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Global warming could help spread diabetes - study

Tuesday March 21st, 2017

Rising global temperatures could be contributing to the growing numbers of people developing diabetes, according to a study published today.

According to Dutch researchers from the Leiden University Medical Centre, in Leiden, a 1C rise in environmental temperature could account for more than 100,000 new diabetes cases per year in the USA alone.

Professor Patrick Rensen led the observational study, which is published online in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, which says that in 2015, 415 million adults globally had the condition. This number is expected to rise to almost 642 million cases by 2040.

Prof Rensen and his team looked at the function of brown adipose tissue (BAT), which transfers energy from food into heat. Previous studies have shown that exposure to cold stimulates BAT, which results in modest weight loss and improved insulin action.

They used data from the National Diabetes Surveillance System of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on diabetes incidence among adults in the 50 USA states and three territories, Guam, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands, from 1996 to 2009.

The team also analysed data from the World Health Organization’s Global Health Observatory online data repository system on country-wise prevalence rates of raised fasting blood glucose and obesity in 190 countries.

Average annual temperature data was also obtained from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, England.

The researchers found that on average, per 1C increase in temperature, age-adjusted diabetes incidence increased by 0.314 per 1,000.

The worldwide prevalence of glucose intolerance increased by 0.17% per 1C rise in temperature.

Such findings indicated that the diabetes incidence rate in the USA and prevalence of glucose intolerance worldwide increased with higher outdoor temperature.

The authors acknowledged that once they adjusted the results to take into account obesity prevalence, which only slightly reduced the association between outdoor temperature and diabetes, other studies could evaluate further any impact that BMI might have on their findings.

The authors conclude: “These findings emphasise the importance of future research into the effects of environmental temperature on glucose metabolism and the onset of diabetes, especially in view of the global rise in temperatures with a new record set for the warmest winter in the USA last year.”

Blauw LL, Ahmad Aziz N, Tannemaat MR et al. Diabetes incidence and glucose intolerance prevalence increase with higher outdoor temperature. BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care. March 2017; doi:10.1136/bmjdrc-2016-000317 [abstract]

Tags: Diabetes | Europe | World Health

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