Air Pollution, Oxidative Stress, and Diabetes: a Life Course Epidemiologic Perspective

Curr Diab Rep. 2019 Jul 19;19(8):58. doi: 10.1007/s11892-019-1181-y.


Purpose of review: Ambient air pollution is strongly linked to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. We summarize available published evidence regarding similar associations with diabetes across the life course.

Recent findings: We performed a life-course survey of the recent literature, including prenatal, gestational, childhood/adolescence, and adult exposures to air pollution. Oxidative stress is identified as a key factor in both metabolic dysfunction and the effects of air pollution exposure, especially from fossil fuel combustion products, providing a plausible mechanism for air pollution-diabetes associations. The global burden of diabetes attributed to air pollution exposure is substantial, with a recent estimate that ambient fine particulate matter (PM2.5) exposure contributes to more than 200,000 deaths from diabetes annually. There is a growing body of literature linking air pollution exposure during childhood and adulthood with diabetes etiology and related cardiometabolic biomarkers. A small number of studies found that exposure to air pollution during pregnancy is associated with elevated gestational diabetes risk among mothers. Studies examining prenatal air pollution exposure and diabetes risk among the offspring, as well as potential transgenerational effects of air pollution exposure, are very limited thus far. This review provides insight into how air pollutants affect diabetes and other metabolic dysfunction-related diseases across the different life stages.

Keywords: Air pollution; Diabetes; Oxidative stress; Particulate matter.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants
  • Air Pollution*
  • Diabetes, Gestational*
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Pregnancy


  • Air Pollutants