Could you be breathing in diabetes every time you inhale? As crazy as it sounds, scientists say it’s possible.
Because a new study has revealed an unexpected link between diabetes and air pollution.
We already knew that air pollution could have devastating effects on our health, of course. Experts tell us it can raise our risk for lung cancer, respiratory infections and heart disease. And a recent study even connected air pollution to about a third of strokes worldwide.
But now it looks like we need to add diabetes to the list.
Study links air pollution to diabetes risk
We know the percentage of adults who developed type 2 diabetes exploded to at least 8.5 percent by 2014. And at the same time, air pollution rates were rising.
In fact, more that 80 percent of folks living in urban areas are now breathing in dirty air. And air that doesn’t meet the minimum standards.
Now a new study published in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health has exposed a significant link between the two.
The research team followed a group of US Veterans for around 8.5 years. None of the participants had any history of diabetes. And eventually the researchers were able to show that air pollution contributed to an estimated 3.2 million cases of diabetes in 2016 alone.
According to a senior author on the study, Dr. Al-Aly, even low levels of air pollution significantly increased the risk. In fact, levels that both the EPA and the WHO say are safe could still send your risk soaring.
How air pollution could trigger blood sugar problems
So how does breathing in dirty air lead to diabetes?
Well scientists aren’t 100 percent sure. But they do have some ideas. We know that when we breathe in some pollutants they can enter our bloodstream. And once there they can interact with the tissues and organs in our body.
These interactions can disrupt functions in our body contributing to some of those health issues I mentioned earlier. And researchers believe they may also effect insulin production and sensitivity.
But the good news is there are a couple of things you can do to lower your air-pollution linked risk.
1. Tweak your diet:
I typically recommend a lower carb die. And focusing on whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, fish, poultry and a moderate amount of unprocessed red meats.
This antioxidant rich diet has a bunch of health benefits including a lower risk of breast cancer and improved heart and brain health. Plus it can help fight metabolic syndrome and reduce your risk for diabetes.
Now recent research has revealed that the Mediterranean diet could also help protect us against air pollution.
The huge study included more than half a million folks over 17 years. Researchers kept track of how closely folks followed the Mediterranean style diet. And they estimated the participant’s exposure to three types of air pollutants.
The group which didn’t follow the diet and experienced high levels of air pollution fared the worst. They had significantly more deaths from ALL causes, heart disease and heart attacks. While the folks who followed the Mediterranean diet were far healthier, despite the dirty air.
Which means tweaking your own diet could help protect you against the effects of air pollution too.
2. Seek out nature:
If you live in an urban area, exhaust fumes and other air pollutants assault you every time you step outside. And according to experts, even short-term exposure to those pollutants can take a serious toll.
In fact, researchers say it can even cancel out the benefits you’re getting from being active and exercising. And, of course, we now know it’s raising your risk for diabetes too.
But a new study has revealed a simple trick you can use to hold on to those benefits. And reduce your risk for air pollution related risks at the same time. Seek out nature.
Researchers had a group of folks with COPD or heart disease take a two hour walk. Half strolled through a tree-filled park. The other half ambled down a busy city street. . After their walk lung capacity, blood flow, blood pressure and arterial stiffness were all measured.
The park people had significant improvements in lung capacity and arterial stiffness. And those improvements lasted for over 24 hours. Meanwhile the city strollers saw just minor improvements. And they were lost within hours.
Fight off the damage caused by breathing in filthy air, and possibly reduce your diabetes risk at the same time. Schedule in some regular dates with nature.