An antioxidant-rich diet could do your lungs a favor when exposed to air pollution, according to a small new study.
Researchers from Imperial College London found that asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients were more likely to be admitted to the hospital on days when there were high particulate matter levels outside, Environmental Health News reported. Particulate matter is a pollutant that causes oxidative stress in the body (raising the risk of health problems like heart attack).
However, the researchers found that people who had higher levels of vitamin C in their blood were less likely than those with low vitamin C levels to go to the hospital on these high-pollution days, MyHealthNewsDaily reported.
The findings add to "a small but growing body of evidence that the effects of air pollution might be modified by antioxidants," Michael Brauer, an environmental health scientist at the University of British Columbia who was not involved in the study, told MyHealthNewsDaily.
The study, published in the journal Epidemiology, included 209 people who were admitted to London hospitals. While researchers did find a link between vitamin C levels and hospital admission, they did not find as strong of a link for uric acid and vitamin E levels. They found no link between vitamin A levels and hospital admission, according to the study.
Previously, Cornell University researchers found that a diet rich in antioxidants could help to preserve lung function, the Cornell Chronicle reported. That study, presented at a meeting of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in 2008, showed protective benefits of selenium and vitamins C and E in particular.
Plus, in 2001, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers found that vitamin C supplements seemed to protect lungs against ozone, WebMD reported.
And humans aren't the only ones who can benefit from vitamin C. University of California, Riverside, researchers found that even plants can get some help defending against harmful effects of ozone when they are engineered to have increased vitamin C levels in their leaves.
For some surprising sources of vitamin C (that go beyond oranges) click through the slideshow: