Diabetes and pollution in children linked: What does this mean for oral health?
SUMMARY: Children's oral health and diabetes has been thought to be linked for some time, and new research now shows the correlation between air pollution and diabetes.
Posted: May 13, 2013
It's no secret that pollution is bad for the environment, but recent data gathered by researchers in Germany found that toxicity may lead to diabetes in children. The study published in Acta Diabetologica, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD), found that children who were exposed to air pollution on a higher scale had significantly more dangerous insulin levels than children who lived in areas with lower pollutant emissions. While a number of studies have been conducted on the link between pollution and heart disease, there has been a less consistent rate of research that link diabetes to the subject. In addition, diabetes and heart disease have both been linked to an individual's oral health. These new findings bring up the question: Does pollution affect the overall health and wellbeing of your mouth?
Researchers tested blood samples that were collected from 397 10-year-old children. Scientists then determined the individual level of pollution at each participant's birth address, which was estimated based on emission from road traffic in the neighborhood, land use in the area and population density. Then, a link was found between air pollution and insulin resistance, which was adjusted by calculating socioeconomic status of the family, pubertal status, birth weight and body mass index. Secondhand smoke exposure in the home was also calculated.
The data determined that in all adjusted and crude models, insulin resistance levels were greater in children who were exposed to high amounts of air pollutants. A child's increased exposure of ambient nitrogen dioxide and his or her proximity to a major road increased insulin resistance. Researchers said all of the findings were statistically significant in pediatric health.
"Moving from a polluted neighborhood to a clean area and vice versa would allow us to explore the persistence of the effect related to perinatal exposure and to evaluate the impact of exposure to increased air pollution concentration later in life," Joachim Heinrich, a researcher in the study, said. "Whether the air pollution-related increased risk for insulin resistance in school-age has any clinical significance is an open question so far. However, the results of this study support the notion that the development of diabetes in adults might have its origin in early life including environmental exposures."
Although this is the first study that deeply investigated the relationship between a child's long-term exposure to traffic-induced pollution, researchers believe that further investigation will determine how this will translate into adulthood. Taking precautions such as using oral health probiotics and paying close attention to kid's oral health may be beneficial. In addition, it's important to keep up with a balanced diet of whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
According to the American Diabetes Association, gum disease and diabetes are thought to be a "two-way street," meaning that one can increase the risk of the other. Maintaining proper oral health in kids with brushing, flossing and rinsing at a young age will greatly decrease the risk of gum disease, and some researchers believe that this could have similar effects on diabetes. Oral health probiotics could be a healthy, sustainable and effective method to reduce the amount of oral bacteria that cause gum disease and bad breath.
The researchers in Germany plan to follow up with children who participated in this study to look for ways that environmental exposure to pollution at a young age effects them as adults. This study may be key in supporting the hypothesis that toxic absorption early in life can play a role in the development of adulthood diabetes.