Researchers recently discovered that antioxidant supplements improve lung damage caused by ozone pollution. James M. Samet, Ph.D., of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Health and Environmental Effects Research Lab in Chapel Hill, N.C., led the study to determine whether antioxidants protect against the known effects of ozone inhalation. Ozone, a highly reactive gas found in smog, damages cell structures, causing inflammation in the lungs and decreased lung function.
In double-blind, placebo-controlled tests, Samet and his team of researchers placed 31 healthy, nonsmoking 18- to 35-year-olds on a vitamin C-restricted diet for three weeks. Then half were given a placebo while the others took daily doses of 250 mg of vitamin C, 50 IU of vitamin E and 12 oz of a vegetable cocktail high in carotenoids. After being exposed to ozone gas for two hours, the supplemented group showed a 24 percent improvement in one lung function test and a 30 percent increase in the other, compared with those taking the placebo. But there was no difference in how the two groups performed in tests for inflammatory response.
"Antioxidant supplementation may represent a safe and effective way to improve pulmonary function responses to ozone gas, even though study results demonstrated no effect on inflammatory responses in the lung provoked by this common air pollutant," Dr. Samet said.
More than 130 million Americans live in areas where ozone levels in smog exceed the 1996 National Ambient Air Quality Standards, reported the American Thoracic Society.
According to the American Lung Association's annual State of the Air 2001 report, the 10 most ozone-polluted metro areas in the United States are: Los Angeles-Riverside-Orange County, Calif.; Bakersfield, Calif.; Fresno, Calif.; Visalia-Tulare-Porterville, Calif.; Houston-Galveston-Brazoria, Texas; Atlanta; Washington, D.C.-Baltimore; Charlotte, N.C.-Gastonia, N.C.-Rock Hill, S.C.; Knoxville, Tenn.; and the Philadelphia-Wilmington, Del.-Atlantic City, N.J., region.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXII/number 11/p. 1