Air pollution: can diet be a shield?
Poor air quality features in so many lives, often posing a hidden risk to our health. So researchers at the NYU School of Medicine in New York investigated how adopting a Mediterranean diet might reduce the risk of pollution-related death. Of course, the Mediterranean diet – rich in whole grains, fruit, vegetables, olive oil, fish, and poultry – is regularly hailed as the gold standard for food for better health, with studies linking it with improved cardiovascular health, reduced age-related weight gain, and a decreased risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and breast cancer.
However, the researchers’ clever insight was in considering the diet’s rich variety of antioxidants, which help our bodies deal with oxidized molecules called free radicals. Analysing 17 years of data from a national retired persons health study of more than half a million people, the researchers tracked how strictly each person adhered to the Mediterranean diet and estimated their exposure to three atmospheric pollutants: fine particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrous oxide (NO2), and ozone (O3).
While the data was far from perfect, after examining deaths from all causes, deaths from cardiovascular disease and deaths from heart attack, the researchers confirmed the benefits of a diet high in antioxidants and declared their results consistent with their theory that particle air pollution caused by fossil fuel combustion adversely affects health by inducing oxidative stress and inflammation.
The worse the air pollution, the better it becomes to boost our antioxidants to combat oxidative stress and blunt the adverse effects of exposure. And the way to do it is to eat more real food.
Make eating real food Just Routine