What environmental factors affect the risk of type 2 diabetes?

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New research studies the association between environmental quality in more than 3,000 counties in the United States and finds intriguing differences between rural and urban areas.

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New research suggests that several environmental factors affect the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Estimates indicate that more than 30 million In the United States, people are currently living with type 2 diabetes and 84 million more are living with prediabetes.

Complications from diabetes are the leading cause of blindness in adults, kidney failure and amputations.

Type 2 diabetes has experienced a rapid increase in recent years. Between 2002 and 2012, the condition increased 4.8% each year in the United States

Added to a genetic predisposition, diet and insufficient physical activity largely explain this increase. But, are these two risk factors the only environmental influences explaining the rising trend of diabetes in the United States?

New research has attempted to examine whether environmental factors in rural and urban areas also play a role. Dr. Jyotsna Jagai, assistant research professor in environmental sciences and occupational health at the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), is the first author of the new study. .

Dr Jagai and his team examined people in 3,134 counties across the United States and published their findings in the Diabetes Investigation Journal.

The researchers wanted to measure the cumulative environmental effects on the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. To this end, they developed an Environmental Quality Index (EQI), which included data on air quality, water and soil, as well as socio-demographic factors in a given area.

Sociodemographic factors included average household income, education level, violent crime rates or property crime rates.

The EQI also included what are known as built domain factors. That is, how many fast food restaurants were in an area, how many fatal accidents occurred and how many highways, roads or public housing units there were.

Dr. Robert Sargis, study co-author and UIC Associate Professor of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism at the College of Medicine, explains the scientific value of using EQI.

He says: “The cumulative assessment of the EQI is unique […] In most studies, we don’t look at the combination of factors. We are looking at unique chemicals or unique classes of chemicals and how they are associated with disease risk. “

“This study pulls together all of the factors that we believe increase risk and aggregates them into one measure to examine the cumulative environment.”

The results of this analysis showed that overall, poorer environmental quality was associated with a higher prevalence of type 2 diabetes.

Research has linked lower air quality and built and socio-demographic factors to a higher risk of diabetes in rural areas. However, in urban areas, researchers have associated only atmospheric and socio-demographic factors with the risk of diabetes.

“There may be something happening in rural areas that is different from urban areas. Our results suggest that environmental exposures may be a more important factor in rural counties than in urban areas of the United States, ”says Dr. Jagai.

The authors mention that the results confirm previous studies that found an increased risk of diabetes in urban areas with poor air quality, or studies that showed that changes in air quality could increase air quality. insulin resistance. But, say the researchers, the influence of the environment is far more than pollution.

The environment we are exposed to is bigger than just pollutants. Our health depends on these combined effects, such as sociodemographic or constructed stressors, which can impact our livelihoods. ”

Dr Jyotsna Jagai

“Understanding local social and economic demographics can help communities develop environmental regulations and policies to improve the health outcomes of their residents,” adds the lead author.


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