Can Vitamin C Stop Air Pollution from Worsening Your Asthma?

Fruits and vegetables do a lot to improve your wellness, and it seems when it comes to respiratory conditions, the situation is no different. According to a new study, published in journal Epidemiology, the nutrients in fruits and vegetables can help keep the negative effects of air pollution at bay.

Researchers at the Imperial College London examined 209 patients in London between the years of 2008 and 2010, who were admitted into an area hospital due to COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) or asthma. Led by Cristina Casonova, the researchers discovered that low levels of vitamin C – the vitamin found abundantly in produce such as citrus fruits, broccoli, and spinach – made patients more likely to be hospitalised for issues related to the air pollution.

In the US and across Europe, the standards for air pollution are the same. The environmental agency states that standards for coarse particulate matter are set at 50 micrograms per cubic metre, and pollutants made up out of coarse particle matter, such as those from car exhausts and power plants; usually have a diameter that is a fifth of the diameter of a human hair. The researchers found that all patients had an increased risk of breathing problems if air pollution was high above these limits.

Amongst COPD and asthma patients between the ages of 54 and 74, in whom the researchers studied the levels of Vitamin C and other vitamins and genes, and the role they played in the development of respiratory conditions, every 10 mcg/m3 of air pollution, the risk of hospitalisation for breathing-related issues increased 35%. This number increases a further 1.2 times for those who had low levels of Vitamin C, even when researchers excluded elderly and former smokers in their analysis.

According to the team, vitamin C may alleviate the effects of air pollutants because it is a powerful antioxidant, and so protects your body from dangerous cell-damaging molecules called free radicals. Previous studies have demonstrated a link between the prevalence of free radicals and your risk of developing heart disease, cancer, and respiratory diseases. However, the investigators are still unclear as to whether the link between Vitamin C and respiratory diseases exists for people without these diseases.

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