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Spending quality time in nature may lower heart disease, diabetes risk: Study

IANS Apr 24, 2024

Do you enjoy your time spent in nature? It may help lower inflammation levels, linked to the risk of heart disease and diabetes, finds a study.

While previous research linked exposure to the natural world with better mental and physical health, the new study published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity focussed on inflammation.

The study showed that frequent positive contact with nature was independently associated with lower circulating levels of three different indicators of inflammation -- “interleukin-6 (IL-6), a cytokine closely involved in the regulation of systemic inflammatory processes; C-reactive protein, which is synthesised in response to stimulation by IL-6 and other cytokines; and fibrinogen, a soluble protein present in blood plasma -- were measured, and structural equation modelling was conducted to detect the association between nature engagement and the three biomarkers.”

"By focusing on these inflammation markers, the study provides a biological explanation for why nature might improve health," said the team led by Anthony Ong, Professor in the Department of Psychology at Cornell University, US.

The study particularly showed "how it (enjoying nature) might prevent or manage diseases linked to chronic inflammation, like heart disease and diabetes."

For the study, the team included 1,244 participants who were assessed for physical health and provided comprehensive biological assessments via a physical exam, urine sample, and fasting morning blood draw.

"It's not just about how often people spend time outdoors, but also the quality of their experiences," said Ong.

Even when controlling for other variables such as demographics, health behaviours, medication, and general well-being, Ong said his team found that reduced levels of inflammation were consistently associated with more frequent positive contact with nature.

"It's good to remind ourselves that it's not just the quantity of nature," he said, "it's also the quality."

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