Are omega-3 foods the key to protecting yourself against toxic air pollution?
Researchers at Harvard Medical School have found that taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements may mitigate the negative effects of air pollution. Researchers examined the correlation between air pollution and omega-3 intake in mice models. It was found that the supplement helped reduce the risk of adverse health effects in the animals. Lead researcher Dr. Jing Kang said that while the results are observed in mice, the same effects might be seen in humans. Hazardous minute particles in the air can penetrate the body through the lungs into other vital organs such as the brain and testicles, the study shows.
“I would definitely recommend taking OFAs to counter air pollution problems. OFAs are well known to have many other healthy benefits and the key thing is they are not like a drug, but a nutrient with so many benefits,” said Dr Kang.
However, other experts say the findings should be viewed with caution despite being thorough, as the mice are exposed to very high levels of air pollution.
The findings coincide with another animal study published in the journal Biochimica et Biophysica Acta. In this study, researchers examined the interaction between non-toxic, fluorescent fine particles and omega-3 fatty acid supplements in mice. Data show that fine particulate matter accumulated in the lungs and spread to other internal organs including the brain, liver, spleen, kidney, and testes. The fine particulate matter triggered both pulmonary and systemic inflammation and raised the oxidative stress levels in mice.
However, giving omega-3 fatty acid supplements helped reduce fine particle-induced inflammation in the animals. “These results advance our understanding of how fine particles contribute to disease development and suggest that increasing tissue omega-3 levels may be a promising nutritional means for reducing the risk of diseases induced by particle exposure,” the researchers said.
WHO cites air pollution as major health issue
The World Health Organization (WHO) cites air pollution as a major environmental health problem that poses a threat to the general public’s heath. Data from a 2014 report show that 92 percent of the world population live in areas where WHO guidelines for air quality are not met. The organization also reports that ambient air pollution in both urban and rural regions is tied to about three million premature deaths worldwide in 2012. WHO data show that around 88 percent of those premature deaths occurred in low- and middle-income nations, with the highest prevalence seen in the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia regions. Exposure to small particulate matter is associated with premature deaths from heart diseases, respiratory conditions, and certain types of cancer.
Data reveals that some 72 percent of air pollution-related premature deaths in 2012 are tied to ischemic heart attack and stroke, while 14 percent are caused by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or acute lower respiratory infections. Another 14 percent of early deaths are associated with lung cancer. A 2013 report by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that outdoor air pollution results in cancer onset in humans. Other sources of pollution such as indoor smoking, cooking fuels and coals also pose a threat to public safety, the WHO adds.
According to the international organization, various industries such as transport, energy waste management, and agriculture are among the primary sources of ambient air pollution.
The WHO has urged the development of policies and investments that promote energy-efficient housing, cleaner transportation, green energy use and better municipal waste management to significantly cut back on air pollution sources in the cities. Reducing outdoor emissions from household coal, biomass energy systems, forest fires, and agricultural waste incineration may also help lessen the prevalence of air pollution in key rural and urban areas, the WHO adds.
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