Climate Change Effect: Global Warming Could Increase Diabetes

New study connects global warming to diabetes.
A person receives a test for diabetes during Care Harbor LA free medical clinic in Los Angeles, California on September 11, 2014. Mario Anzuoni/REUTERS

As climate change raises temperatures raround the world, the number of diabetes cases is also increasing. The two conditions are linked, says a new study that found the number of diabetes diagnoses increased when temperatures rose by 1 degree Celsius.

The study, published Monday in the journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, analyzed data regarding the number of diabetes diagnoses issued between 1996 and 2013 and found the number of diabetics rose by 3.1 per 10,000 people as the average temperature rose by 1 degree Celsius or 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

Although the study couldn’t determine why rising temperatures resulted in rising cases of diabetes, researchers suggested that the link could be due to lack of brown fat or brown adipose tissue, a natural fat the body relies on to keep warm when temperatures drop. If temperatures are warm, that’s less work that brown fat has to do to keep the body warm.

“Our data are consistent with the hypothesis that a decrease in BAT activity with increasing environmental temperature may deteriorate glucose metabolism and increase the incidence of diabetes,” the study authors wrote.

Researchers also found an increase in instances of obesity wherever climate change was prevalent. When temperatures rose 1 degree Celsius, obesity, a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, increased by 0.173 percent. After zeroing in on the prevalence of obesity in each state in the U.S., researchers found the number of diabetes cases increased by 2.9 additional cases per 10,000 people with each 1 degree temperature increase.

When examining temperature’s relation to specific conditions for Type 2 diabetes around the globe, as temperatures rose by 1 degree Celsius, obesity rose by 0.3 percent and high fasting blood sugar cases rose by 0.2 percent, the study said.

The research appears to be in line with a separate 2015 study that suggested exposure to cold temperatures could be a method of therapy for diabetics, because when temperatures were colder the body increased brown fat mass and activity.

More than 29 million Americans are currently living with diabetes, 90 to 95 percent of whom suffer from Type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control.