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Air Pollution influences Obesity in Women

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Air Pollution influences Obesity in Women

Obesity is a growing global health issue, and has been for decades. A study published in Diabetes Care in October 2022 by the University of Michigan suggests that air pollution may also affect women’s weight, body mass index, waist circumference, and body fat.

The study, conducted by researchers from University of Michigan, UCLA, University of California Davis, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Harvard, and California Environmental Protection Agency, discovered that women in their late 40s and early 50s exposed long-term to air pollution had increases in body size and composition measures. Air pollution refers specifically to higher levels of fine particles, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone.

The data was taken from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation, and included 1,654 white, Black, Chinese, and Japanese women. Their baseline median age was almost 50 years, and the women were tracked from 2000 to 2008.

Annual air pollution exposures were assigned by linking the residential address of the participants with estimates of air pollutant concentrations. Associations between pollution and body size and composition measures were then examined, particularly in order to find whether the associations differed by physical activity.

Exposure to air pollution was linked with higher body fat, higher proportion fat, and lower lean mass – body fat increased by 4.5%, or about 2.6 pounds.

Higher levels of physical activity, based on the frequency, duration, and perceived physical exertion of more than 60 exercises, was found to be an effective way to mitigate and offset the differences caused by air pollution exposure.


Wang X, Karvonen-Gutierrez C A, Gold E B, Derby C, Greendale G, Wu X, Schwartz J, Park S K. Longitudinal Associations of Air Pollution With Body Size and Composition in Midlife Women: The Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation. Diabetes Care 1 November, 2022; 45 (11): 2577 2584.  

Karvonen-Gutierrez C A et al. Air pollution tips the scale for obesity in women. University of Michigan News, 13 October, 2022.

(See also our article Air Pollution Contributes Significantly to Diabetes)

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