According to research published by the University of Colorado, Air pollution can negatively impact colon health. By altering normal gut flora, polluted air can result in chronic gastrointestinal diseases and obesity.
Air pollution has been frequently linked to chronic respiratory illness such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary diseases but this is the first incidence of research linking polluted air with gastrointestinal disorders. The study by the University of Colorado discovered changes in the gut bacteria that resulted directly from air pollution. The gastrointestinal tract contains thousands of microbes that are crucial for the breakdown and digestion of ingested food.
The study found altered microbial diversity in people living in areas with depleted ozone layers. The gut microbe had species of bacteria, which was known to be associated with obesity. The study linked smog with obesity-related conditions such as diabetes, heart diseases, and inflammatory bowel diseases. Tanya Alderete, assistant professor of integrative physiology said, “We know from previous research that air pollutants can have a whole host of adverse health effects. The takeaway from this paper is that some of those effects might be due to changes in the gut.”
With increasing urbanization, the pollution in U.S. cities has been increasing at an alarming rate. Last year, the Denver metro and North Front Range regions were demoted by the Environmental Protection Agency to “serious non-attainment” status as they didn’t meet previously set ozone standards.
At the same time, eight U.S. states got demoted due to their poor ozone quality. Recent reports that 8.8 million deaths per year are attributed directly to air pollution, which is significantly higher than those resulting from smoking.
Researchers have focused primarily on respiratory diseases when it came to air pollution.
Other studies by Tanya Alderete have also found a connection between uncontrolled blood sugar and pollution. Impaired glucose tolerance can progress to obesity-related diabetes. Increased visits to the emergency room with gastrointestinal complaints during days of increased air pollution have also been reported. Younger adults exposed to chronic pollution for years have higher risks for developing chronic Gastrointestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease.
The study by Alderete’s team sequenced whole genomes by using revolutionary technology to examine stool samples from more than 100 participants. They cross-referenced the degree of pollution on the addresses of participants and evaluated their exposure to depleted ozone layers and toxic nitrous oxide formed from fossil fuels.
Participants exposed to depleted ozone layers were found to have elevated levels of Bacteroides caecimuris, which has been linked with obesity by multiple studies.
Although the study is still in its early stages, early findings from the research strongly indicate the link between Air pollution, obesity, and chronic Gastrointestinal disorders.