Type 2 Cause in the Air?

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New research has established an association between traffic-related air pollution and the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in women. Air pollution is already known to increase a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

To determine whether exposure to air pollution and the development of Type 2 are linked, researchers in Germany looked at 1,775 women ages 54–55 who had not been diagnosed with diabetes at the beginning of the study in 1985. Data on air pollution from monitoring stations and emission inventories run by environmental agencies were used to determine the women’s average levels of air pollution exposure.

Between 1990 and 2006, 187 participants were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Exposure to elements of traffic pollution such as nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter was found to have a significant association with a higher risk of developing Type 2. Living within 100 meters of a busy roadway more than doubled the risk.


The researchers were able to predict the women’s increased risk of diabetes by measuring their levels of a blood protein known as C3c, which is an indicator of inflammation. Although the relationship of C3c to diabetes is not clear, it is suggested that air pollutants might react with immune cells in the airways, leading to widespread inflammation that makes a person more susceptible to diabetes.

The study focused on women only; lead study author Wolfgang Rathmann, MD, MSPH, notes, “We have no reason to assume sex differences in the association between air pollution and diabetes risk, but we do not have data on this issue.”

For more information, read the article “Inhaling Diabetes? Study Suggests Link Between Air Pollution And Type 2 Diabetes in Women” or see the study’s abstract in Environmental Health Perspectives.

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