The known health effects of air pollution are extensive, with various types of pollution harming nearly every part of the human body. While most people are aware of the long- and short-term effects of air pollution on the respiratory system (which can include respiratory irritation in the short term and an increased risk of developing respiratory infections and diseases in the long term), you may be unaware that chronic exposure to air pollution can cause you to gain weight or prevent you from losing it.
Obesity has become a major global health concern in recent decades as more people consume unhealthy diets and fail to exercise on a regular basis. According to a new University of Michigan study, air pollution is another factor that influences women’s weight, BMI, waist circumference, and body fat.
Women in their late 40s and early 50s who were exposed to air pollution for an extended period of time, specifically higher levels of fine particles, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone, had increases in body size and composition measures, according to Xin Wang, epidemiology research investigator at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and the study’s first author.
Obesity has become a major global health concern in recent decades as more people consume unhealthy diets and fail to exercise on a regular basis. Air pollution is another factor that influences women’s weight, BMI, waist circumference, and body fat.Xin Wang
The Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation collected data from 1,654 white, black, Chinese, and Japanese women. These women, whose median age at the start was nearly 50, were followed from 2000 to 2008.
Annual air pollution exposures were assigned by linking residential addresses with hybrid estimates of air pollutant concentrations. The researchers examined the associations between pollution and the participants’ body size and composition measures. One question they sought to answer was whether these associations differed by physical activity.
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%, or about 2.6 pounds.
Researchers explored the interaction between air pollution and physical activity on body composition. High levels of physical activity – which had been based on the frequency, duration, and perceived physical exertion of more than 60 exercises – was an effective way to mitigate and offset exposure to air pollution, the research showed.
Since the study focused on midlife women, the findings can’t be generalized to men or women in other age ranges, Wang said.
Existing research has found a link between higher levels of pollution and higher BMI among local residents. A recent long-term study discovered a link between ambient air pollution and weight gain. The presence of particulate matter in the air, in particular, has been linked to a significant increase in weight over time. Camfil, a global leader in the research, engineering, and manufacturing of premium air filtration technology, explains the findings of the new study in this article.