Poor air quality is making you fat, says science


Whether your job has you on the go or sitting behind a desk, we all repeatedly hear the common recommendations for staying fit: Eat healthy. Exercise regularly. Get enough sleep.

Well, for those who follow these steps to a T, it might be tough to hear that researchers have linked obesity to a factor mostly out of your control when you’re at work or school – air quality. Props for not scarfing down the three leftover bagels in the break room; unfortunately, the pollutants you breathe day in and day out may be taking away some of that progress.

According to a 2016 study recently published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, rats exposed to Beijing’s highly polluted air experienced weight gain, heart and lung problems and metabolic dysfunction, compared to rats that breathed filtered air. Specifically, pregnant rats exposed to the unfiltered air were significantly heavier at the end of pregnancy.

Forbes notes the research builds on previous studies conducted on humans and mice, both of which found similar results in subjects exposed to common airborne pollutants. This research indicates that occupants in many areas of the world are already suffering a wide range of nocuous health effects from the air they breathe.

While many people believe this type of harmful air pollution is only found outdoors in urban areas, pollution is much more widespread, and can actually be two to five times more concentrated in indoor environments. In other words, the areas where people spend most of their time are also potentially having a negative impact.

Reducing outdoor air pollution and improving indoor air quality are therefore integral to improving public health. In the past, we’ve written about simple measures your organization can take to prioritize air quality. Of course, as the study shows, targeted air filtration is a good place to start.