Fortunately, the United States has made progress cleaning up our air quality over the past four decades. We still have a ways to go, as do other countries globally—especially considering almost 4 million deaths annually are linked to air pollution. It’s possible, however, that certain vitamins can help reverse pollution’s negative effects on our health.
Something’s in the Air
Smog is detrimental to our health. Why? Fine particle pollution has proven to negatively affect cardiovascular health (and also bone health.) Fine particles are bits of pollution that are 2.5 micrometers in diameter. They are microscopic and inhalable. And when we breathe in these particles, they are able to penetrate the lungs, enter our bloodstream, and travel throughout our body.
These tiny particles are known as PM2.5, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. These particulates are linked to increase inflammation in our systems. In populations that have high-particulate air pollution, the consequences over time can include heart attacks, cancer (especially lung), and premature births and deaths. A recent study also showed that pollution from PM2.5 and vehicle emission (black carbon) decreases calcium and can increase the risk for broken bones and osteoporosis in older adults.
Vitamins to the Rescue!
A study out of Columbia University recently reported that Vitamin B supplementation may help reverse some negative physiological effects from exposure to air pollution. The researchers exposed healthy, non-smokers to fine particulate air for two hours; their cardiovascular and immune systems were negatively affected. The participants who were given B vitamins before and after the exposure showed reversal of the damage created approximately four weeks later.
Another study recently reported in The Lancet Planetary Health, revealed how air pollution affects bone health. As mentioned above, exposure to fine particle pollution can lower bone density because of decreased calcium. The researchers analyzed over 9 million patients who had been hospitalized for bone fractures over a seven-year period. The results showed a link to air pollution.
Supplementation and Nutrition
Neither study discussed the amount of Vitamin B or calcium supplementation that was given or how frequently. You may want to check with your health care provider before taking any kind of supplement just to be on the safest side. In the meanwhile, there is nothing stopping you from eating foods rich in specific nutrients!
Some foods rich in Vitamin B are: dark leafy greens, beans, fish, poultry, eggs, and fruits like oranges, papayas, and cantaloupe.
Some foods rich in calcium are: almonds, sunflower seeds, green beans, broccoli, sweet potatoes, kelp, sesame seeds, edamame, tofu, some fish (like sardines, clams, and rockfish), and of course, many dairy products and cheeses.
Obviously, the first line of defense is to support clean air measures and practices. Riding a bicycle (instead of driving) reduces pollution and gets you some exercise! You can check the EPA, the Clean Air Act, or your state’s website for tips on how to reduce pollution in our skies (and in our lungs.) And, eating a balanced, nutritious diet can help keep your immune system strong! You can also take this quiz and test your nutritional know-how.
Check out other articles, too, on GetThrive for more helpful, healthful tips for you and your family.