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Is Delhi’s pollution making you fat? Worrying new studies say yes…


Recent studies appear to show that tiny airborne particles may contribute to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Mainly found in traffic fumes and cigarette smoke, these tiny particles trigger inflammation and upset our metabolism. Over time, exposure to these particles could lead to serious diseases.

Take the example of two people, one living in Pathanamthitta, Kerala (amongst India’s least polluted city) and the other living in New Delhi (consistently India’s most polluted city). They could have the same diet, same exercise routine, same natural metabolic rate, but over time, the person living in Delhi will put on more weight and develop a faulty metabolism.  Not to mention the respiratory illnesses that go along with this.


The evidence

Laboratory tests conducted at Ohio State University, showed that mice exposed to air similar to traffic fumes, in just 10 weeks had greater body fat, both external (fat bellies) and around internal organs (think clogged arteries). Their fat cells were 20% larger and they became resistant to insulin, a primary indicator in developing diabetes.


Poor mice, but how does this involve me?

Large scale studies from across the world have shown that your body will suffer the same fate as our rodent friends. The risk of developing diabetes rises by 11% for every 10 micrograms of fine particles in the air – worrying since Delhi regularly sits above the 400 mark. A Swiss study of people living in high pollution areas showed signs of increased insulin resistance, hypertension, and larger waists. The effects on pregnant women and young children are particularly worrying.


What exactly is going on?

While this is a complicated question to answer, basically, particles (less than 2.5 micrometres) – the type that gives Delhi its haze, are primarily at fault.  Breathing in the pollutants irritates our lungs, as a result our body sends out a stress response, and releases hormones that prevent the body from regulating blood sugar. Additionally, this may also interfere with our body’s ability to govern our appetite. The collective effect of this is a myriad of health problems like diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disorders.


So should you be worried? If you live in Delhi… most definitely!

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