Secondhand Smoke's Newest Side Effect
You know that lighting up something nicknamed a “cancer stick” isn’t going to keep you kicking for years to come—and that hanging out around smokers can increase your risk for developing lung cancer. But here’s something else to keep in mind the next time a friend or loved one pulls out a pack: Adults who are exposed to secondhand smoke have higher rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes than do nonsmokers who aren’t exposed to passive smoking, according to new research presented at The Endocrine Society’s Annual Meeting in Houston on Sunday.
In a study of more than 6,300 smokers, nonsmokers, and secondhand smokers, researchers at Charles R. Drew University in Los Angeles examined the results of several diabetes-related tests and looked at levels of cotinine, a component of nicotine, in study participants’ blood to determine their exposure to cigarette smoke.
After controlling for age, sex, race, alcohol consumption, and physical activity, investigators found that compared with nonsmokers, secondhand smokers were more insulin resistant (a precursor to type 2 diabetes), had higher fasting blood sugar levels, and had higher levels of hemoglobin A1c, a measure of blood sugar control over the past three months.
Researchers also discovered that secondhand smokers had higher BMIs than nonsmokers. But since obesity can increase risk factors for type 2 diabetes on its own, the scientists’ next step was to determine whether excess body weight—rather than secondhand smoke—was driving up hemoglobin A1c levels. But after controlling for BMI, secondhand smokers and current smokers still had higher hemoglobin A1c levels compared with nonsmokers.
"This finding shows that the association between secondhand smoke and type 2 diabetes was not due to obesity," said study co-author Theodore C. Friedman, MD, PhD, chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine at Charles R. Drew University, in a statement. "More studies are needed to show whether secondhand smoke is a cause of diabetes."
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