Can air pollution really cause diabetes?


Anggid Primastiti





English / Indonesia

Air pollution has an impact on more than just respiratory health. There is mounting evidence showing that exposure to air pollution can raise one's risk of developing diabetes.

🧐 In this article, you’ll learn:

  • One out of every ten people worldwide will have diabetes. Indonesia ranks fifth in terms of the number of diabetics.
  • The presence of PM2.5 in the body can cause a high level of insulin resistance, causing the pancreas to continue producing insulin in the absence of glucose absorption.
  • One study found that for every 10 µg/m3 increase in PM2.5 during prolonged exposure, the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus would rise by 25%.

As human beings, we need clean air to breathe and to survive. However, air pollution remains a major global health concern. PM2.5, the most extensively studied air pollutant, has been linked to an increased risk of a variety of dangerous diseases, including diabetes.

What you need to know about diabetes

Diabetes mellitus, also known as diabetes, is a chronic condition marked by elevated blood sugar levels. Diabetes is characterized by three classic symptoms: excessive urination (usually at night), excessive thirst, and excessive hunger. Other symptoms that are not specific include rapid weight loss, fatigue, tingling in the feet and hands, blurred vision, difficulty healing wounds, and fungal skin diseases.

Diabetes patients are typically divided into two groups: type 1 diabetes, which typically occurs in children or young adults, and type 2 diabetes, which occurs in adults.

📊 According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), 1 in 10 people will be living with diabetes worldwide. Our country, Indonesia, is in the fifth position with the highest number of people with diabetes, totaling 19.47 million with a prevalence of 10.6%.

Enhanced risk mechanism for PM2.5 and diabetes mellitus

The toxicology mechanisms invoked by PM2.5 invasion into the bloodstream link polluted air to inflammation, vascular dysfunction, and narrowing and hardening of arterial blood vessels. Chronic PM2.5 exposure can also prompt glucose intolerance, oxidative stress, and mitochondrial dysfunction in the pancreas, which may lead to abnormal glucose and fat metabolism in multiple organs, and finally leads to diabetes.

Beyond that, exposure to PM2.5 can promote redox unbalance, which can in turn trigger inflammatory processes and lead to the development of a metabolic disorder. The role of inflammation mediated by PM2.5 is linked to an increase in alveolar immunological response and the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines on the alveolar surface, which eventually leads to diabetes complications.

Increased PM2.5 concentration = increased risk of diabetes mellitus

Many studies have found that PM2.5 pollution can pose type 2 diabetes or make diabetics more susceptible to other health complications. The meta-analysis, published in the Journal of Diabetes Investigation, sought to determine the relationship between PM2.5 exposure and type 2 diabetes mellitus.

💡 This study found a correlation between PM2.5 and the prevalence of type 2 diabetes mellitus during the long-term exposure period. They revealed that the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus increased by 25% with every 10 μg/m3 increase in PM2.5 over the long term.

Another study conducted by the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Investigator Group in Germany also found a link between PM2.5 and diabetes risk. They followed 3607 people without diabetes at the start of their study, and the findings showed that long-term exposure to PM2.5 can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus.

The risk and burden of long- and short-term illnesses may be reduced by lowering air pollution levels. As a result, the WHO Global guideline limits seek to achieve the lowest possible PM concentrations by limiting annual average PM2.5 exposure to no more than 5 µg/m3 and 24-hour average exposure to no more than 15 µg/m3 over 3 - 4 days per year.

Unfortunately, Indonesia's air quality remains above the World Health Organization's threshold. In this article, we want to show you the air quality in several cities. Nafas follows the US Environmental Protection Agency’s standard air quality, which is highlighted in the scale below. It’s simple: just remember the colors.

💨 Now, let’s check out the air quality in the cities listed below!

This is a calendar of air quality in DKI Jakarta in August 2022. There are no days with the green color or good air quality in the whole month.

The same thing happened in Semarang. Not a single good-air-quality day!

Furthermore, Bandung is still the same, showing no days with healthy air quality.

Last but not least, Denpasar! On some days, there are still days with PM2.5 concentrations above 10 µg/m3.

👀 Let's take a look at the big picture!

Finally, we can see that some of these cities have air quality that is up to 9.6x higher than the WHO recommended limit.

The significance of maintaining fitness and health

Reducing our intake of sugary foods and avoiding sedentary lifestyles does not eliminate our risk of diabetes immediately. Since PM2.5 exposure appears to be fatal for our health at all times, steps must be taken to try to minimize its exposure to our bodies. Here are some tips you can do to protect your health from air pollution and diabetes:

  • Only exercise in low-pollution areas, away from roads. During periods of high air pollution, you should consider exercising at home or in a fitness studio instead of outside.
  • Wear a mask every time you are required to do outdoor activities. N95 masks are highly recommended for protection against PM2.5.
  • Maintain a regular diet plan. Eat three balanced, healthy meals each day, and limit your intake of high-sugar foods and beverages.

Well, the most important thing is always to check the air quality before going outside. Using an air quality monitor, such as the Nafas app, gives you a good gauge of the pollution level. It can help you pinpoint the level of air pollution that is causing your health problems and take preventive measures.

Want to live a healthy life from now on? Click here and start your journey with Nafas.