The Anthropocene Effect: Are our waistlines paying the price?

022816-air pollution and obesity 2
Kentaro IEMOTO/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)

I wrote an article today that really got me to thinking.

The Anthropocene is a proposed epoch that began when human activities started to have a significant global impact on Earth’s geology and ecosystems.

Many studies and theories have already been put forth claiming that this epoch is already in full swing. Climate change, global warming, species driven to extinction by nothing more than man’s influence. These are all markers of the Anthropocene.

Now, a new study from Duke University has put forth an interesting query: Does air pollution — a product of the Anthropocene — increase our risk of obesity?

Researchers actually placed pregnant rats and their offspring into two chambers, one exposed to outdoor Beijing air and the other containing an air filter that removed most of the air pollution particles. For the duration, all mice were fed the exact same diet.

NOTE: Beijing has had a HUGE air pollution problem lately, and their children are getting wider. I discuss this a bit in my article here.

Over the course of the study, the rats who breathed the polluted air gained weight and experienced cardio-respiratory and metabolic dysfunctions after three to eight weeks of exposure. According to the researchers, these rats had 50 percent higher LDL cholesterol; 46 percent higher triglycerides; and 97 percent higher total cholesterol. Their insulin resistance level, a precursor of Type 2 diabetes, was higher than their clean air-breathing counterparts. Similar results were shown in the rat offspring, which were kept in the same chambers as their mothers.

“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,” said Junfeng “Jim” Zhang, a professor of global and environmental health at Duke University.

Full details are available here.


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