Air Pollution and Weight Gain, Insulin Resistance and Metabolic Syndrome: Recent Findings

written by Sarah Howard
Coordinator of the Diabetes-Obesity Spectrum Working Group

Sarah HowardTwo studies published this month provided strong support for the idea that air pollution may cause weight gain, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome.

In the first study, pregnant rats exposed to Beijing’s air gained significantly more weight during pregnancy than those breathing filtered air. Their offspring (exposed pre- and postnatally) were also significantly heavier at 8 weeks of age.

In the second study, Mexican Americans living in Southern California exposed to ambient air pollutants had lower glucose tolerance, higher insulin resistance, and adverse blood lipid concentrations.  According to the authors, “the magnitudes of effect from a 1-[standard deviation] difference of [fine particulate matter] on metabolic outcomes were similar compared with the impact of a 1-unit change in percent body fat or [body mass index] BMI on the same metabolic outcomes.”

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Top 10: 4th Quarter 2015

This is the last of CHE’s public quarterly Top 10 lists. We have selected studies and issues that we feel are significant in the field of environmental health, either because of their impact, their implications or their insight. Topics are listed in no particular order. Comments are welcome, as is always true with our blog posts. Corrected in an update 1/6/2016.

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Shangri-la Goes Up in Smoke (mostly PM2.5s)

written by Elise Miller, EdM
Director

According to the Yale Environmental Performance Score in 2014, Nepal ranked 177 out of 178 countries in terms of poor air quality—stunningly, worse than China (ranked 176th). This would seem an abstract observation if it weren’t for the fact that my family and I will be in Kathmandu in about 10 days. My husband and I adopted our son (now 10 years old) from Nepal, and we are returning to his birth country for the first time since he was a baby. We’ll see his early caretakers and help with rebuilding a school and a milk shed in a village devastated by last spring’s earthquakes.

Not that long ago Nepal was seen to Westerners as a kind of Shangri-la, an earthly paradise. The term “Shangri-la” was coined in James Hilton’s 1933 novel Lost Horizon as a place where people were almost immortal, aging slowly and living years beyond the normal lifespan. Currently, almost the opposite seems true. Many look far older than their years given the pollution and poverty that permeate their lives. As we’ve been preparing to go, we have been repeatedly told to bring filter masks and spend as little time in Kathmandu as possible because of the terrible air quality. If it gets really bad, we’re of course the fortunate ones: Unlike the vast majority of residents, we can also simply leave.

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On World Environmental Health Day: The Call to Protect Children’s Environment and Health

On World Environmental Health Day: The Call to Protect Children’s Environment and Health

To commemorate World Environmental Health Day this year and its focus on children’s environment and health, CHE is publishing a series of short essays from partners who are leaders in children’s environmental health.

A very young Frederica Perera

Dr. Perera’s son

written by Frederica Perera, DrPH
CHE Partner

The protection of children, and especially poor children, from air pollution and climate change resulting from the massive burning of fossil fuel is an urgent moral imperative. The large and mounting health and economic costs of pollution and climate change necessitate bold policy change.

The entire global population is affected; however, the first thousand days of life represent the greatest window of susceptibility both to toxic exposures and stressors from climate change. The developing fetus and young child undergo very rapid development during which time they lack the innate defense mechanisms operating in older children and adults. Thus, they tend to be the most affected both by toxic air pollutants and climate change. The impacts of exposure to air pollution include adverse birth outcomes, cognitive and behavioral disorders, asthma and other respiratory problems in children, while climate change increases the likelihood of heat waves, floods, drought, malnutrition, infectious disease, and social and political instability. These early impacts can translate to lifelong consequences for the young.

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Diseases, Vectors, Specific Chemicals or Life Phases: What’s Your Pleasure?

written by Elise Miller, EdM
Director

When many of us think of air pollution, images often come to mind of smoke stacks and diesel trucks spewing dirty fumes or thick brown smog enveloping cities. We think of people coughing or wearing masks on their faces to breathe, kids being rushed to emergency rooms for asthma attacks. These respiratory and lung conditions are of course part of our global reality today—and sadly so.

But I was truly struck by the plethora of new studies published during the last quarter implicating air pollution in a litany of other health outcomes. These conditions, not often associated with exposures to air particulates and other toxic airborne matter, include diabetes, autoimmune diseases, various forms of cancer, mental health, brain function, and birth defects. Nancy Hepp, CHE’s Research and Communications Specialist, compiled a long list of relevant studies (below) that appeared in journals and other media outlets from April through June 2015 highlighting these concerns.

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Your Health the Week of June 29th

Nancy Heppwritten by Nancy Hepp, MS
Research and Communications Specialist

Those of us in the northern hemisphere are at the height of summer, at the biggest summer holiday weekend in the US. Several news articles and studies published this week looked at summertime concerns: heat, skin cancer, outdoor recreation, and air quality. Summertime is a great season for recreation and outdoor play, and a few precautions will help preserve the fun.

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Your Health the Week of June 22nd

Nancy Heppwritten by Nancy Hepp, MS
Research and Communications Specialist

Artificial Light and Sleep

Two articles this week address one of the most pervasive public health issues in developed countries: sleep deprivation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2014 labeled insufficient sleep a public health epidemic, citing its connection to motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters, and medical and other occupational errors. Insufficient sleep is also linked to increased risk of chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, obesity and cancer as well as increased mortality.

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