Chronic exposure to air pollution particles increases the risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome: Findings from a natural experiment in Beijing

Yongjie Wei, Junfeng Zhang, Zhigang Li, Andrew Gow, Kian Fan Chung, Min Hu, Zhongsheng Sun, Limin Zeng, Tong Zhu, Guang Jia, Xiaoqian Li, Marlyn Duarte, Xiaoyan Tang

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68 Citations (Scopus)


Epidemiologic evidence suggests that air pollution is a risk factor for childhood obesity. Limited experimental data have shown that early-life exposure to ambient particles either increases susceptibility to diet-induced weight gain in adulthood or increases insulin resistance, adiposity, and inflammation. However, no data have directly supported a link between air pollution and non-diet-induced weight increases. In a rodent model, we found that breathing Beijing's highly polluted air resulted in weight gain and cardiorespiratory and metabolic dysfunction. Compared to those exposed to filtered air, pregnant rats exposed to unfiltered Beijing air were significantly heavier at the end of pregnancy. At 8 wk old, the offspring prenatally and postnatally exposed to unfiltered air were significantly heavier than those exposed to filtered air. In both rat dams and their offspring, after continuous exposure to unfiltered air we observed pronounced histologic evidence for both perivascular and peribronchial inflammation in the lungs, increased tissue and systemic oxidative stress, dyslipidemia, and an enhanced proinflammatory status of epididymal fat. Results suggest that TLR2/4-dependent inflammatory activation and lipid oxidation in the lung can spill over systemically, leading to metabolic dysfunction and weight gain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2115-2122
Number of pages8
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes



  • Chronic inflammation
  • Metabolic dysfunction
  • Particulate matter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Biotechnology
  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology

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