A recent study at the University of South California has discovered a correlation between air pollution and measures of high insulin in Latino children. The study, based in Los Angeles, measured insulin sensitivity in parallel with exposure to particulate matter for 314 Latino or Hispanic children ages 8-15 who had been classified as obese or overweight. The study was initiated in USC’s Department of Preventative Medicine under the Division of Environmental Health and published in Diabetes journal. Participants were followed over an average of 3.4 years, and it was revealed that when the children turned 18 years old, they had about 36 percent more insulin than normal levels, signifying that their bodies had become less responsive to insulin. Increasing rates of pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes among obese youth has become a major public health problem in the United States in recent decades.
According to the study, “exposure to tobacco smoke and near-roadway air pollution have synergistic effects on the development of childhood obesity”. Exposure to elevated concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) primarily contributed to the rise in insulin levels. This is especially prevalent among minority populations: “minority communities may have some of the largest environmental toxin burden and suffer from the greatest health disparities in obesity and type 2 diabetes”. Many environmental factors contribute to the development of chronic illnesses; however, air pollutants are particularly insidious as they are harder to avoid or control.
“Air pollution is ubiquitous, especially in Los Angeles,” said USC researcher Tanya Alderete, “It’s important to consider the factors that you can control — for example, being aware that morning and evening commute times might not be the best time to go for a run. Change up your schedule so that you’re not engaging in strenuous activity near sources of pollutants or during peak hours.”
Type 2 diabetes has traditionally been diagnosed among overweight adults over the age of 40. However, in recent decades, doctors have seen type 2 diabetes appear across all age ranges. This has incited many studies reassessing predictive factors for the development of diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes rates have quadrupled in just the past four years. If this trend continues, it’s possible that one in three Americans will be affected by diabetes in 2050. Alarmingly, it is estimated that currently, one in four people with diabetes are unaware they have it.
Diabetes is technically classified as chronic hyperglycemia but causes a multitude of symptoms including pancreatic malfunction, ketoacidosis, excessive urination, stomach problems, lack of concentration, high blood pressure, bacterial, fungal and yeast infections, cataracts, glaucoma and heart disease. Many cases have even led to blindness and amputations. The most important lifestyle changes to prevent diabetes are maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding sugar intake, eating good fats (i.e. avocado, nuts, coconut oil), regular exercise and cooking with healthy spices such as turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper and thyme.
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