HomeHealth articlespollutionCan Environment Pollution Make You Obese?

Obesity is the lodgment of excessive fat in the body, which is now associated with environmental pollution. Read the article to know more about it.

Written by

Dr. Osheen Kour

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Published At August 29, 2022
Reviewed AtNovember 9, 2022


Obesity and metabolic problems are fast-growing diseases in many developing countries, usually associated with unhealthy eating habits, a lack of physical activities, and prolonged sleep after meals. But now, various pieces of research have shown evidence that a polluted environment is one of the major factors causing obesity in all age groups. Many health problems such as respiratory, cardiovascular, and heart disease are also previously associated with environmental pollution leading to obesity and metabolic disorder. Pollutants in the air (passive smoking, automobile exhausts) affect the development process in young children at an early age, hampers their overall growth, and thus makes them obese. It has become a global concern in various developing countries due to the highly polluted environment and poor living conditions of people worldwide.

What Factors in the Polluted Environment Can Cause Obesity?

  • Nitrous Oxide (NO) - is emitted by automobiles and some other machines.

  • Nitrogen Dioxide(NO2) - is produced from vehicles and some combustion of fossil fuels.

  • Particulate Matter (PM10 & PM2.5) - is the air's dust, smoke, or dirt.

  • Ozone (O3) – Ozone gas (smog) is present in the air and causes damage to the lungs.

What Is the Impact of Pollution-Induced Obesity on Different Age Groups?

  • Adults: Environmental pollution seems to cause various health issues like heart and respiratory diseases, which lead to obesity.

  • Children: It has been found that childhood obesity is more prevalent these days. Children living in metropolitan cities are more prone to this disease as the harmful elements in the indoor air (nitrous oxide, particulate matter) are found to get accumulated in the body at the time of birth, thus, increasing the BMI (body mass index) and making young children obese at a later age also altering their immune system.

  • Women: Pollution can affect pregnant women, which can cause abnormalities in fetus growth and development, leading to lifelong obesity and other health problems.

What Is Childhood Obesity?

It is a severe condition in children causing an exponential increase in body weight and BMI. In addition, the state leads to various diseases and developmental issues in children. Diet and other related factors are the main reasons for childhood obesity; air pollution is now being added to the list. Toxic substances in the air increase the risk of obesity by accumulating in the body and raising BMI. For example, the nitrogen dioxide released by motor vehicles is the cause of increased weight gain in children and other air pollutants. Children born and brought up in heavily polluted areas weigh much heavier than those who breathe clean air.

What Problems Does Childhood Obesity Cause With Growing Age?

  • Obesity leads to disturbed sleep.

  • It also causes breathing difficulty even during sleep (sleep apnea).

  • Obesity leads to menstrual problems in females.

  • Fatty liver and coronary artery disease are also associated with obesity.

  • Obesity also leads to psychosocial issues and depression in adolescence due to low self-esteem and a negative image of one's body.

How Can Pollution Cause Obesity in Various Aspects?

  • Pollution causes various health issues like cardiovascular problems, and respiratory diseases lead to metabolic issues, causing an increase in weight and obesity.

  • It also reduces the involvement of people in physical activity who choose to stay indoors and get obese due to increased calorie intake and lack of exercise.

  • Air pollution can affect the growth and development of a child at a very early age and make them obese.

  • It also has a fatalistic effect on a pregnancy, causing low birth weight babies with congenital abnormalities and other problems.

  • The researchers have found micro-level evidence based on BMI (Body Mass Index) and AQI (Air Quality Index) from a study in Chinese cities that proved the relationship between air pollution and body weight, leading to various other health problems.

  • One international study shows that obesity in young children is caused by indoor air pollutants like nitrous oxide and other metals, thus establishing a link between environmental pollution and increased body weight.

  • Another study on rats in China showed that low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) and other diseases were found more in rats exposed to polluted air than in clean air. Therefore, proving that air pollution can, in turn, lead to obesity.

  • Some researchers also show that prolonged exposure to sunlight and particulate matter present in the air are factors causing obesity.

What Are the Other Health Issues Caused by Pollution?

What Can Be Done to Prevent Obesity Due to Air Pollution?

  • Avoid toxic products.

  • Avoid inhalation of the smoke of any kind and smog.

  • Stay away from a polluted environment.

  • Improve living conditions.

  • Use good quality air purifiers.

  • Eat healthy food.

  • Get involved in regular exercise.

  • Regularly check your fuel appliances that can cause pollution.

  • Seek medical help if any of these health issues develop in your family.


Therefore, obesity due to air pollution is a global concern and requires serious interventions. Thus, we can conclude that environmental corruption can cause obesity and other associated diseases. The studies we have come across so far talk about obesity-related ecological pollution and how it affects the body and growth system. Air pollution causes some known health disorders and affects different age groups. Increased cholesterol levels and BMI in young children are also associated with environmental changes due to pollution, causing obesity and weight gain. To live healthily, eating a healthy diet and regular exercise should always be a priority which can help keep body weight in control. Also, breathing clean and fresh air is equally important for every age group.

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Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar
Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Pulmonology (Asthma Doctors)

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