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Recent research has suggested a direct link between air pollution and diabetes. This could potentially mean that if countries can limit air pollution levels, they might see a significant drop in the number of persons suffering from diabetes. With nearly 450 million diabetics globally and 3.2 million developing this disease every year, diabetes has become one of the most pervasive ailments in the entire world. This could be a gamechanger for countries like the USA, China and India.

The Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Emory University in America have collected data from more than 88,000 Chinese adults exposed directly to particulate matter (PM2.5), indicating an increased risk of diabetes among other diseases. Usually, PM 2.5 contains toxic elements but it’s the size of this compound that makes it dangerous. It can easily enter into the bloodstream and stimulate an inflammatory response in the body. This inflammation eventually leads to insulin resistance. In some severe cases, it can cause complete shutting down of pancreas, the gland responsible for insulin secretion.

It has further been suggested that long-term exposure to even 10 microgram per cubic meter pollutants increases the risk of diabetes to around 15.7%. Estimates from the last decade indicate that PM2.5 has heavily affected medium aged adults, women, active smokers and people with low body mass index (BMI). One of the researchers, Lu Xianfeng said that this study would benefit the government in creating a better environmental policy for preventing diabetes. Interestingly, other developed countries have also taken the hint and started independent investigations regarding the link between air pollution and diabetes. 

According to the reports published by Xinhua, China’s biggest media organization, a high amount of PM2.5 present in the air is a major health risk factor responsible for diabetes. Diabetes does not only increase the burden on health but also burdens people financially. The number of diabetic patients in China is more than any other country in the world and even though it is not contagious, the number of diabetics in China is increasing every day. Hence, it seems pertinent to focus more on improving air quality, which further helps in reducing the risks of diabetes.

As a result of constant efforts, the air quality of cities like Beijing has greatly improved over the years. United Nations reports have also applauded Beijing efforts in improving air quality and curbing pollution. However, the level of PM2.5 still remains above acceptable levels.

These findings should set the alarm bells ringing for a developing country like India where air quality is statistically the worst in the world. The estimated vulnerability to the disease is also higher in lower-income countries akin to India. This is due to the paucity of mitigation resources for environmental conservation and clean air mechanisms and policies.

(Read more: Top 5 myths related to diabetes and food)

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