Having Trouble Breathing? Your Diet Can Help

Having Trouble Breathing? Your Diet Can Help

Air pollution is on the rise—here’s how you can stay well.

The Olympics allows us to witness the human body’s peak abilities. But as major cities get more polluted, air quality can interfere with performance. At the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, six fewer outdoor world records were set than in 2004 in Athens, a fact many attributed to poor air quality.

But you don’t need to be an Olympic athlete to have poor air quality compromise your health and performance. Research has found that exposure to air pollution is linked to an increase in risk factors for heart disease, depression and respiratory conditions, as well as adverse pregnancy outcomes.

The challenge is to find how to avoid the risks, especially as the Environmental Protection Agency tries to roll back regulations (ironic?). Well, a new study has found what you choose to eat could help counter smog’s sting.

Researchers looked at data on more than 500,000 people over 17 years and found the more nitrous oxide and toxic air particles people were exposed to, the higher their risk of cardiovascular disease and death from a heart attack. But folks with high exposure to air pollution who followed a Mediterranean diet significantly lowered their risk! The theory? The diet lowers inflammation and reduces cell damage, which is how pollution is thought to harm your health. Other studies have shown key elements of the diet are cruciferous vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, B vitamins and black coffee.

Medically reviewed in February 2020.

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