Air pollution may increase the risk of obesity in babies


New research from the University of Colorado Boulder shows that women exposed to higher levels of air pollution during pregnancy have babies whose babies are growing abnormally fast in the first months after giving birth, putting them at increased risk of developing cancer. obesity and related diseases later in life.

The study of Hispanic mother-child pairs, published in the journal Environmental Health, shows that poor air quality can contribute to obesity, especially in places with greater exposure to harmful pollutants. About a quarter of Hispanic youth in the United States are obese, compared with 14% of white youth and 11% of Asian youth.

Author Tanya Alderete, associate professor in the Department of Integrative Physiology, said: “The higher prevalence of obesity in certain groups in society is not simply a side effect of individual choices such as exercise. “It’s a lot more complicated than that. This study shows that obesity can also be related to the level of environmental pollution a person is exposed to.”

Pregnant women exposed to higher levels of air pollution have unusually fast-growing babies in the first months after giving birth, accumulating excess fat increases the risk of obesity. (Illustrated image)

Previous research has shown that pregnant women who smoke or have long-term exposure to air pollution tend to have lower birth weight babies. During the first year of life, those babies tend to gain weight unusually fast. Rapid weight gain in early life has been linked to diabetes, heart disease and weight problems.

Lead author William Patterson, said: “The period during pregnancy, or immediately after birth, is a critical time of development and adverse exposures can expose an infant to a range of problems. subject later in life.

To further examine how specific pollutants impact a baby’s growth trajectory, the researchers followed 123 mother-child pairs. About one-third of babies were of normal weight before pregnancy, one-third were overweight, and one-third were obese.

The researchers used data from the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality System, which records hourly air quality data from ambient monitoring stations. The team quantified prenatal exposure to four types of pollution: PM2.5 and PM10 (fine dust particles from factories, cars and construction sites can be inhaled), nitrogen dioxide ( an odorless gas emitted by cars and power plants) and ozone (the main ingredient in smoke).

They then tracked the children, periodically measuring their weight, height and body fat.

“We found that greater exposure to ambient air pollution before birth was associated with greater changes in weight, or body fat, during the first six months of life,” said Patterson. .

In some cases, pollutants seem to affect men and women differently. For example, exposure to a combination of ozone and nitrogen dioxide in utero was associated with faster growth around the waist circumference in women, while in men it was associated with growth in height. more slowly and accumulate more fat around the abdomen.

The researchers believe these pollutants can inflame the lungs and cause systemic inflammation of organs, impacting metabolic processes, such as insulin sensitivity, which may affect health and well-being. fetal development. Pollutants have also been shown to affect gene expression in infants, with effects that last across generations.

The authors note that the study was still small because because it only included Hispanic mothers, a larger trial is needed to confirm the results apply to other populations.

In addition, the researchers recommend that pregnant women take additional precautions to minimize their exposure to air pollution by closing windows on high ozone days, and not exercising outside. weather at times of high air pollution and stay away from activities next to busy roads.

Huong Giang (via: Science Daily)

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