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Am J Clin Nutr. 2019 Jan 1;109(1):99-108. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqy232.

Regional and traffic-related air pollutants are associated with higher consumption of fast food and trans fat among adolescents.

Author information

Division of Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine.
Institute for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research, Department of Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA.
Department of Integrative Physiology, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO.



Air pollution exposures are novel contributors to the growing childhood obesity epidemic. One possible mechanism linking air pollution exposures and obesity is through changes in food consumption patterns.


The aim of this study was to examine the longitudinal association between childhood exposure to air pollutants and changes in diet among adolescents.


School-age children were enrolled in the Southern California Children's Health Study during 1993-1994 (n = 3100) and were followed for 4-8 y. Community-level regional air pollutants [e.g., nitrogen dioxide (NO2), elemental carbon (EC), and fine particles with aerodynamic diameter <2.5 µm (PM2.5)] were measured at central monitoring stations. Line dispersion modeling was used to estimate concentrations of traffic-related air pollutants based on nitrogen oxides (NOx) at participants' residential addresses. In addition, self-reported diet information was collected annually using a structured youth/adolescent food-frequency questionnaire during 1997-2001. Generalized linear mixed-effects models were used in the association analyses.


Higher exposures to regional and traffic-related air pollutants were associated with intake of a high-trans-fat diet, after adjusting for confounders including socioeconomic status and access to fast food in the community. A 2-SD (12.2 parts per billion) increase in regional NO2 exposure was associated with a 34% increased risk of consuming a high-trans-fat diet compared with a low-trans-fat diet (OR: 1.34; 95% CI: 1.05, 1.72). In addition, higher exposures to acid vapor, EC, PM2.5, and non-freeway NOx were all associated with higher consumption of dietary trans fat (all P < 0.04). Notably, higher exposures to regional NO2, acid vapor, and EC were also associated with a higher consumption of fast food (all P < 0.05).


Childhood exposures to regional and traffic-related air pollutants were associated with increased consumption by adolescents of trans fat and fast foods. Our results indicate that air pollution exposures may contribute to obesogenic behaviors. This study was registered at as NCT03379298.

[Available on 2020-01-01]

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