Air Quality and Obesity: Are the Two Connected?

As scientists continue to study the harmful effects of air pollution, it’s becoming increasingly clear that poor air quality has huge impacts on human health. One aspect of the relationship between polluted air and overall health that’s still under investigation is a possible link between air quality and obesity. In this article, we’ll take a look at the evidence connecting air pollution and obesity to see where the science is currently pointing.


What Have Studies Shown So Far?


At first glance, there’s a good bit of evidence to suggest that obesity can be connected to poor air quality. Studies have shown that higher levels of common pollutants are positively correlated with higher body mass indices and overall rates of obesity. Though the effect appears to be slight, there is still a compelling statistical case that the two are connected.


Exposure to air pollution has also been documented as being associated with childhood obesity. Common components of pollution, including nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter commonly found in car exhaust, appear to lead to a higher rate of obesity among young children. These findings may help to explain the growing obesity epidemic in children and teenagers.


Generally, behavioral factors are cited as the cause of the correlation between poor air quality and obesity. In highly polluted areas, people are less likely to take recreational walks or exercise outdoors, leading to a more sedentary lifestyle. Because the worst pollution tends to be found in densely populated cities, it’s also possible that there are fewer outdoor recreational areas available to people living in the most polluted environments.


A 2020 study conducted by the University of Colorado Boulder may offer additional clues as to how this relationship works. In that study, researchers found that air pollution caused significant changes in the gut microbiomes of affected individuals. Changes in gut bacteria may account for weight gain, as well as a higher incidence of type 2 diabetes among people living in highly polluted areas. Although we’re still learning about how gut bacteria affect health, there’s an increasingly strong argument that the gut microbiome impacts everything from metabolism to cognitive function.


So, Is There a Definite Link Between Air Quality and Obesity?


Even with a good amount of circumstantial evidence and two possible mechanisms identified, the case for a connection between air pollution and obesity isn’t iron clad. While some studies seem to show a clear connection between the two, others have found no relationship or even an inverse relationship. According to a meta-analysis of 16 studies on the subject, 44 percent of studies found a positive relationship between air pollution and body weight, while the same number found no relationship. 12 percent found a negative relationship, suggesting that the link, if any, may be dependent on other factors that aren’t always present.


Overall, more research is needed to determine whether air pollution leads to higher rates of obesity. Given the preliminary evidence, though, there’s at least a good chance that there is some connection between the two.


How Can You Keep Yourself Safe From Air Pollution?


Even though the link between air quality and obesity is still under investigation, there is an enormous amount of research showing that air pollution has a profoundly negative impact on overall human health and well-being. One of the best ways to cut down on your exposure to polluted air is to use a high-quality home air purifier. Although you can’t control the amount of pollution in outdoor air, you can use a good air purifier to remove pollutants from the air you breathe at home.


Have questions about which air purifier is the right fit for you? We’re here to help! Feel free to contact us with your questions, and we’ll be happy to provide you with answers and personalized product recommendations based on your unique needs.