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Air pollution can contribute to weight gain, study finds

Researchers say exposure to pollutants can increase consumers’ risk of obesity, diabetes, and other conditions

Photo (c) kodda - Getty Images
There is no shortage of data regarding the ways that air pollution can negatively affect consumers’ health. Now, a new study has revealed how exposure to harmful emissions can contribute to weight gain. 

While researchers have found how children could be at an increased risk of obesity because of air pollution, researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder have now found that those risks apply to consumers of all age groups. 

“We know from previous research that air pollutants can have a whole host of adverse adverse health effects,” said researcher Tanya Alderete. “The takeaway from this paper is that some of those effects might be due to changes in the gut.” 

Physical risks

To better understand how air pollution can affect consumers’ weight, the researchers had over 100 young adults from Southern California participate in the study. 

For the first part of the study, the researchers analyzed the participants' exposure to pollutants based on their addresses. Then, using samples they collected, the team was able to assess how the emissions affected the participants biologically. 

According to the researchers, exposure to ozone contributed to the biggest health risks for the participants. They learned that the pollutant greatly affects the bacterial make-up of the gut, which ultimately increases the risk for several health conditions, including diabetes and obesity. 

“Ozone is likely changing the environment of your gut to favor some bacteria over others, and that can have serious health consequences,” said Alderete. 

The researchers explained that these changes in the gut can then affect other bodily processes, including how the body handles insulin or breaks down fats. When these functions are compromised, the risk for disease increases. 

While Alderete plans to do more work in this area, she hopes that legislators take these findings seriously and do their part to help reduce consumers’ exposure to dangerous pollutants. 

“A lot of work still needs to be done, but this adds to a growing body of literature showing that human exposure to air pollution can have lasting, harmful effects on human health,” said Alderete. 

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