Connecting Air Pollution and Metabolic Syndrome

By Michelle Werts posted 03-26-2014 17:49


More than 30 percent of the US population has metabolic syndrome, which is the name for a group of factors that increase the sufferer’s risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other health problems. While researchers have connected high-calorie, high-fat diets and sedentary lifestyles to the increase in metabolic syndrome in developed countries, others are looking into whether or not air pollution is also contributing to the epidemic, which was the topic of today’s Symposium Session titled “Exploring the Interface between Air Pollution and Metabolic Syndrome: The Bittersweet Dilemma.”

The first presenter was Dr. James R. Sowers, who discussed the integrated approaches being pursued to study the constellation of factors involved in insulin resistance and associated cardiorenal metabolic disease. Dr. Sowers research ties together metabolic, immunological, and inflammatory abnormalities with cardiovascular and kidney diseases.

Next up, Dr. Robert Brook shared the results of his research into the effect of short-term exposures to real-world, relevant levels of fine particle air pollution on humans. Particularly, he examined the exposure’s effect on insulin resistance. In longer-term epidemiological studies, his team confirmed that the insulin resistance related to air pollution exposures that occurred in short-term exposure can increase the risk for developing diabetes mellitus.

Session Co-Chair Dr. James G. Wagner, presented information on the question of whether or not some people are more susceptible to the adverse health effects of air pollution. His studies showed adverse cardiovascular responses in animals with metabolic syndrome.

Dr. Stephanie A. Shore focused on the ability of obesity to augment responses to ozone. She says that most of what we know about ozone impacts on the lungs is derived from studies in lean subjects, while little is known about how obesity alters the equation. Her experiments in mice show that obese mice are extremely sensitive to ozone-induced effects that would promote asthma.

The other session co-chair, Dr. Urmila P. Kodavanti, concluded the session with her research showing that the whole body’s metabolism temporarily shifts in response to ozone exposure. Her research indicates that exposures that occur over longer periods of time can alter the body in ways that make it more susceptible to diabetes or obesity.