The Air You Breathe Could Be Causing Weight Gain, According To Science

The Air You Breathe Could Be Causing Weight Gain, According To Science Hero Image
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Here at mbg, we're all for being one with nature: Getting outside for a long walk, moving your daily exercise out of the gym, filling your lungs with fresh, pure air.

And of course, we all know the cleaner the air, the better. After all, polluted air has been shown to cause some serious health damage, including respiratory illness, asthma, kidney damage and even certain cancers.

But a new study in the March issue of the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology has us thinking even more about the serious effects air pollution can have on another area of health: our weight.

For the study, researchers exposed one group of pregnant lab rats and their offspring to Beijing's seriously polluted air for several weeks, while a second group only breathed filtered air.

After only 19 days of exposure, here's what happened to the rats exposed to the polluted air:

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  • Lungs and livers were heavier and inflamed
  • LDL cholesterol was 50 percent higher
  • Triglycerides were 46 percent higher
  • Total cholesterol was 97 percent higher
  • Insulin resistance level was higher (a precursor to Type 2 diabetes)

Additionally, despite being fed the exact same diet, the rats exposed to pollution were heavier after eight weeks than those exposed to clean air (female rats were 10 percent heavier and male rats were 18 percent heavier than their non-pollution-breathing counterparts).

According to Junfeng "Jim" Zhang, a professor of global and environmental health at Duke University and a senior author of the paper, "Chronic inflammation is recognized as a factor contributing to obesity and since metabolic diseases such as diabetes and obesity are closely related, our findings provide clear evidence that chronic exposure to air pollution increases the risk for developing obesity."

"If translated and verified in humans, these findings will support the urgent need to reduce air pollution, given the growing burden of obesity in today's highly polluted world," Zhang said.

Not that we really needed another reason to get serious about our global air pollution problem, but this seems like a pretty good reason to start taking action.