Women with higher levels of air pollution during pregnancy have children who grow unusually fast in the first months after birth, putting on excess fat, which puts them at risk for obesity and related diseases later in life, according to a new CU Boulder study.
A study of Spanish-speaking mother-child couples published in this week’s journal Environmental health, most recently, it suggests that low air quality may at least partially contribute to the nation’s obesity epidemic, particularly among minority populations who tend to live in areas most exposed to toxic pollutants.
One in four Hispanic youth in the United States is obese, while about 14% of white youth are 11% of Asian youth.
“Higher levels of obesity in certain groups of our society are not just a by-product of personal choice, such as exercise – calories, calories. It’s more complicated than that, ”said Tanya Aldereete, an assistant professor and senior author at the Department of Integrative Physiology. “This study, other studies suggest that it may be related to how much the burden of the environment is borne by one.”
Previous studies have shown that pregnant women who smoke or are chronically exposed to air pollution are more likely to have babies with lower birth weight. In the first year of life, these children tend to race to achieve unusually fast weight gain. Weight gain in early life has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, childhood and adolescence weight problems.
“This period, either during pregnancy or immediately after birth, is a potential window into development. Adverse effects can cause a baby to have a number of problems later in life,” says William Patterson, a doctoral student.
To better examine how specific contaminants affect a baby’s growth trajectory, researchers in an ongoing study in the Los Angeles area looked back at a study of 123 couples of breastfeeding mothers. About one-third were normal-weight precancerous, one-third overweight, and one-third obese.
The researchers used data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality system, which records hourly air quality data from environmental monitoring stations to quantify their prenatal exposure to four types of pollutants.2.5: և Prime Minister10: (particulate matter from factories, cars, construction sites), nitrogen dioxide (odorless exhaust from cars, power plants), ozone (the main component of smoke).
Then they followed the newborns, regularly measuring not only their weight and height, but also how much fat they carried and where.
“We found that the greater impact of prenatal air pollution was associated with greater changes in weight or obesity or body fat during the first six months of life,” Patterson said.
In some cases, the contaminants seemed to affect men and women in different ways.
For example, the effect of a combination of ozone and nitrogen dioxide in the uterus was associated with faster waist growth in women, while in men it was associated with slower growth in length and greater accumulation of fat in the middle part.
In adults, excess fat around the waist is associated with heart disease, diabetes.
“The key is not just how much fat you carry, but where,” Patterson said.
How can the inhalation of pollutants affect the growth patterns of the mother-to-be?
Researchers believe that these contaminants can irritate the lungs and, in turn, cause systemic inflammation of organs, affecting metabolic processes such as insulin sensitivity, which can affect fetal development. Pollutants have been shown to affect gene expression in infants, with potential life effects that may be passed down through the generations.
The authors note that because the study included only Hispanic mothers, more testing was needed to confirm the results for other populations.
But Aldereete said that in an increasingly diverse country where tribal minorities have repeatedly shown that they carry a greater burden of pollution, it is possible to study how these toxins affect them.
In 2018, the EPA National Center for Environmental Assessment published a study showing that poor people of color are exposed to more than 1.5 times more air pollutants than their white counterparts.
“Overall, there have not been many studies that really represent the diversity that we have in the United States,” he said. “We want to fill that gap.”
At the same time, researchers advise pregnant women to take extra precautions to minimize the effects of air pollution by closing their windows on high ozone days, not exercising outdoors during high air pollution, and walking on the roads.
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