A Link Between Air Pollution and Type 2 Diabetes

The prevalence of diabetes has risen substantially in the past decade all over world, which has been linked to an “epidemic” of obesity. Besides obesity, it appears that there is a direct cause and effect link shown by correlation studies that air pollution exposure is linked to increase risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

These studies confirm a correlation between the level of air contaminants and the severity of insulin sensitivity in human subjects. What is even more alarming is that the levels of harmful particulate matter in the environment are positively correlated with the levels of blood glucose level of people, who live in these areas.

Scientists of Helmholtz Zentrum München, in collaboration with colleagues of the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD), reported in the journal Diabetes that exposure to air pollution at the place of residence increases the risk of developing insulin resistance as a pre-diabetic state of type 2 diabetes.

Furthermore, it acts as a catalyst for obesity and diabetes in children. In a study, it has been found that children 8 to 15 years when exposed to its higher levels developed lower insulin sensitivity, a decline in beta-cell function of pancreas, and a higher body mass index (BMI) at age 18 independent of initial excess weight.

What is air pollution? –

According to the World Health Organization, it is contamination of the indoor or outdoor environment by any chemical, physical or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere. Household combustion devices, motor vehicles, industrial facilities and forest fires are common sources of air pollution. Pollutants of major public health concern include particulate matter, carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. Outdoor and indoor air pollution cause respiratory and other diseases, which can be fatal.

The WHO further states that 92% of population of the world lives in places where air pollution exceeds safe limits. So, the immensity of the problem of air pollution related diseases, including type 2 diabetes, can be clearly understood.

How does air pollution cause type 2 diabetes? –

It has been found by the researchers that chemicals contained in polluted air have been linked to causing inflammation in the body. This link may be stronger in obese people because many chemicals accumulate in fat. Obesity may play a critical role in priming the body for pollution-induced inflammation and disordered metabolism. But more research is needed to validate it.

In animal studies, chronic inflammation has been shown to promote insulin resistance, which leads to diabetes. Insulin resistance means that body can’t respond properly to the insulin it makes. Over time, this sends the blood sugar levels up, which can set an individual up for type 2 diabetes.

The mechanisms underlying initiation of systemic inflammation in response to air pollution may involve multiple pathways.

The bottom line –

The world is facing an unprecedented epidemic of diabetes. About 415 million adults have diabetes worldwide or about one in every 11, according to International Diabetes Federation (IDF). Moreover, the IDF estimates that in 2015 five million people died from causes associated with having diabetes, which means 1 death every 6 seconds.

It is a well-known fact that it is a lifestyle disease, to which air pollution adds its contribution. So, the onus of its reduction rests not only on governments of individual countries but also on people living in them.

Can a Person Become Un-Diabetic?

Yes and no. More people could become un-diabetic than ever succeed in doing so. Other people really don’t stand a chance. Which are you?

Before going on, what does it mean to become un-diabetic? A simple answer would be to say that, without medication, your fasting blood sugar remains below 126 md/dL and your hemoglobin A1c (average blood sugar) remains in the normal range, and that you are able to eat normal foods.

Many people come close to this definition. Their blood sugars are well-controlled – as long as they watch their diet closely. This is then called diet-controlled diabetes mellitus.

A big problem with the definition is that the tendency towards diabetes remains for most people who achieve normal blood sugars through dieting.

A second problem is the underlying etiology of a person’s diabetes. For Type I diabetic patients, the pancreas no longer secretes insulin. Without insulin a Type I diabetic will die, usually within several days of not having insulin. Aside from a pancreas transplant, there is no way to make a Type I diabetic become un-diabetic at this time. Perhaps in the future stem cells may provide a cure – maybe there is a way to make a person grow a new pancreas. Fortunately, Type I diabetes is quite rare compared to Type II.

Type II diabetes is usually, but not always, related to weight. With higher body weight, the pancreas has to secrete more insulin, but in turn the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin. Although the pancreas tries harder and harder to keep up with rising blood sugar levels, eventually it loses the battle and blood glucose levels exceed normal values. In most patients this condition persists for months to years before a person is diagnosed.

Who can become un-diabetic? The overweight patient who has had diabetes for a relatively short period of time is the best candidate. Taking medication will not make you un-diabetic, although it may return your blood sugar to normal levels. That does not mean you don’t have diabetes, however. Stop the medicine, and your sugar will likely rise.

Although there are occasional exceptions to this rule, the only way to become un-diabetic is to lose a significant amount of weight fairly early in the course of the disease. A person’s who has had Type II diabetes for a dozen years has probably surpassed the body’s ability to restore normal pancreatic function. The pancreas gets worn out, more and less, and just can’t keep up, like a failing heart.

However, early on in the process, if the body is retrained to use fewer calories, the diabetic process can be reversed. Usually at this stage fasting blood sugars are elevated, but still below 200 mg/dL. If a patient gets serious and loses a good amount of body weight – at least 10% – the process may be reversible. Some patients with higher blood sugars may also be able to become un-diabetic if they lose even more weight – say 50 to 100 pounds, depending on starting weight. Once the body is stabilized at the new, lower weight, the pancreas is again able to keep up with the body’s need for insulin.

Along the way your doctor will probably prescribe medication. It takes time to lose weight, and you don’t want to wait 6 to 12 months to begin medication. As your weight drops, the medication can be tapered.

If you are overweight and have been diagnosed with diabetes in the past several months (or perhaps up to even a few years ago) get serious and lose weight. For anyone in the pre-diabetic phase, the same advice holds true. Take action now before you are diagnosed with a disease that may haunt you the rest of your life.

Copyright 2010 Cynthia J. Koelker, MD

Causes of Type 2 Diabetes: The Conundrum

Take a look at the Diabetes UK website and you’ll clearly see they claim that sugar consumption does not cause Type 2 Diabetes: specifically look at their “causes and risk factors” page to read: “Eating sweets and sugar does not cause diabetes,but eating a lot of sugary and fatty foods can lead to being overweight.”

How can that be? Other esteemed research organisations have concluded quite the opposite! Take Yale University in the US – in the oldest college scientific publication, Yale Scientific Magazine, an article published April 2011 clearly concludes the opposite of the claim made by Diabetes UK. The article states: “Ultimately, the root problem is excess sugar consumption, and the only way to halt this diabetes epidemic is to “grab the bull by its horns” by overhauling people’s dietary habits.”

In support of Yale’s view, a plethora of recent reports have linked sugary drinks with elevated risks of diabetes – the BBC, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent have all carried headlines relating to this research. Even the NHS has published these findings on its website. Hmm, so everyone except Diabetes UK seems to be getting up to speed on the not-so-hidden dangers of sugar!

If such contradiction between respected sources (we might hope that the NHS and Diabetes UK could agree or what hope do we have in the UK for an effective prevention strategy?) doesn’t engender confusion, then the revelation today (18 June 2013) in The Daily Express will certainly contribute to the uncertainty. The tabloid daily leads with the headline claiming that red meat consumption can significantly increase the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, and states “REGULARLY eating red meat can dramatically raise the danger of ­getting diabetes, says a new study.” The really interesting aspect of this story is that red meat isn’t usually considered to be a source of sugar or indeed high carbohydrate. It’s high in protein, and, depending upon the particular type and cut, is a source of saturated fat.

So does that blow the argument against sugar out of the water?

Well I would suggest not! It’s simply a matter of identifying what sugar and red meat have in common – and the emerging evidence is suggesting that it’s their mutual propensity to cause inflammation in the body. In terms of pH, both are considered to cause the body to become more acid, which may be the route by which they can both cause inflammation.

Sugar, processed foods, and certain fats are increasingly linked with inflammatory conditions. Not just saturated fats but Omega-6, which occurs in high amounts in a host of vegetable oils that have previously been considered to be healthy, are all now being exposed by clinical and medical research to be damaging through their links with inflammation.

The answer to the cause of Type 2 Diabetes is becoming clear – we need to seriously pay attention to the inflammatory potentiality of our diets, and take steps to incorporate more of the foods that prevent inflammation – think Omega-3 fatty acids for example – in order to halt this burgeoning epidemic.

The next challenge then is how to re-educate people not just to treat, but better still to prevent, the onward march of Type 2 Diabetes.



Type 2 Diabetes – Are Apples Really the Best Fruit For Diabetics?

People with type 2 diabetes always want to know if fruit is OK for diabetics to eat. Unfortunately, newly diagnosed type 2 diabetics need to absorb so much information that this simple question becomes impossible for them to answer. On top of that, there is a lot of information on the internet about fruit and diabetes that’s downright false.

Fortunately, there are quite a few types of fruits that have excellent benefits for people with type 2 diabetes. Among them are citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruits, all type of berries… strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, and apples. Even bananas can fall into the good fruit category, although they tend to have a little more sugar than some fruits.

Apples: The Perfect Fruit For Diabetics?

As long as you monitor your blood sugar levels and don’t overdo it with too many servings of fruit, you can enjoy nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber in lots of fruits. Let’s take a look at the apple as it might just be the the perfect fruit for diabetics.

Apples are so good for diabetics that research done on people with pre-diabetes found that apples could even keep people from developing diabetes. In the twenty-four hours after “apple consumption”, pre-diabetes symptoms were fewer. It seems that an apple a day can really be as good at keeping the doctor away as the old saying says it is.

Apples Are Loaded With Fiber:

Apples are an excellent source of dietary fiber. Eating one medium-size apple has the same effect as eating a bowl of bran cereal. In fact, just one apple contains 20% of the daily recommendation for fiber. Because an apple has so much fiber, it is good at controlling blood sugars by releasing them more slowly into the blood. This can give you energy over the long-term and not the quick spike of glucose given by a lot of other fruits and juices.

Studies have shown that apples can reduce the risk of some cancers and heart disease, and they can reduce inflammation in those people who have joint diseases. Apples are excellent for digestive health and have a positive effect on your colon. In addition, one of the brightest research findings is that apples are full of antioxidants.

Apples contain antioxidants:

Antioxidants get rid of free radicals… substances which cause cell damage and lead to elevated blood sugar levels. The antioxidants in apples are known as phytochemicals, and include an extra-special flavonoid called quercetin. Quercetin has been shown to prevent cancer and it’s benefits for many other diseases are now being researched. It has promising-looking benefits for Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease. If you ate one apple (with skin), approximately 100 grams, you would receive equal antioxidant benefits to taking 1500 grams of vitamin C.

Not only do they cut your risk of acquiring type 2 diabetes, apples help get rid of the plaque which builds up in your blood vessels causing blockages and heart disease.

Maybe the expression “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” should be changed to “two apples a day will keep type 2 diabetes away”.