Recently air pollution has been discussed as a major issue in London, and in fact, over 90% of the world’s population live in highly polluted areas. Why is it that air pollution is such a threat to us humans? Powering our cars and planes by burning fossil fuels releases dangerous particles into the air: including the worst pollutant – PM2.5. These tiny particles, being 1/30th of human hair width, may contain toxins and chemicals1. They can be a source of heart and respiratory diseases, diabetes, and lung cancer.
But how can particles of such a small size be responsible for serious diseases? When inhaled they move deep into the lungs and can be carried via the bloodstream towards other organs including brain, liver, kidney, and even testicles. The body recognises it as a foreign body, which triggers a white blood cell response resulting in inflammation and DNA damage by oxidative stress. In other words, it damages the body and may lead to some of the chronic diseases.
The government advice is usually to stay indoors and to keep windows closed – this solution is far from practical and sustainable. Fortunately, there are other ways to prevent and treat the health effects of air pollution. Research has shown that B vitamin and omega-3 fatty acids can help manage the health problems. B vitamin containing folic acid, B6, and B12 was shown to attenuate the effects of PM2.5 exposure by up to 76% (reference #1). It reduces local and systemic inflammation caused by the particles. Similarly, essential nutrient omega-3 fatty acid is anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative; it reduces the PM 2.5-induced effect on the organs, and it suppresses inflammation2.
Both can be taken as food supplements or as a part of a diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are naturally found in fish, flax and hemp seeds. Meat, eggs and green leafy vegetables are good sources of vitamin B3. Neither of them showed any side effects, while both proved to prevent and significantly reduce the harm caused by the particulates. The research has raised hopes that omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B may protect the health of many people affected by air pollution.
Edited by Richard Murchie