In December of 1952, London experienced the “Great Smog.” During this period, an unusual weather event caused air pollution (mainly from the widespread use of coal) to settle over the city.
For five days, the air was so thick with pollution that citizens could only see a few feet in front of their faces. The choking atmosphere closed businesses and halted public transportation. Most disturbing, though, is the estimate that 4,000 people were killed and 100,000 people were sickened by the smog.
You might think this sounds like a one-time, catastrophic event, but it’s happening on a less dramatic scale worldwide every day. The World Health Organization estimates that 99% of the global population breathes dangerously polluted air.
This pollution doesn’t just make it hard to draw a breath. Research has shown associations between air pollution and poor respiratory health, cardiovascular health, and other chronic conditions.
You might be surprised to learn that one of the conditions worsened by pollution is obesity.
In this article, we’ll answer some questions:
- What is air pollution?
- What’s the relationship between air pollution and our health?
- How could air pollution cause obesity?
- What does air pollution have to do with Betr?
Take a deep breath and keep reading to learn how you can prevent and reverse the damage done by inflammatory toxins in our environment!
What is air pollution?
Air pollution is a combination of many substances. Most of them are chemicals that are byproducts of human activities like manufacturing and burning fossil fuels.
Unfortunately, there are almost too many substances to name. Once they get into the air, they combine to form other harmful substances like strong acids, harmful gasses (like carbon monoxide), carcinogens(like benzene), and fine particulate matter.
Fine particulate matter is very small particles of solids or liquids suspended in the air. These substances are so tiny that they can penetrate deep into our airways. Once there, they start interfering with lung function and cause other unhealthy effects on our bodies.
When these particles get to a high enough concentration in the air, we see them in the form of smog. And, as happened during the “Great Smog” of London, these high concentrations can cause severe and immediate health effects, especially for those with chronic disease and respiratory issues.
What about so-called “normal concentrations” of particulate matter and other air pollutants? Are they harmless? Unfortunately, you probably already know the answer.
Air pollution is primarily byproducts from human activity suspended in the atmosphere. These byproducts can cause immediate or chronic adverse health effects when inhaled.
What’s the relationship between air pollution and our health?
The common sense answer to “does air pollution affect our health?” is, obviously, YES.
Understanding that it’s bad for you to breathe smog-filled air is not a stretch. But it’s easy to ignore that we’re inhaling pollutants even when we can’t see or smell them. And, of course, these pollutants can affect your health.
One study published in January 2009 analyzed the health data for international populations exposed to air pollution between 1950 and 2007. Researchers found the risk for non-accidental mortality increased exponentially with the levels of air pollution.
“Non-accidental mortality” covers a lot of ground. It’s anyone who died of disease or even natural causes.
When study authors factored in age, gender, and geographic region, high air pollution levels were associated with major upticks in specific causes of death. The most alarming were significant increases in the risk of dying from lung cancer and cardiovascular disease.
More recent research shows that it’s not just our hearts and lungs being affected by air pollution, either. Air pollution can negatively impact our health throughout our body, including our waistline!
Research shows that air pollution is directly linked to an increased risk of death by lung cancer, cardiovascular issues, and the development of other chronic diseases.
What’s the link between air pollution and obesity?
In September of 2022, the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) published obesity and air pollution findings in middle-aged women. Researchers observed that women in their study population exposed to higher levels of air pollution were more likely to have higher levels and proportion of body fat and lower lean body mass.
In short, middle-aged women exposed to more air pollution were more likely to be obese.
But why? What does air pollution have to do with body weight? Let’s review three competing theories about how air pollution contributes to obesity.
Oxidative stress & Inflammation
Oxidative stress is a term that describes the breakdown of tissues (or any substance) by combining with oxygen. It’s a complex chemical reaction. The broad strokes are when toxic oxygen molecules (called “free radicals”)react with human tissue; it causes inflammation.
A normal oxidation level occurs in our body all the time, and ideally, our cells can handle it. That is until our bodies are assaulted by toxic levels of free radicals from air pollution!
When this happens, our healthy repair processes are overwhelmed with oxidative stress, causing tissue damage and inflammation. Chronic exposure to excess toxins means that damage and inflammation are constantly occurring.
This chronic inflammation leads to fatigue, pain, and mood imbalance. But, the most direct link to obesity is how this inflammation affects our gut microbiome.
A healthy microbiome is responsible for producing hormones that regulate appetite, fat storage, and blood sugar processing. When under inflammatory stress, our microbiome can’t function as it should, and we experience cravings, excess fat storage, and interference with our insulin cycle. All of these effects can directly contribute to obesity.
Increased Risk for Chronic Diseases
The inflammation described above isn’t the usual, healthy kind of cell and tissue repair. This inflammation is toxic and, as we already said, interferes with normal bodily functions, especially regarding insulin balance.
With inflammation comes stress and disease, and with stress comes the hormone cortisol. You can read about the damaging effects of chronic stress in our Betr Blog article here.
For now, it’s essential to know that constantly elevated cortisol interferes with healthy blood sugar processing. This interference leads to fat storage, insulin resistance, chronic high blood sugar, and cravings, all of which contribute to obesity and chronic disease, which leads to more stress. The unhealthy cycle builds on itself.
Air pollution isn’t only related to diabetes. As we discussed in the first section, it also contributes to lung disease, heart disease, and overall mortality from chronic conditions. On top of that, the link between obesity, other chronic conditions, and inflammation is well known.
While still a theory, the cluster of air pollution, obesity, and increased chronic disease should be a focus of future research.
Decreased Physical Activity
This particular theory is interesting because it’s less a theory about what happens inside our body and more a view of how we behaviorally respond to air pollution.
Studies have shown poor air quality to be a factor in whether or not people participate in physical activity in their leisure time. There is a link between higher levels of pollution and lower levels of physical activity.
In some cases, avoiding outdoor exercise because of air pollution may be neccessary. For example, poor air quality might put you at greater risk for a significant asthma attack if you have asthma. In that situation, avoiding exercising outdoors with poor air quality makes sense.
However, the SWAN study reported that exercise was a factor that could lessen the obesity rate in individuals exposed to more air pollution. It’s a real double-edged sword!
There are several theories about how air pollution is linked to obesity, including increased oxidate stress, inflammation, higher rates of chronic disease, and decreased physical activity.
What does Betr have to do with air pollution?
At this point, you might say, “I thought Betr was about eating, not air pollution!”
And you’re right. The reason we’re focusing on air pollution isn’t that we’re trying to stop you from using fossil fuels. It’s about awareness!
One of Betr’s primary focuses is helping you understand the health and wellness challenges you face due to the toxic atmosphere surrounding you. In the case of air pollution, it is the literal atmosphere causing these issues. But there are many other hidden sources of inflammation in our daily lives.
Betr focuses on bringing awareness to these toxins so that you can avoid them. You can’t avoid breathing air, but many other sources of inflammation are easy to avoid once you know where to find them!
Removing food additives, excess sugar, salt, fat, toxic cosmetics, and other unnatural, potentially harmful chemicals from your routine makes a big difference in countering the damage caused by air pollution.
Using food as the medicine to heal your inflammation is the first step to reversing the effects of the damage to your health. Once your body isn’t overhwlmed by battling toxic inflammation from poor nutrition and stress, it can more effectively repair the damage caused by unavoidable sources of toxicity, like air pollution.
In the modern world, it’s virtually impossible to remove ALL sources of toxicity from our lives – take a look at our article A PSA on PFAs! That’s why it’s vital to remove inflammatory substances where and when you can!
Using Betr protocol to remove known sources of inflammation can heal our bodies and minimize the damage from unavoidable toxins, like air pollution.
Analyzing Air Pollution
The SWAN study is just the most recent research showing the relationship between the toxic environment and our internal health. Regarding air pollution, we’ve learned the following:
- Air pollution is primarily byproducts from human activity suspended in the atmosphere. These byproducts can cause immediate or chronic adverse health effects when inhaled.
- Research shows that air pollution is directly linked to an increased risk of death by lung cancer, cardiovascular issues, and the development of other chronic diseases.
- There are several theories about how air pollution is linked to obesity, including increased oxidate stress, inflammation, higher rates of chronic disease, and decreased physical activity.
- Using the Betr protocol to remove known sources of toxic inflammation can heal our bodies and minimize the damage from unavoidable toxins, like air pollution.
Unfortunately, even though we’re starting to realize the importance of keeping our air clean, pollution is a reality for most of the world’s population.
The good news is that we can use Betr to heal our gut, reverse inflammation, and learn to avoid other toxins that could be silently harming our health!
Explore Betr's risk-free trial to see if you could benefit from using food as medicine to rebuild your microbiome and realize the healthy potential you never knew you were missing!