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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

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Nutrition and Exposure to Air Pollution

By Michael McBurney

Increasingly, studies link air pollution, exposure to fine particulate matter in the air which causes haze, with lung cancer. Fine particulate matter from motor vehicles and power generation stations, the main sources of urban pollution, cause oxidative injury and inflammation in the bronchiole and lung tissues and are linked to increased risk of asthma.

The health consequences of air pollution are particularly felt in Beijing with more than 200 days being labeled as ‘unhealthy’ and smog being so severe last week that a ‘red alert’ was issued. China’s smog may make headlines but it can be much worse, eg. India. About half of the children living in Delhi have irreversible lung damage. Air quality fails to meet environmental guidelines established by the World Health Organization (WHO) for 80% of the global population.

Fine particulates, measuring less than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5), can move through the airways into the lungs. In a new review, essential micronutrients, vitamins B, C, D and E, and long-chain polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, may help the body cope with harmful PM2.5.

Omega-3 supplementation (2g/d) helped prevent adverse reactions to PM2.5 among elderly individuals living in Mexico City. The rationale is that cytokines generated from omega-3 fatty acids, versus omega-6 precursors, are less pro-inflammatory. In addition, antioxidant vitamins (C and E) help neutralize the harmful effect of PM-induced oxidative stress and associated free radicals.

Our bodies need vitamins and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids to maintain healthy cells. When our bodies are challenged by exposure to air pollution, it is even more important to consume recommended intakes of vitamins. It is important to maintain blood and tissue antioxidant vitamin and omega-3 concentrations to maintain cellular health.

Main Citation

Szabolcs P, Holguin F, Wood LG, Clougherty JE, Raederstorff D, Antal M, Weber P, Eggersdorfer M. Nutritional solutions to reduce risks of negative health impacts of air pollution. 2015 Nutrients doi: 10.3390/nu7125539

Other Citations

Shi X, Liu H, Song Y. Pollutional haze as a potential cause of lung cancer. 205 J Thorac Dis doi: 10.3978/j.issn.2072-1439.2015.05.04

Guarnieri M, Balmes JR. Outdoor air pollution and asthma. 2014 Lancet doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60617-6

Romieu I, Garcia-Esteban R, Sunyer J, Alcaraz-Zubeldia M, Velasco, Holguin F. The effect of supplementation with ômega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on markers of oxidative stress in elderly exposed to PM25. 2008 Environ Health Perspect doi: 10.1289/ehp.10578

Possamai FP, Junior AS, Parisotto EB, Moratelli AM, Inacio DB, Garlet TR, Dal-Pizzol F, Filho DW. Antioxidant intervention compensates oxidative stress in blood of subjects exposed to emissions from a coal electric-power plant in South Brazil. 2009 Environ Toxic Pharmacol doi: 10.1016/j.etabp.2010.05.006