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Climate Change Will Give 100,000 Americans Diabetes Every Year


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer


A smoggy, baked downtown LA. trekandshoot/Shutterstock

Unless you’ve not been paying attention to the world around you at all, you’re probably aware that climate change will cause sea levels to rise, melt away the ice caps, boost the power of hurricanes, droughts, floods, and wildfires, and so on.

A startling new study has reminded us that a warmer world will make our health a lot worse too. Writing in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, a team of researchers from the Netherland’s Leiden University Medical Center found that, at the current rate of warming, there will be an extra 100,000 cases of diabetes in the US every year for the foreseeable future.


The team have been intrigued by the connection between temperature and diabetes for some time now. Back in 1980, 108 million adults around the world had the condition. As of 2014, that figure was around 422 million, an increase of 390 percent. The World Health Organization estimates that diabetes will be the 7th leading cause of death by 2030.

Looking at the period of time from 1996 and 2013, the team plotted the annual temperature increases alongside the number of new diabetes diagnoses in every single American state. They found that, after taking into account obesity and other factors, for each 1°C (1.8°F) increase, the number of diabetes cases per state increased by around 2.9 extra diagnoses per 10,000 people.

Expanded across the entire US, this rate of warming will give 100,000 Americans diabetes every single year. So what on Earth is the connection between the two?

This study alone doesn’t attempt to provide evidence linking diabetes with temperature, but the researchers are fairly confident that this correlation does in fact indicate causation.


Although it has many causes, type 2 diabetes is strongly linked to a poor diet and being overweight – your body produces either insufficient amounts of glucose-fragmenting insulin, or your insulin becomes ineffective. This causes a dangerous excess of sugar to build up in your bloodstream.

Previous studies have shown that people’s metabolisms – the breakdown of molecules to provide energy – tends to be higher in colder climates, presumably as their bodies need to keep themselves warmer. As the environmental temperature rises, metabolism tends to slow down and the bloodstream contains more sugar.

The Dutch researchers use these studies to suggest that this is the cause of the 100,000 diabetes increase, with almost all new cases being of the type 2 variety.

Their findings have arrived shortly after another comprehensive report linking health to climate change. Signed off by 400,000 of America’s top clinical practitioners, this review noted that, among other things, the rising mercury will significantly exacerbate the problems of people with chronic diseases.


[H/T: The Los Angeles Times]


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