Air Monitoring

Can Your Diet Protect You from Pollution?

Jun 13 2018 Read 186 Times

With air pollution responsible for a wide range of cardiovascular and respiratory complications, the quality of the air we breathe is a growing priority for all of us. Our exposure to air pollution can depend on a number of factors – the cleanliness of the air on our morning commute, concentration of dust in our workplace, the airwaves inside our homes – but there may be a new way to protect against the harmful effects of ingesting unclean air: our diet.

You are what you eat

A new study conducted by scientists at the NYU School of Medicine suggests that following a Mediterranean diet may actually be beneficial in safeguarding our bodies against poor air quality. Studying a group of almost 550,000 people with an average age of 62 from all over the United States over a period of 17 years, the paper found that those who stuck to the Med diet were at decreased risk of death by heart attack or cardiovascular diseases.

For every rise in 10 mg/m3 of long-term exposure to particulate matter (PM), those who did not follow the diet were 17% more likely to die from a cardiovascular disease, compared to just 5% more likely among those who did. Similarly, those who ate a Med diet were only 2% more likely to die from any cause for every 10ppb rise in long-term exposure to nitrous oxides (NOx), while those did not were 5% more likely to pass on.

It’s all in the antioxidants

The Mediterranean diet consists largely of fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, olive oil, whole grains, legumes and poultry. The antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory properties of these ingredients (and in particular, fruit, vegetables and healthy fats found in fish and oil) are thought to provide a certain resistance to the harmful effects of NOx and PM, although the study did not reveal any protection from ozone (O3).

It’s not the first investigation to reach such a conclusion, either. In February of this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave the following advice: “Initial studies, including those by EPA researchers, suggest that dietary supplements or medications with antioxidant or anti-inflammatory properties, such as fish oil and olive oil, have the potential to provide at least partial protection against air-pollution induced health effects in individuals with pre-existing cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.”

Good advice in any case

Regardless of how effective a Mediterranean diet is in combatting poor air quality, consuming plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and fish is advisable in any case. Not only does such a diet have a beneficial effect on the health of the person consuming it, it’s also kind to the environment and doesn’t place undue stress on Mother Earth.

Even just cutting down on the amount of red meat you consume is a considerable step in the right direction. The growing concern about global methane emissions from agriculture and dairy farming is indicative of the dangers posed by livestock with regards to climate change, so switching over to a healthier lifestyle can be good for you, your fellow humans and the planet as well.  

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International Environmental Technology June 2018

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