Vispi Speaks: Air Pollution Health Effects and Nutritional Solutions


December 20, 2019

Post by

Vispi Kanga

In India air pollution is at unbearable levels.  Delhi has deteriorated into the “hazardous” category   According to Wikipedia in 2018, of the most polluted cities in the world, 22 out of 30 were in India.

India is the world’s largest consumer of fuelwood, agricultural waste and biomass for energy purposes.  In autumn and winter months, large scale crop residue burning in agriculture fields (alternative to mechanical tilling) is a major source of smoke, smog and particulate pollution. 

Air pollution worldwide has been associated with cardiovascular and respiratory morbidity and mortality, particularly in urban settings with elevated concentrations of primary pollutants. Air pollution is a very complex mixture of primary and secondary gases and particles, and its potential to cause harm can depend on multiple factors—including physical and chemical characteristics of pollutants

According to several studies and an article by Schwartz J. published in “occupational & environmental Medicine” ( PMID:15550600): “Day-to-day changes in particulate air pollution are associated with day-to-day changes in deaths”. 

Short-term health effects due to fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5) exposure:

  • Respiratory symptoms 
  • Cardiac effects such as impaired vasomotor functions
  • Increased hospitalization
  • Increase in medication usage
  • Increased mortality

Long-term health effects due to fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5) exposure:

  • Reduction in lung function
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Lung Cancer
  • Decreased heart rate variability
  • Cognitive impairment such as a temporary or permanent loss of mental functions, causing forgetfulness, lack of concentration, learning difficulties, and other reductions in effective thinking.
  • Reduction in life expectancy

Nutritional Solutions for Air pollution induced Health damage

Several studies have suggested that the intake of anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients may ameliorate various respiratory and cardiovascular effects of air pollution.

Antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against free radicals, which may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases. Free radicals are molecules produced when your body breaks down food or when you’re exposed to tobacco smoke or radiation.

The best sources of antioxidants are plant-based foods, especially fruits and vegetables.

These include:

  • Antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, and carotenoids, can help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.
  • Fish, especially oily fish of cold water such as salmon, cod, tuna, and mackerel, are excellent sources of long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • Walnuts
  • Flax seeds, flax oil and sunflower seeds
  • Corn oil, Soybean oil and Safflower oil
  • Foods that are particularly high in antioxidants are often referred to as a “superfood” or “functional food.”

To obtain some specific antioxidants, try to include the following in your diet:

Vitamin A: Dairy produce, eggs, and liverVitamin C: Most fruits and vegetables, especially berries, oranges, and bell peppers

Vitamin E: Nuts and seeds, sunflower and other vegetable oils, and green, leafy vegetables

Beta-carotene: Brightly colored fruits / vegetables, such as carrots, peas, spinach, and mangoes

Lycopene: Pink and red fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes and watermelon

Lutein: Green, leafy vegetables, corn, papaya and oranges
Selenium: Rice, corn, wheat, and other whole grains, as well as nuts, eggs, cheese, and legumes

Use turmeric, cumin, oregano, ginger, clove, and cinnamon to spice up the flavor and add antioxidant content of your meals.

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