'Mediterranean diet may protect you from harms of air pollution'

Following a Mediterranean diet may protect people from some of the harms of air pollution, and reduce their risk of dying from heart attacks and stroke, a study claims.

Rich in antioxidants, the Mediterranean diet favours fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, olive oils, fish and poultry over red meat and processed foods. "Previous studies have shown that dietary changes, particularly the addition of antioxidants, can blunt the adverse effects of exposure to high levels of air pollution over short time periods," said Chris C Lim, a doctoral student at the New York University School of Medicine in the US.

"What we did not know was whether diet can influence the association between long term air pollution exposure and health effects," Lim said. The researchers analysed data from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Diet and Health Study.
 

Over 17 years, the study followed 548,699 people (average age 62) from six states, and two cities in the US. During that time, 126,835 people in the study group died.

The researchers created five groups of participants based on their level of adherence to a Mediterranean diet. They linked participants to estimates of long term exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrous oxide (NO2) and ozone (O3).

The study found that cardiovascular disease deaths increased by 17 per cent for every 10 microgrammes per cubic metre increase in long-term average PM2.5 exposure in those least adherent to Mediterranean diet, compared to five per cent among the most adherent.

Heart attack deaths increased by 20 per cent for every 10 microgrammes per cubic metre increase in PM2.5 exposure in those least adherent, compared to five per cent among the most adherent. "Given the benefits we found of a diet high in antioxidants, our results are consistent with the hypothesis that particle air pollution caused by fossil fuel combustion adversely affects health by inducing oxidative stress and inflammation," said George Thurston from NYU School of Medicine.

However, adherence to a Mediterranean diet did not appear to protect against the harmful effects of long-term exposure to O3. The diet did not reduce deaths from all causes, heart attack or other cardiovascular diseases associated with O3 exposure. "The ozone effect was not significantly blunted by a Mediterranean diet, so ozone apparently affects cardiac health through a different mechanism," Thurston said.

 

 

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