Air pollution, beyond its negative effects on the environment and the economy, has harmful and lethal consequences for health. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 8 million people die due to air pollution each year. However, a diet rich in antioxidants could counteract the effects of free radicals. In fact, a study conducted by researchers at New York University School of Medicine, in the USA, shows that the Mediterranean diet reduces the health damage of air pollution.
Mediterranean diet can counteract free radicals
The Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, fish, and poultry and is, therefore, rich in antioxidants. Thus, the aim of the study was to assess whether this Mediterranean diet can counteract the negative health effects of having to breathe polluted air for many years
And for 17 years, the authors followed the evolution of about 550,000 people who, with an average age of 62, lived in six states and two big cities, namely, California, North Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and Atlanta and Chicago.
Mediterranean diet reduces the health damage of air pollution
The researchers divided the participants into five groups according to their adherence, more or less, to the Mediterranean diet. They also estimated their long-term exposure to particulate matter, such as NO2 and Ozone (O3) with a diameter of no more than 2.5 microns, which, given its small size, poses the greatest risk to human health and is considered the best indicator of urban air pollution.
At the end of more than three decades of follow-up, about 127,000 participants had died.
And according to the results, the probability of death was significantly lower in the group with the highest adherence to the Mediterranean diet. Specifically, while the rate of deaths from all causes increased by 5% for every 10 parts per billion increase in NO2 concentration in the lowest adherence group, this percentage was only 2% in the participants who exclusively adopted a Mediterranean diet.
The scientists concluded that, indeed, Mediterranean diet reduces the health damage of air pollution thanks to its richness in antioxidants.