Air Pollution May Elevate Diabetes Risk

A recent study conducted by the University Hospital Zurich and the University of Basel has found that diesel particles can instigate a reaction in the gut of mice, which may contribute to the onset of diabetes.

"It's been recognized for a while that in areas with high air pollution, there's a higher incidence of diabetes," stated Claudia Cavelti-Weder, the study's lead and a senior physician and endocrinologist at the University Hospital Zurich. However, the precise mechanisms through which air pollution leads to the development of type 2 diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes, remain unclear.

The research team, led by Cavelti-Weder, explored how diesel particles impact the gut. The findings, published in the scientific journal Particle and Fibre Toxicology, suggest that the gut is often overlooked when considering the effects of air pollution.

Cavelti-Weder explained that air pollution also affects the intestines. Our bodies have an intricate cleaning mechanism that prevents certain particles from reaching the lungs. These particles, known as cilia, transport dirt particles into the throat, some of which eventually end up in the intestines when swallowed.

The researchers exposed mice to either diesel particles or a neutral control substance over a period of up to ten months. They discovered that mice exposed to diesel particles exhibited changes in the so-called macrophages in the intestine. Macrophages are scavenger cells that form part of the innate immune system and play a crucial role in defense.

An inflammatory factor secreted by the altered macrophages could be associated with impaired glucose tolerance, a precursor of diabetes. The researchers believe that these findings could offer new pharmacological avenues for treating diabetes-like diseases caused by air pollutants. However, they also noted that further studies are required.