How air pollution affects people living with diabetes

A new US study notes that people living with diabetes who are exposed to air pollution may have an increased risk of developing interstitial lung disease.

The US study connects insulin resistance and repetitive ozone exposure to the development of interstitial lung disease (a condition that may exacerbate the negative effects of COVID-19) also known as pulmonary fibrosis which results in difficulty breathing.Findings of the study on mice showed a direct relationship between insulin resistance levels and the severity of lung inflammation and scarring (fibrosis). Ozone, a gas also referred to as “smog”, is known to intensify conditions, such as asthma and rhinitis. Recent epidemiology  also suggests a link between high ozone concentrations and adverse effects in the deep lung.

“Evidence suggests that ozone exposure could exacerbate pulmonary fibrosis, particularly in individuals that are diabetic,” says Robert Tighe from Duke University’s Department of Medicine. “Poorly controlled diabetes, in particular, may be an important co-morbidity for worsened lung damage.”

The study’s lead author, James Wagner, says, “Our findings are especially important today as we’re in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, where we have great concern regarding the convergence of health effects from air pollution and SARS-CoV-2 in susceptible populations like people with diabetes.”

The World Health Organization says 91% of the global population lives in places where air quality exceeds the guideline limits and in South Africa, air quality is considered moderately unsafe.

Diabetes affects up to 4,5 million (current estimation) South Africans and is the second most common cause of death in SA.

Health expert Vanessa Ascencao says respiratory illness is on the rise in SA. “Research shows that indoor air may be even more polluted than outside due to mould, pollen, household cleaning products, pesticides, gases and building materials, and treating it with essential oils may be effective in countering viruses, bacteria, mould, fungi and dust mites.”

She said studies indicate the aroma molecules of essential oils may activate nasal passage receptors, triggering an immune response. Essential oils’ chemical structure resembles hormones, making them uniquely useful for respiratory symptoms.

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