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Dark Tidings for Diabetes

Nighttime Light Increases Risk

Artificial light linked to higher diabetes risk

By John Salak –

A whopping 37 million American adults have diabetes–more than 11 percent of the population. Another 96 million have prediabetes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns.

These numbers are scary. But they may only worsen as Americans and others feed some of the disease’s leading causes by gaining more weight and becoming less active.

Unfortunately, the diabetes news only just took another hit recently when a report shows outdoor artificial light at night (LAN) may be helping the disease to spread. Chinese researchers claim that LAN and impaired blood glucose may increase the risk of diabetes.

Making matters worse is that exposure to this artificial light is now ubiquitous in urban environments and more rural locations.

“Despite over 80% of the world’s population’s exposure to light pollution at night, this problem has gained limited attention from scientists until recent years,” the researchers reported.

Science has already recognized that light pollution interferes with the natural circadian rhythms of animals and insects, resulting in a loss of biodiversity and, in extreme cases, death.

Artificial LAN may cause metabolic dysregulation by altering the timing of food intake. Some studies have found that exposed animals develop glucose intolerance, exhibiting elevated blood sugar and insulin. Other research indicates that LAN also can lead to increased body mass and lower glucose tolerance.

People exposed to extended periods of artificial LAN also face health issues, such as a greater increased risk of coronary heart disease and obesity. Some past research even contends that LAN in the bedroom can lead to the development of diabetes.

The recent Chinese study, which measured regional differences in LAN exposure against diabetes rates, discovered that those areas with the highest exposures also had a relative 28-percent increase in the prevalence of diabetes compared to regions with the lowest exposure.

Even after adjusting for other important diabetes risk factors, the team noted that chronic exposure to residential outdoor LAN was positively associated with blood glucose levels, insulin resistance and diabetes prevalence. It also was inversely associated with beta cell function.

In simplest terms, for every 42 people living in highly exposed regions, one more case of diabetes would not have occurred in areas with the lowest levels.

The findings are just another indication of the widespread consequences of light pollution. It is especially concerning since about 85 percent of the world’s population and 99 percent of those in the U.S. and Europe get exposure to this artificial light.

 

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