New study suggests that following a vitamin C-rich diet can protect patients suffering from chronic lung diseases against harmful effects of air pollution.
Researchers at Imperial College in London found that vitamin C, acting as an antioxidant, could have a protective role for lungs.
They observed more than 200 patients admitted to hospital for asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). They also measured the severity of air pollution on the days before and after the patients’ admission by assessing the levels of "course particulate matter," which is largely produced through the combustion of fossil fuels.
According to the study published in Epidemiology, patients with low levels of vitamin C were at an increased risk of developing breathing problems on days when outdoor air pollution levels were high.
"The protective effect of vitamin C was still present after excluding smokers and elderly subjects, implying that the effect of this antioxidant was not explained by smoking or age," explained Dr Cristina Canova said.
The results uncovered that each 10 micrograms per cubic meter (mcg/m3) rise in the amount of course particulate matter was associated with a 35 percent increase in the risk of hospital admission for patients with asthma or COPD.
"This study adds to a small but growing body of evidence that the effects of air pollution might be modified by antioxidants," said environmental health scientist at the University of British Columbia in Canada Michael Brauer.
Antioxidants, such as vitamin C, may protect the body from harmful molecules called free radicals, counteracting them before they damage cells and cause heart disease, cancer and even respiratory ailments.