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Female obesity and air pollution linked in new study

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A new study has linked air pollution to women’s weight. (Getty Pictures)

About 42% of adults in the US are now thought to have obesity, but there is no easy explanation for why. Ultimately, many contributing factors determine a person’s weight, including genetics, muscle mass, diet, exercise routine, and environmental factors. But a new study has found a surprising contributor to weight when it comes to women: air pollution.

The study, published in the journal of the American Diabetes Association, diabetes careanalyzed data from 1,654 women from the Nationwide Women’s Health Study, a multicenter, long-term study designed to examine the health of women in their middle years. Data collected from women with a median age of 49.6 included body size and body composition. The researchers also tracked their annual air pollution exposures.

What they found is that the more air pollution women are exposed to, the greater their risk of developing obesity. Exposure to air pollution was linked to higher body fat, higher percentage of fat, and lower lean body mass, especially in middle-aged women. Women exposed to air pollution saw an increase in body fat of 4.5%, or about 2.6 pounds.

Researchers also looked at how air pollution and physical activity affect body composition and found that high levels of physical activity were a good way to offset exposure to air pollution.

The study’s lead author, Xin Wang, a study researcher in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, tells Yahoo Life that she and her team “want to identify and study modifiable risk factors, including exposure to environmental factors.” pollutants” to help identify people at high risk of having obesity.

Wang says it’s not surprising that air pollution plays a role in the development of obesity. “Looking back at history, it’s not hard to find that the rapid increase in obesity prevalence parallels increased exposure to environmental pollutants,” he says. Wang notes that studies have already linked exposure to air pollution (including fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ozone) with increases in inflammation of adipose tissue and a host of other factors that are “tightly linked to obesity.”

D., an obesity medicine physician and clinical investigator at Massachusetts General Hospital. It’s easy to assume that air pollution can increase a person’s chances of developing obesity because air pollution keeps people indoors, but it’s more complicated than that, Fatima Cody Stanford told Yahoo Life. “Research shows that air pollution can lead to metabolic dysfunction – meaning it affects your metabolism and how your body stores cholesterol,” Stanford says. “Air pollution appears to be linked to the onset of chronic diseases, whether it’s diabetes or obesity.”

However, he adds, “when you have air pollution, of course, it can disrupt regular physical activity, especially in an outdoor setting.”

D., an emergency medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. As for exercise, which helps combat the impact of air pollution on weight and is associated with the benefits of exercise in general, Mark Conroy told Yahoo Life. “Exercise has long been seen as having a strong association with improved health and body composition,” she says. “In individuals with high levels of inflammation, exercise can lower these levels, improve metabolism and promote fat loss.”

Stanford warns against blaming obesity solely on air pollution. “Obesity is a complex, multifactorial disease that recurs and resolves,” he says. “Anyone with obesity can have obesity for a variety of reasons. For some, air pollution may be one of the things that causes certain diseases people have, but for many, there are multiple factors that play a role.” It lists among family history, medications, and chronic stress. “It’s important for us not to pick just one factor as the reason why people have obesity,” she says.

Wang points out that the study was conducted on a specific population – middle-aged women exposed to a specific range of air pollution (mean annual PM2.5 concentration ranged from 12.3 µg/m3 to 15.9 µg/m3). Consequently, it is not possible to conclude that the findings apply to everyone. “However, our findings require further study to confirm the association between air pollution and obesity, especially for those with high-exposure populations,” he says. “This will help find out whether air pollution is a significant contributor to the obesity epidemic and lay the groundwork for future work for intervention strategies.”

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