Following a Mediterranean diet may blunt the effects of air pollution


The Mediterranean diet is popular among dieters because it has many health benefits, such as promoting weight loss and preventing heart attacks. According to a study, the diet can also “influence the association between long-term air pollution exposure and health effects.”

The study involved researchers from the New York University School of Medicine.

Antioxidants versus the negative side effects of air pollution

Chris Lim, a doctoral student at the university, noted that earlier studies have determined that dietary changes, such as the addition of antioxidants, can help blunt the negative effects of short-term exposure to high levels of air pollution. For the study, the researchers set out to confirm the long-term effects of the diet. (Related: The Mediterranean Diet Reduces Mortality From All Causes.)

The Mediterranean diet includes foods that are rich in molecules called antioxidants. These molecules can disarm free radicals, which are oxidized and highly reactive molecules that have been confirmed to cause cell and tissue damage.

The Mediterranean diet favors whole and single-ingredients and foods such as:

  • Fruits (e.g., apples, bananas, dates, figs, grapes, etc.)
  • Vegetables (e.g., Brussels sprouts, carrots, kale, onions, spinach, etc.)
  • Whole grains (e.g., barley, corn, rye, whole-grain bread and pasta, whole oats, etc.)
  • Legumes (e.g., beans, chickpeas, lentils, peanuts, pulses, etc.)
  • Healthy fats (e.g., avocados, avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil, olives, etc.)
  • Fish and seafood (e.g., clams, mackerel, salmon, sardines, trout, etc.)
  • Poultry (e.g., chicken, duck, turkey, etc.)

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Researchers examined data from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Diet and Health Study. The study covered a 17-year period which followed 548,699 individuals. The participants, who had an average age of 62 at enrollment, came from these six states: California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. Participants also came from two cities, Atlanta and Detroit.

During the 17-year study period, 126,835 participants from the study group died.

The researchers categorized the volunteers into five groups depending on their level of adherence to the Mediterranean diet. They also linked participants to estimates of long-term exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrous oxide (NO2), and ozone (O3) based on census tract information.

The researchers compared the participants who were least and most adherent to a Mediterranean diet. The results showed that:

  • Deaths from all causes went up by five percent for every 10 parts per billion (ppb) increase in long-term average NO2 exposure in those least adherent, compared to only two percent in the most adherent.
  • Cardiovascular disease deaths went up by 17 percent for every 10 micrograms per cubic meter (mcg/m3) increase in long-term average PM2.5 exposure in those least adherent, compared to only five percent in the most adherent.
  • Cardiovascular disease deaths went up by 10 percent for every 10 ppb increase in NO2 exposure in those least adherent, compared to only two percent in the most adherent.
  • Heart attack deaths went up by a whopping 20 percent for every 10 mcg/m3 increase in PM2.5 exposure in those least adherent, with only five percent reported in the most adherent.
  • Heart attack deaths went up by 12 percent for every single ppb increase in NO2 exposure in those least adherent, compared to only four percent in the most adherent.

The scientists also noted that following a Mediterranean diet didn’t seem to prevent the negative effects of long-term O3 exposure. They added that the diet didn’t reduce deaths from all causes, heart attack, or other heart problems linked to O3 exposure.

George Thurston, the senior study author, said that based on the confirmed benefits of a diet full of antioxidants, the results are consistent with the hypothesis that particle air pollution due to fossil fuel combustion negatively affects health by causing oxidative stress and inflammation.

Thurston, who is also the director of the Program in Exposure Assessment and Human Health Effects at the Department of Environmental Medicine at NYU School of Medicine, added that since one-fourth of the study population lived in areas that had air pollution levels of 10 mcg/m3 or more above the lowest exposure, following the Mediterranean diet can help minimize the negative effects of air pollution in “a substantial population in the United States.”

Visit Health.news to read more articles about the many health benefits of the Mediterranean diet.

Sources include:

IntegrativePractitioner.com

Healthline.com



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