Dec 07, 2019

Most of the countries across the world are dealing with this public health issue - air pollution. Environmental air pollution has been associated with severe health diseases like cancer, respiratory and cardiovascular disorders. Another major detrimental outcome of air pollution is its connection with the increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Pollutants caused due to traffic, tobacco smoke, nitrogen dioxide, gases and particulate matter. As per WHO, around 422 million people in the world suffer from diabetes.

WHO also stated that mortality rate due to air pollution is around 7 million every year worldwide.  Most common effects are heart stroke, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), lung cancer and respiratory infections. Government authorities are taking relevant measures to improve Air Quality Index (AQI) and laws are being enforced to tackle this major health concern.

Meo SA et al studied the effects of environmental air pollution on type 2 diabetes mellitus in 2015. It was found that exposure to air pollutants results in increased insulin resistance with an increased incidence of diabetes.

Another study was conducted by Sung Kyun Park in 2017 to examine the same effects. It was found that higher exposure to both nitric oxide and PM 2.5 was statistically significantly associated with decline in insulin sensitivity, decreased functioning of beta cells of pancreas which accounts for insulin secretion but increase in BMI and subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue. Therefore, long-term submission to air pollutants diminishes our body’s ability to uptake glucose, worsens oxidative stress and inflammation.

Similarly a study published in American Diabetes Association in 2012 referred air pollution as a major contributor in triggering insulin resistance. It also highlighted that people who are already suffering from diabetes, have high probability of developing heart diseases due to pollution. The pollutants increases the levels of certain inflammatory markers in the body, increasing the susceptibility of other disorders as well.

Recent cross-sectional evaluation in Japan also observed a positive association between diabetes prevalence and pollution.  There were 15,477 participants in this study between the age of 18-74 years. Several pathways were mentioned which can magnify the onset of diabetes like imbalance in our autonomic nervous system, oxidative stress, inflammation and altered glucose metabolism. Researchers also suspect that the likelihood of diabetes due to these pollutants is specifically more among people who are smokers, overweight or obese.

Therefore, looking at the conclusions and observations made under various studies, it is quite evident that inhalation of environmental toxins and chemicals augments the likelihood of developing diabetes. It is necessary to introduce and implement effective strategies to bring down the levels of AQI and improve the air quality. Not only it will affect current generation but it might prove hazardous for future generations as well.


SA. Meo, AN. Memon, SA. Sheikh, et. Al, (2015)Effect of environmental air pollution on type 2 diabetes mellitus, PubMed.gov, retrieved from:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25635985https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25635985

Kyun Park, Sung. (2017) Ambient Air Pollution and Type 2 Diabetes, American Diabetes Association. Retrieved from https://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/66/7/1755

Rajagoplan. Sanjay, D. Brook. Robert, (2012), Air Pollution and Type 2 Diabetes, American Diabetes Association. Retrieved from https://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/61/12/3037

Yang. Bo-Yi , Qian.Prof Zhengmin (Min),  Li.Shanshan, Chen. Gongbo, 

Bloom.Michael S, Elliott.Michael, et al. (2018) Ambient air pollution in relation to diabetes and glucose-homoeostasis markers in China, The Lancet. Retrieved from:https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(18)30001-9/fulltext

O’Neill. MS, Veves. A, (N.D), et. Al. Air pollution and inflammation in type 2 diabetes, Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Retrieved from https://oem.bmj.com/content/64/6/373

Air Pollution, (N.D), World Health Organisation. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/health-topics/air-pollution#tab=tab_1s