Pollution is a common problem for people living in urban areas around the world. As the population inches to ever new highs and industrialisation takes a stronger hold, the air quality is taking a hit around the globe. It is particularly worse in the national capital of India – Delhi and National Capital Region (or NCR). During winters, the air quality in Delhi and neighbouring states drops drastically, making the city one of the most polluted cities in the world. In such a scenario, where long-term solutions and measures may take a long time to be implemented, it is up to individuals to protect their bodies from the harmful effects of toxic air pollutants. Believe it or not, your diet has a huge impact on how your body deals with pollution. While many nutritionists may advise you to include more immunity-boosting foods in your meals, there is one particular diet, which may be more effective than others, when it comes to dealing with adverse impact of air pollution.
Mediterranean diet has been hailed as a solution to a number of health issues like diabetes, heart diseases and even memory loss and cognitive decline. Recent studies have also pointed out the benefits of Mediterranean diet against negative effects of air pollution. A number of studies have concluded that including more fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and whole grains in your diet may average out the harmful effects of air pollution. This is because Mediterranean Diet has been credited to protect our bodies against risks of the very same diseases that are caused due to inhalation of particulate matter or fine particulate pollutants present in the air of highly polluted cities and towns.
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Air Pollution: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts can combat effects of air pollution
How air pollution harms our bodies is that these tiny and fine particles after entering our bodies penetrate inside the lungs and even enter the bloodstream. They may result in oxidative stress as well as inflammation, leading to a number of potentially fatal health complications. Apart from asthma and irritation in the throat and eyes, air pollution may also lead to chronic diseases like cancer, high blood sugar and even dementia.
Mediterranean diet not only defends our body systems against these diseases, but may even boost our response against the ravages of air pollution. Among the research studies conducted on this topic, two studies stand out in results – one conducted by the NYU School of Medicine and the other one conducted by the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA).
In the first study, data was collected from some 550,000 people with an average age of 62 residing around the United States of America. The data collection went on for more than 17 years and the researchers looked at how much the subjects' diets resembled Mediterranean diet and how this linked to their long-term exposure to air pollution. The risk of death was found to be low for people who followed diets similar to the Mediterranean diet. The second study by the EPA had also concluded that a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods and antioxidants was able to provide at least partial protection against the health impacts of air pollution, like cardiovascular diseases and respiratory diseases.
However, the agency said that more studies needed to be done, in order to determine whether nutritional supplements were as effective as whole foods against air pollution and if they were what dosage or amount was sufficient to fight off the adverse impact of poor air. Our mothers knew what they were saying, when they reprimanded us to "eat your veggies!"