Updated on 13 May 2013
Singapore: A research led by Dr Elisabeth Thiering and Dr Joachim Heinrich at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, Neuherberg in Germany, has revealed that air pollution increased the risk of insulin resistance in children. The research is published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD).
In the study, the researchers collected blood samples from 397, 10-year-old children, and estimated their exposures to air pollution by analyzing car emissions, population density, and land use in the areas where they lived. They found that the children with greater exposure to air pollution had statistically significantly higher insulin levels than the children living in lower-pollution areas.
Dr Heinrich said that, "There is some evidence that air pollution is associated with lower birthweight and growth restrictions, which are known risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Thus, one may speculate that lower birthweight is an intermediate step or 'phenotype' between air pollution and insulin resistance. However, we found no evidence to suggest that this may be true in our cohort of children, all of whom had birthweights above 2.5kg."
The team revealed that while previous studies have found links between air pollution exposure and conditions like heart disease and atherosclerosis, the studies of links between air pollution and diabetes have been less consistent.
The researchers plan to continue following up with the children in the study, and are looking for ways to study how their findings might translate to adults. The results of this study support the notion that the development of diabetes in adults might have its origin in early life including environmental exposures.