Type 2 diabetes has always been associated with genetic and lifestyle factors such as obesity and lack of exercise. Now, a new study has shown that air pollution, even at levels considered safe, caused one in seven new cases of diabetes in 2016.
While earlier studies have suggested a link between diabetes and pollution, this study published in The Lancet Planetary Health is significant as it quantifies the burden. It estimates that pollution contributed to 3.2 million new diabetes cases (14% of the total) globally in 2016.
‘Indians more prone to inflammation’
What’s worrying is that 14 of the world’s 20 most-polluted cities are in India, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Air pollution could explain diabetes in patients who otherwise follow a healthy lifestyle,” said diabetes expert Dr Anoop Misra of Fortis. US researchers found that pollution triggers inflammation, which reduces the body’s insulin production. Dr Misra says that Indians are more prone to inflammation than people in the West. “Combine this with air pollutants, and the risk becomes much higher,” he adds.
The country is already dealing with a fast-rising incidence of diabetes. The Indian Council
of Medical Research found that prevalence had increased by 64% in the past 25 years.
Diabetologist Dr Ambrish Mithal agrees that inflammation is one of the factors in developing diabetes, in addition to other risk factors like poor diet, obesity and sedentary lifestyle. However, he says more studies are needed to establish the link between pollution and diabetes.
The Lancet study examined data from 1.7 million US veterans who did not have a history of diabetes and were followed for 8.5 years.
(With inputs from Mumbai) Full report on www.toi.in