A healthy dose of vitamin C may be able to fight off the effects of air pollution, according to a new study. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables seems to be good for the lungs.
Researched found hospital patients who suffered from asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in London had low level of vitamin C. Their risk for breathing problems also increased when air pollution levels were high.
The study was included 209 patients between 2008 and 2010. Most of the patients were between ages 54 and 74, though some were as young as 18. Many of them were also former smokers.
"This study adds to a small but growing body of evidence that the effects of air pollution might be modified by antioxidants," said Michael Brauer, an environmental health scientist at the University of British Columbia in Canada.
Some of these antioxidants include vitamin C, found in many fruits and vegetables. These antioxidants may protect the body from free radicals, which are harmful molecules that damage cells. Free radicals form when air pollution enters the lungs. This can potentially lead to heart disease, cancer and even respiratory illnesses.
The antioxidants bind to free radicals and counteract them before they cause damage.
The researchers paid particular attention to course particulate matter levels. This is produced through the combustion of fossil fuels. The course particulate matter comes from car exhaust and power plants.
The study showed that lung conditions increased as course particle matter increased. The researchers found that with every increase in course particulate matter of 10 micrograms per cubic meter (mcg/m3), there was a 35 percent increased risk of hospital admission for people with asthma or COPD.
For those who had low levels of vitamin C, the risk of being admitted to a hospital was 1.2 times greater.
"The protective effect of vitamin C was still present after excluding smokers and elderly subjects, implying that the effect of this antioxidant was not explained by smoking or age," Study researcher Cristina Canova said.
Smokers and elderly patients have lower levels of nutrients than those who didn't smoke.
Those who are concerned should include things such as citrus fruits, broccoli, and spinach in their diet as they are good sources of Vitamin C.
Researchers are not yet sure if this link between Vitamin C and respiratory diseases still holds true for those who don't already have the diseases.
The study is published in the July issue of the journal Epidemiology.