Proper nutrition against the health effects of air pollution
This article reviews the main constituents of air pollution and their impact on human health. Furthermore, the capabilities and limitations of different defence mechanisms of the human body are discussed. It is emphasised that reduction of air pollution plays the most substantial role in disease prevention, and support of natural defence mechanisms of the human organism should be achieved by antioxidants provided via dietary intake. However, if the antioxidant defence system becomes depleted, complex dietary supplementation should be implemented.
In many cases, the concentration of air pollutants in Europe, especially in cities, exceeds the reference levels that have been established by the EU and WHO (25 and 10 µg/m3 annual mean, respectively). Among the different types of environmental pollution, industrial and agricultural emissions, vehicles, household heating and cooking are the main sources. According to WHO, around 7 million people die annually worldwide due to diseases caused by air pollution. The main causes of death are lung and heart diseases (1-4). The reduction of particulate matter (PM2.5) concentration to the safety level recommended by WHO (10 µg/m³) would increase life expectancy in the long term by approximately 20 months. Previous studies revealed that the health damage due to air pollution is mainly the effect of oxidative stress, which is the result of the imbalance between pro- and antioxidant processes. This may be caused by a strong oxidant impact on the organism, but it may also be the consequence of the fact that the organism does not have appropriate antioxidant protection (5). Certain nutrients (vitamins C and E, carotenoids, N-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, selenium, flavonoids) ...