A new study found that exposure to long-term air pollution can lead to an increase in the risk of obesity.
A study published in February in Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) revealed that exposure to heavy air pollution led to an increase in the risk of obesity and that test subjects experienced cardio-respiratory and metabolic dysfunctions.
The results were noted after the rats in the experiment were exposed to outdoor Beijing air for three to eight weeks. After a little less than three weeks, the exposed rats had gained more weight and showed increased tissue inflammation in comparison to those not exposed.
Researchers were able to conclude the following:
“These rats had 50 percent higher LDL cholesterol; 46 percent higher triglycerides; and 97 percent higher total cholesterol. Their insulin resistance level, a precursor of Type 2 diabetes, was higher than their clean air-breathing counterparts.”
So what does this mean in terms of the risk of obesity? These factors mean that metabolic dysfunction is a result of exposure to air pollution and this dysfunction is a precursor to obesity.
“Since chronic inflammation is recognized as a factor contributing to obesity and since metabolic diseases such as diabetes and obesity are closely related, our findings provide clear evidence that chronic exposure to air pollution increases the risk for developing obesity,” said the senior author of the paper, Junfeng “Jim” Zhang.
The rats exposed to air pollution were significantly heavier by the end of the experiment than those that only breathed in clean air for the same duration of time, as much as an average of 18% heavier for females.
Somewhat fortunately, travelers need not be worried about visiting a spot with increased air pollution, as the study showed that the effects were much more significant at eight weeks than at three. This means that prolonged exposure would likely be necessary to be affected negatively from the polluted air.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t offer much relief for residents of smoggy cities such as those in India, China, and even the U.S.
The study isn’t the first one conducted to find that air pollution affects the body negatively. Others have found that the pollution induces oxidative stress and inflammation in the organs and circulatory system; and increases insulin resistance and altered fat tissue.
Researchers hope that this study can add to others before it and urge lawmakers and citizens to effect change when it comes to air pollution.
“If translated and verified in humans, these findings will support the urgent need to reduce air pollution, given the growing burden of obesity in today’s highly polluted world.”
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