Traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) refers to air pollution caused by traffic activity. Vehicles emit exhaust pollutants from fuel combustion and non-exhaust pollutants from brake wear, tire wear and resuspended dust from the road. Both exhaust and non-exhaust pollutants contribute to elevated air pollution levels.
Common traffic-related pollutants include particulate matter, ultrafine particles, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide black carbon, elemental carbon, hydrocarbons, and volatile organic compounds. TRAP continues to be a major public health concern around the world. People who live in urban areas or near roads with high traffic volumes are often exposed to higher levels of TRAP. Their exposure results in numerous negative health effects.
Until TRAP levels are reduced, practical shorter-term strategies are needed to help reduce the health impact from exposure to TRAP. New evidence suggests that antioxidant-rich diets and antioxidant supplements may be a promising strategy to combat adverse health effects.
Negative health effects from exposure to TRAP include premature death, cancer, respiratory diseases including asthma and wheezing, heart diseases, heart attacks, increased blood pressure, cognitive decline, diabetes, and bone conditions. TRAP can exert multiple detrimental effects on organs through wide-ranging mechanistic pathways.
A key mechanism is through oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when TRAP is inhaled and the pollutants, oxidative by nature, begin to outnumber the antioxidants in the body.
While the body is equipped with powerful antioxidants to protect itself, some exposures to TRAP can overwhelm the body. A potentially effective way to prevent the negative health effects from TRAP would be increasing antioxidant intake through diet or supplements
Dietary sources of antioxidants include fruits, vegetables, oils, soy, nuts, seeds, some spices, compounds found in chocolate, wine, and whole grains. One specific diet that is rich in antioxidants is the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet focuses on plant-based foods and the consumption of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and fish which are rich in antioxidants. Furthermore, a diet with an increased intake of fruits and vegetables, in general, is proven to be rich in antioxidants.
In the newly published review on 18 th January 2020, the team concluded that adherence to the Mediterranean diet or increased fruit and vegetable intake were effective ways to prevent a wide range of negative health effects associated with TRAP exposures. For example, one study concluded that participants who adhered to the Mediterranean diet were less likely to suffer from heart diseases that have been associated with nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter exposure.
Furthermore, asthmatic children in Mexico who reported strong adherence to the Mediterranean diet or higher fruit and vegetable intake experienced less severe symptoms and increased lung functioning. Additionally, pregnant mothers who reported high fruit and vegetable intake protected their babies form cognitive impairments that can result from nitrogen dioxide and benzene exposures.
Increased fruit and vegetable intake promoted mental development in infants who may have otherwise suffered from adverse cognitive effects associated with TRAP. The results indicate that antioxidant-rich diets proved to be beneficial for healthy adults, asthmatic children, pregnant women and infants. Adhering to the Mediterranean diet or increasing fruit and vegetable intake would be a cheap and simple strategy to mitigate the negative health effects from TRAP.
In addition to the known benefits of vegetables, broccoli and other plants in the cabbage family contain the molecule sulforaphane. Sulforaphane has antioxidant properties and the potential to prevent negative health effects associated with TRAP. One study analyzed the effect of broccoli sprout extract in mango juice while another analyzed the effect of a broccoli sprout beverage. Related Stories
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