Article image

Study reveals link between air pollution and obesity

Obesity is a major public health issue that is caused by unhealthy diets, lack of exercise, and genetics. In a recent study from the University of Michigan, researchers have found an unexpected environmental factor that plays a role in obesity. The experts have discovered a link between air pollution and excess body weight among women. 

According to study first author Xin Wang, women in their late 40s and early 50s exposed long-term to air pollution experience increases in their body mass index, waist circumference and body fat. These negative effects were linked specifically to higher levels of fine particles, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone.

“The study population included 1,654 White, Black, Chinese, and Japanese women from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation, with the baseline median age of 49.6 years, followed from 2000 to 2008,” wrote the researchers.

“Annual air pollution exposures were assigned by linking residential addresses with hybrid estimates of air pollutant concentrations at 1-km2 resolution. Body size was measured, and body composition was measured using DXA at approximately annual visits.”

“Linear mixed effects models were used to examine the associations between air pollution and body size and composition measures and whether these associations differed by physical activity.”

The results of the analysis showed that exposure to air pollution was linked with higher body fat, higher proportion fat, and lower lean mass among midlife women. For instance, body fat increased by 4.5 percent, or about 2.6 pounds.

The researchers also investigated the relationship between air pollution and physical activity on body composition. They determined that high levels of physical activity could effectively mitigate and offset the body composition changes associated with exposure to air pollution.

Wang explained that since the study focused on midlife women, the findings can’t be generalized to men or women in other age ranges.

The study is published in the journal Diabetes Care.

By Chrissy Sexton, Editor

Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day