In the first study of its kind, scientists have used blood markers to determine that non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke could have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Dr. Theodore C Friedman, chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine at Charles R Drew University in Los Angeles, and his colleagues used data from 6,100 adults and examined their blood samples to determine the levels of cotinine, a tobacco alkaloid that’s also a metabolic byproduct of nicotine.

Those who were non-smokers but whose cotinine levels were above a certain amount were deemed “secondhand smokers,” and the researchers found that compared to typical non-smokers, secondhand smokers showed signs of raised insulin resistance and other factors that can lead to type 2 diabetes.

In addition, the rate of type 2 diabetes in the secondhand smokers was similar to that of the current smokers, and body mass index (BMI) readings, a measure of obesity, were higher among secondhand smokers than non-smokers. But although obesity is a leading cause of type 2 diabetes, the elevated BMIs didn’t seem to be responsible for the increased rate of diabetes among non-smokers.

As a result of his findings, Dr. Friedman has now called for further studies to determine whether secondhand smoke can actually cause type 2 diabetes.

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