Association between long-term exposure to ambient air pollution and obesity remains inconclusive, and the evidence from rural areas was limited. Thus, this study aimed to assess the association between ambient air pollution and obesity based on different anthropometric indices in Chinese rural adults, and further to compare the effect sizes of different air pollution types. A total of 38,824 participants (aged 18-79 years) were recruited from the Henan Rural Cohort Study. Logistic and multivariable linear regression model were used to examine the association between ambient air pollution exposure (including particulate matter with aerodynamic diameters ≤ 1.0 μm (PM1), ≤2.5 μm (PM2.5), and ≤10 μm (PM10), and nitrogen dioxide (NO2)) and obesity as well as obese anthropometric indices (including body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC), waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), waist-to-height ratio (WHtR), body fat percentage (BFP), and visceral fat index (VFI)). The potential effect modifications were also examined. Positive associations were found between long-term exposure to PM1, PM2.5, PM10 and NO2 and obesity regardless of how obesity was defined (false discovery rate (FDR) < 0.05). Moreover, BMI, WC, WHR, WHtR, BFP, and VFI displayed increased trends with PM1, PM2.5, PM10 and NO2 concentrations increasing (all FDR<0.05). PM10 had the largest effects on obesity among the four types of air pollution. The elderly, women, individuals with low level of education and income, and those who had high fat diet were more vulnerable to the adverse effects of air pollution. In addition, the results of the sensitivity analysis showed that those associations between ambient air pollution and obesity remained robust. These findings suggest that long-term exposure to ambient air pollutant (particularly PM10) may be positively associated with obesity in Chinese rural adults, especially among the elderly, women, individuals with low education and income, as well as unhealthy lifestyles.
Keywords: Air pollution; Anthropometric indices; Long-term; Obesity; Rural population.
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