Associations of Residential Long-Term Air Pollution Exposures and Satellite-Derived Greenness with Insulin Resistance in German Adolescents

Environ Health Perspect. 2016 Aug;124(8):1291-8. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1509967. Epub 2016 Feb 5.


Background: Epidemiological studies have identified associations between air pollution and green space access with type 2 diabetes in adults. However, it remains unclear to what extent associations with greenness are attributable to air pollution exposure.

Objectives: We aimed to investigate associations between long-term exposure to air pollution and satellite-derived greenness with insulin resistance in adolescents.

Methods: A total of 837 participants of two German birth cohorts (LISAplus and GINIplus) were included in the analysis. Generalized additive models were used to determine the association of individual satellite-derived greenness defined by the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), long-term air pollution exposure estimated by land-use regression (LUR) models with insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) in 15-year-old adolescents. Models were adjusted for study area, cohort, socioeconomic, and individual characteristics such as body mass index, physical activity, and smoking.

Results: Increases of 2 SDs in nitrogen dioxide (NO2; 8.9 μg/m3) and particulate matter ≤ 10 μm in diameter (PM10; 6.7 μg/m3) were significantly associated with 11.4% (95% CI: 4.4, 18.9) and 11.4% (95% CI: 0.4, 23.7) higher HOMA-IR. A 2-SD increase in NDVI in a 1,000-m buffer (0.2 units) was significantly associated with a lower HOMA-IR (-7.4%; 95% CI: -13.3, -1.1). Associations tended to be stronger in adolescents who spent more time outside and in those with lower socioeconomic status. In combined models including both air pollution and greenness, only NO2 remained significantly associated with HOMA-IR, whereas effect estimates for all other exposures attenuated after adjustment for NO2.

Conclusions: NO2, often considered as a marker of traffic, was independently associated with insulin resistance. The observed association between higher greenness exposure and lower HOMA-IR in adolescents might thus be attributable mainly to the lower co-exposure to traffic-related air pollution.

Citation: Thiering E, Markevych I, Brüske I, Fuertes E, Kratzsch J, Sugiri D, Hoffmann B, von Berg A, Bauer CP, Koletzko S, Berdel D, Heinrich J. 2016. Associations of residential long-term air pollution exposures and satellite-derived greenness with insulin resistance in German adolescents. Environ Health Perspect 124:1291-1298;

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollution / statistics & numerical data*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*
  • Male
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / analysis
  • Particulate Matter / analysis


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter
  • Nitrogen Dioxide