Vitamin E may help to counteract the negative effects of air pollution on the lungs, a study by King’s College London (KCL) and the University of Nottingham suggests
Vitamin E may help to counteract the negative effects of air pollution on the lungs, a study by King’s College London (KCL) and the University of Nottingham suggests.
The academic paper, published online in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine on Friday (May 15), found an association between the amount of vitamin E in the body, exposure to particulate matter air pollution and lung function.
According to KCL, the study adds to growing evidence from previous studies suggesting that some vitamins – including vitamin E – may play a role in helping to protect the lungs from air pollution. Vitamin E-rich foods include almonds, broccoli, papaya, avocado, olives, seeds, spinach and kale.
And, although the study does not specifically demonstrate a protective effect from vitamin E, the authors claim it is the ‘first’ to show a clear link between vitamin E concentrations in the blood and exposure to fine particulate matter in the general population.
The findings are based on a TwinsUK (a UK twins registry and research project based at KCL) study of 5,500 volunteers who had undertaken a spirometry or lung test.
This test determines the lung’s forced vital capacity (FVC), a measure of the amount of air you can exhale with force after you inhale as deeply as possible, and forced expiratory volume (FEV), a measure of the amount of air you can exhale with force in one breath.
In addition, a subset of this group of twins – around 500 participants – living in the Greater London area also had their long-term exposure to PM estimated from their postcode using computer modelling of air pollution across London. They completed a medical history and lifestyle questionnaire, including questions on whether they took vitamin supplements.
This profiling found that Vitamin E and Vitamin C had associations with PM exposure and lung function, although vitamin E had the strongest association with both PM2.5 and FEV.
Individuals with a higher exposure to PM2.5 had ‘significantly lower levels of alpha tocopherol (biologically active form of vitamin E) and also had lower lung function’.
The study states: “These findings provide further evidence supporting the theory that PM damages lungs through oxidative attack while alpha-tocopherol acts to minimise oxidative injury.â€?
Professor Frank Kelly, head of the Environmental Research Group (ERG) at KCL and co-author of the study, said: “These new findings are consistent with previous reports which observed lower levels of vitamin E in people with lung conditions such as asthma. However, we do not yet fully understand which types of particulate pollution specifically damage the lungs or which vitamins best interfere with this pathway to reduce the level of damage.â€?
Dr Ana Valdes, reader at the University of Nottingham and co-author of the study, said: “Our work builds on a number studies exploring whether some vitamins can counteract the negative effect on lungs caused by air pollution. More work is needed to establish whether antioxidant supplements do indeed provide protection to the lungs in the general population.â€?