Living in an Area With Heavy Traffic Increases Inflammation for Type 2 Diabetics

by Barbara Hewitt on April 15, 2015

People with type 2 diabetes who live in an area where there is heavy traffic and take insulin experience increased inflammation compared to lower traffic areas, new research has found.

A study by researchers from Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, USA, evaluated 356 Puerto Ricans with type 2 diabetes of which 26% used insulin, 55% used oral medication and 19% no medication.

dreamstime_xs_12171689Some 20% of people lived within 100 metres of one of more roads with over 20,000 vehicles a day, while 20% lived between 100 and 200 metres of roads with over 20,000 vehicles per day.

The team measured concentrations of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation, in participants prior to the study and two years afterwards.

They found that CRP concentration increased between 75% and 200% among those in the highest traffic areas, but this was not the case for those taking oral medication in the same area. CRP concentrations were markedly lower in this group despite exposure to the highest traffic density.

‘People who live near busy roads and spend most of their time in these areas have been shown in many studies to have higher levels of inflammation, a risk factor for many cardiovascular and metabolic diseases,’ said study author Christine Rioux, research assistant professor in the department of public health and community medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine.

‘People on insulin appear to be even more susceptible to increases in inflammation when living in high traffic areas. People can reduce their exposure to traffic pollution by keeping windows closed during the heaviest traffic periods of the day, using air conditioners in the summer months, and avoiding heavy exercise near busy roads, especially during peak traffic times,’ she explained.

Prior studies of the adverse health effects of traffic or air pollution have not considered the role that type of medication may play in relation to inflammation for people with diabetes. In a cross-sectional study published in 2011, this research team reported that medication type appeared to modify the relationship between traffic exposure and CRP concentration.

The data also shows that approximately 70% of the 356 participants in the study lived in Boston neighbourhoods, including the South End, Dorchester, Roxbury and Jamaica Plain. CRP was measured at the beginning of the study and again two years later, using a high sensitivity test.

‘It’s important to know who is most vulnerable to the adverse effects of traffic pollution exposure for purposes of education and policy. People can reduce their exposure to traffic pollution by keeping windows closed during the heaviest traffic periods of the day, using air conditioners in the summer months, and avoiding heavy exercise near busy roads, especially during peak traffic times,’ said Rioux.

Co-author Mkaya Mwamburi, director of the Centre for Global Public Health and associate professor in the department of public health and community medicine, both at Tufts University School of Medicine, explained that the study is important because many people who live near highways may have diabetes and other serious chronic conditions.

‘It’s interesting to see that treatments for diabetes may interact with the risks associated with exposure to air pollution. While this is an intriguing finding, it is not clear why oral diabetes medications, unlike insulin, appear to be protective and it warrants additional research,’ added Mwamburi.

Earlier this year, research in Germany suggested that traffic related air pollution was linked to an increased risk of type 1 diabetes developing in children.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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