic-related air pollution,” said Professor Annette Peters, head of the research area of epidemiology of the DZD.
For the current study, she and her colleagues analyzed the data of nearly 3,000 participants of the KORA study who live in the city of Augsburg and two adjacent rural counties.
All individuals were interviewed and physically examined. Furthermore, the researchers took fasting blood samples, in which they determined various markers for insulin resistance and inflammation.
In addition, leptin was examined as adipokine which has been suggested to be associated with insulin resistance.
Non-diabetic individuals underwent an oral glucose tolerance test to detect whether their glucose metabolism was impaired.
The researchers compared these data with the concentrations of air pollutants at the place of residence of the participants.
They estimated air pollution using predictive models based on repeated measurements at 20 sites (for particle measurements) and at 40 sites (for nitrogen dioxide measurements) in the city and in the rural counties.
“The results revealed that people who already have an impaired glucose metabolism, so-called pre-diabetic individuals, are particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution,” said Dr. Kathrin Wolf, lead author of the study.
“In these individuals, the association between increases in their blood marker levels and increases in air pollutant concentrations is particularly significant!”
“Thus, over the long term — especially for people with impaired glucose metabolism — air pollution is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.”
Next, the scientists want to investigate the influence of ultrafine particles.
“Diabetes will be a main focus of our research, also in this context. A precise knowledge of the risk factors is crucial for counteracting the increasing incidence of diabetes,” said Peters, looking to the future.