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Smog may add to diabetes risk

By Mary Brophy Marcus, USA TODAY
How smoggy your city is might affect your chances of developing diabetes, research published today shows.

Researchers from Children's Hospital Boston found a strong correlation between adult diabetes and particulate air pollution, a correlation that persists even after adjustment for other risk factors, including obesity and ethnicity, says study author John Brownstein, assistant professor at Children's Hospital Boston. The research is published in the journal Diabetes Care.

The investigators obtained county-by-county data on pollution levels from the Environmental Protection Agency during 2004 and 2005, as well as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Census information on the prevalence of adult diabetes, Brownstein says.

"We saw this really robust relationship looking at both EPA data and prevalence data, adjusting for pretty much any other confounding variables we could think of — obesity, exercise, ethnicity, distance to fast-food restaurants — but this one factor, pollution, remained significant," Brownstein says.

Especially striking, he says, was the finding that counties that were within EPA limits still showed significant prevalence of diabetes.

"They found there was a linear relationship — the higher the exposure, the bigger the relationship," says endocrinologist Joel Zonszein of Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y. Ideally, however, researchers would need to do a study that shows cause and effect. Zonszein says other research suggests pollution is linked to more inflammation and possibly an increase in insulin resistance.

"Here in the Bronx, we have areas that are highly polluted by the Cross Bronx Expressway," he says. "We have clinical studies showing diabetes and asthma are very high in these communities." Mary Brophy Marcus

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