Increased exposure to air pollution caused by automobile traffic appears to be associated with an increased risk of insulin resistance in children, according to the results of a study published online on May 11, 2013, in Diabetologia
The researchers collected fasting blood samples from 397 10-year-olds without type 1 or 2 diabetes from 2 German birth cohort studies and estimated each participant’s level of exposure to air pollution due to traffic based on their home address at birth. They then analyzed the association between exposure to air pollution and insulin resistance, taking into account covariates including birth weight, pubertal status, body mass index, and exposure to secondhand smoke.
The results indicated that levels of insulin resistance were significantly higher in children with greater exposure to air pollution. Insulin resistance increased by 17.0% for every increase of 2 standard deviations in concentration of ambient NO2
(increase of 10.6 μg/m3) and 18.7% for every increase of 2 standard deviations in concentration of particulate matter under 10 μm in diameter (increase of 6 μg/m3). In addition, insulin resistance increased by 7.2% for every 500 meters closer a participant lived to the nearest major road.
The researchers concluded that, given how common traffic pollution is, the associations found in their study may have potentially important public health effects.