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Leicester scientists investigate link between air pollution and type 2 diabetes

An interdisciplinary team of scientists from our University and other institutions has played a pivotal role in research investigating a possible link between air pollution and the rise in type 2 diabetes.

New research, published in the journal Environment International, examined data from 10,443 participants from diabetes screening studies in Leicestershire, UK.

The exposure to air pollution, the number of cases of type 2 diabetes and the impact of demographic and lifestyle factors were all considered.

The authors concluded that demographic factors largely explained the association between air pollution and type 2 diabetes.

Exposure to traffic related air pollutants is known to cause insulin resistance, a hallmark of the disease, and observational evidence has been applied to better understand a potential link.

Professor Roland Leigh, Technical Director of EarthSense and Director of Enterprise at our Institute for Space and Earth Observation, and co-author of the study, said: “We know that air pollution is the world’s largest environmental health risk affecting 92% of the population and associated with more than three million deaths per year, and evidence suggested it may contribute to the rise in type 2 diabetes.

“While original results suggested association between air pollution and associated particulates and type 2 diabetes, when the effects of lifestyle and demographic factors were considered, and given the limited size of the sample, evidence for direct association with air pollution was inconclusive.

“We will, however, continue to apply cutting-edge air quality research to unpick potentially connected long-term exposure factors,” continued Professor Leigh. “As innovators in air quality monitoring, the University of Leicester and EarthSense has a fundamental contribution to make in the understanding of the complex issues of pollution exposure and health.”

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