Pollution and population density could increase BMI and blood pressure in children

Air pollution, green spaces or population density could affect children’s weight and blood pressure, according to two recent ISGlobal studies.

The most populated and polluted environments could increase BMI in the first years of life. Image by Vane Monte on Pixabay

A recent study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) has concluded that living in urban environments with high air pollution and high population density could increase the Body Mass Index (BMI) in the first years of life, while living in green environments or with good land uses (variety of buildings and services) could decrease it.

The study, which has been funded by the Fundación la Marató de TV3, has sought to simultaneously assess the effect of multiple environmental exposures on growth and childhood obesity. With this purpose, it has analyzed the data of 79,992 boys and girls. The relationship between contamination and increased BMI could be explained by oxidative stress and inflammation caused by contamination, which in turn would affect fetal growth, say the authors.

The early years of life are a very sensitive time; they represent a window of special vulnerability to environmental exposures that can permanently affect the structure, physiology and metabolism of the child’s body.”
Martine Vrijheid, researcher and coordinator of the study.

The ISGlobal has innovatee and studied the effects of all exposures together (as occurs in an urban environment), since “previous studies show inconsistent results and have not evaluated exposures simultaneously”, says Jeroen de Bont, first author of the study.

Effects on blood pressure

Another recent study also led by Vrijheid, has analyzed 4,279 girls and boys to show that high levels of air and noise pollution and high density of buildings, during pregnancy and after childbirth, increase the blood pressure in 5 year olds. “Children with high blood pressure are more likely to develop hypertension or cardiovascular diseases as adults,” adds the study leader.

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