Fish, olive oil help protect the body against air pollution

Recent research by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirms that fish oil and olive oil dietary supplements may help reduce the deadly effects of air pollution on your cardiovascular system. Considering that air pollution prematurely kills about 200,000 Americans every year, the new EPA findings offer hope that at least some of the adverse health effects associated with exposure to fine and ultrafine particles can be mitigated.

Fish oil can help protect the heart against air pollution

In a controlled study, scientists with the EPA on the campus of the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill investigated whether or not fish oil supplements could protect the heart from some of the negative effects of air pollution.A sample of middle-aged, healthy men were put on a restricted diet low in omega-3 fatty acids for six weeks leading up to the tests. They were segmented into two different groups:

  • Fish-oil group:These test subjects received three 1-gram capsules of omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) per day for the final four weeks leading up to the test.
  • Olive-oil group:The other group of test participants received three 1-gram capsules of olive oil per day for the final four weeks leading up to the test.

Both groups were then exposed to a concentration of fine and ultrafine particles for a two-hour period. Before, during, and after the exposures, critical heart and blood chemistry measurements were taken.

Following exposure to the pollutants, the group that received olive-oil supplements exhibited acute changes in heart beat regularity, blood chemistry, cholesterol levels and other indicators. For example, heart-rate variability was significantly increased and remained so for 20 hours with the olive-oil supplementation group, but not the group taking fish oil supplements. Also, immediate increases in triglycerides (high levels indicate a higher risk of heart disease) were seen in the group taking olive-oil supplements but not in the fish-oil supplementation group. These and other differences led the researchers to conclude that omega-3 fatty acid supplements “may offer protection against the adverse cardiac and lipid effects associated with air pollution exposure.”

Olive oil can help protect blood vessels against air pollution

While fish oil (and not olive oil) proved effective in helping protect against the adverse effects of air pollution on the heart in the study above, a separate, later study conducted by many of the same researchers concluded that olive oil (and not fish oil) could help protect against damage to the lining of blood vessels.

The researchers wanted to see if fish oil or olive oil supplements could counteract air pollution’s effect on blood-vessel dysfunction (which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease). A group of healthy adults were divided into three groups.

  • Olive oil group:Participants in this group received 3 grams/day of olive oil supplements for four weeks.
  • Fish oil group:A second group of participants received 3 grams/day of fish oil supplements for four weeks.
  • Control group:A third group received no supplements during the test period.

All test participants were exposed to concentrated fine and ultrafine particles for two hours.

Immediately after the exposure, the group that received fish-oil supplements and the group that received no supplements both showed a narrowing of the brachial artery (supplies blood to the arm, forearm and hand). There was no similar change in the group receiving olive oil supplements. The group receiving the olive-oil supplements also showed an increase in proteins that help break down blood clots, while the other groups did not. “Our study suggests that use of olive oil supplements may protect against the adverse vascular effect of exposure to air pollution,” the researchers concluded.

Of course, the most effective solution for controlling and ultimately improving indoor and outdoor air quality is to eliminate the sources of air pollution or to reduce their emissions. And a high-performance air cleaner such as the IQAir HealthPro Plus can dramatically improve the indoor air we breathe at home or work. Meanwhile, the new EPA research on olive and fish oils appears to give those affected by air pollution an additional weapon to fight back against potentially deadly airborne pollutants.

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