Health experts caution that inhaling polluted air can result in an elevated risk of type 2 diabetes as the air quality index (AQI) in Mumbai falls to 189, which is considered moderately unhealthy after Diwali. Doctors say that lasting exposure to air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM2.5) can cause oxidative stress, inflammation, and insulin resistance, leading to increased levels of blood sugar. Doctors have warned that people living in areas that have greater concentrations of particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with type-2 diabetes. These air pollutants penetrate the respiratory system, find their way into the bloodstream, and eventually affect glucose metabolism resulting in the onset of diabetes.
Polluted air has been associated with insulin resistance, which is a health issue where cells turn less receptive to insulin signals. Air pollutants like PM2.5 make it hard for insulin to function efficiently in the body. Inflammation caused by these pollutants can damage insulin signaling, which can further lead to insulin resistance. Air pollution can cause endothelial dysfunction damaging the inner layer of blood vessels. This disorder can lead to improper blood flow hindering insulin function. A 2020 study revealed that nitrogen oxide found in air pollution linked to traffic could affect the onset of diabetes. A 7-year research showed that one month of PM2.5 exposure elevated levels of blood sugar, and a year-long exposure shot up the risk of diabetes. Experts monitored 12000 people from Chennai and Delhi using satellite data and pollution models and assessed local air pollution levels.
Experts say that oxidative stress magnifies the risk of diabetes causing inflammation, disturbing cellular signaling pathways, and disrupting beta-cell integrity. Long-term exposure to polluted air deteriorates the disparity between free radicals and antioxidants in the body and harms cells that are important for insulin generation and role. Authorities need to take active measures to increase awareness about the association between air quality and diabetes to decrease air pollution.