As if we didn’t have enough factors contributing to the diabetes crisis in this country — Big Agribusiness, Big Pharma, plentiful and cheap junk food, poor education, lack of will power, or plain old unfortunate genetics, just to name a few — along comes a study proposing one cause I had never even considered: air pollution.
That’s right. Apparently, estimates suggest that pollution could be behind more than 3 million new cases of diabetes worldwide every year — accounting for a whopping one in seven diagnoses.
And if that wasn’t scary enough, consider the fact that these risks are appearing at levels well below what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) currently consider “safe.” Not that this should come as a surprise to anyone.
A higher risk of diabetes and death
The tiniest form of particulate matter pollution is called PM 2.5. You might know it as haze. And it’s already linked with a higher risk of heart, lung, and kidney diseases, among others — having contributed to more than four million deaths in 2015, according to experts.
Because these particles are so small, they’re able to penetrate just about every major system — moving from your lungs to your blood vessels, to major organs like the liver, pancreas, and kidneys.
And because these particles are so toxic, they damage tissue and trigger oxidative stress. Which is a foolproof recipe for chronic inflammation.
So I can’t say these findings are really that surprising.
Researchers looked at data from upwards of two million U.S. veterans without diabetes. They compared the PM 2.5 levels where each subject lived with their risk of developing diabetes over the next eight years.
Average daily PM 2.5 exposure over the course of each year ranged between 5 and 22.1 mcg/m3 of air. But for every 10-point increase in this concentration, there was a 15 percent higher risk of diabetes. And an 8 percent higher risk of death.
There’s no “safe” level of air pollution
Clearly, these are not small numbers. But the pollution levels themselves were, at least relatively speaking. Diabetes risk began to rise at levels anywhere past 2.4. But do you know what levels current standards dictate as the threshold of safety?
That would be 12 and 10, according to the EPA and the WHO, respectively.
If you do the math, we’re looking at more than three million new cases of diabetes. And at more than eight million total years of life lost to disability — not to mention more than 200,000 deaths every year. All attributable to breathing dirty air.
That, to me, is inexcusable. And it should be to you, and everyone else in this country, too.
Because here we have yet another crisis that we can prevent, and another strategy we can use to help win the war against diabesity. Yet, big corporations — with the help of our very own government — are refusing to take it seriously.
No matter your opinion on global warming — and I won’t delve into that topic today — there is no question that air pollution kills. Or any doubt that we need to do whatever we can to reduce it.
So here’s what I’m asking you: See if you can get by without using your car today.
Not only will active commuting lower your personal carbon footprint. But as I’ve explained here before, it also builds a simple yet effective buffer against diabetes.
As a native New Yorker, it’s been my way of life for years. But I know it’s not always so easy for everyone. So send me an email and let me know how you did. Because believe me — this is one case where even the smallest victory is worth celebrating.
As I discuss in my Metabolic Repair Protocol, physical activity is just one of the ways you can prevent or reverse type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, and metabolic syndrome. To learn more, or enroll today, click here.