Air pollution is a major environmental problem and is a growing health threat, especially to people living in big cities and other urban areas. With the exception of natural disasters like volcanic eruptions and wildfires, human activity is often considered the sole contributor to the extreme levels of particulate matter found in the air. Air pollution is defined as a mixture of gases and particles, including ozone, carbon dioxide and particulate matter. Inhaling this polluted air, especially air that contains fine particulate matter of at least 2.5 micrometers in diameter and smaller, can bring about detrimental effects on the quality and length of human life, including asthma, chronic lung infection and even cardiovascular disease.
According to the World Health Organization, air pollution kills about seven million people worldwide every year, with nine out of 10 people breathing highly polluted air. This emphasizes the need to support respiratory health. Fortunately, you can make some simple lifestyle changes that can help protect yourself against the health-damaging effects of air pollution.
Good health comes in small packages
Boosting your immune system is a good way to prevent the adverse effects of air pollution to your health. One way to do this is by eating a healthy diet chock-full of micronutrients that provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can help fight off the harmful health effects. Here are five micronutrients you should consider adding to your diet:
The B-vitamin group is known for supporting cellular health, particularly the cell’s function on repairing DNA damage. A study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that high doses of B-vitamins could completely offset the damage done by fine particulate matter. In this study, an international team of scientists aimed to determine if exposure to PM2.5 could be mitigated by daily B-vitamins supplementation. They found that B-vitamins reduced the effect of PM2.5 by 28 to 76 percent. According to lead author Jia Zhong from Harvard School of Public Health, their dosage number was high and that further studies are needed to expand on their pilot.
“I think that B vitamins are a likely hope that we can potentially utilize as an individualized treatment to complement the policy regulations to minimize the impacts of air pollution,” said Zhong in a statement.
Vitamin C is a powerful and essential antioxidant that can protect the body from free radicals, harmful molecules that damage cells. These free radicals can form when air pollution enters the lungs. Studies have shown that these harmful molecules are linked to heart disease, cancer and respiratory diseases. Researchers from Imperial College in London observed that the risk of admission to the hospital for asthma among people with low vitamin C levels was 1.2 times higher than those who regularly took vitamin C. (Related: Vitamin C lowers harmful effects of air pollution, study finds.)
Vitamin E is another antioxidant that is highly beneficial for people who are constantly exposed to air pollution. Combining both vitamins E and C can ensure proper support for cardiovascular health and the eradication of free radicals.
Omega-3 fatty acids
These healthy fats are often found in foods like avocado or particularly fatty fish like salmon and tuna. Omega-3s have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can help strengthen the heart and offset the damage done by air pollution. A study published in the Journal of American College of Cardiology revealed that omega-3s have cardioprotective effects against air pollution.
These phytochemicals are often found in cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts and broccoli. Not only does sulforaphane have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxifying properties, it also helps cleanse the effects of air pollution exposure.
Protect yourself from the harmful effects of air pollution by adding these key micronutrients to your diet. Find out more about the harmful effects of air pollution at Pollution.news.