We all are exposed to some degree of air pollution, but a new study shows that supplements of vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids work like a dynamic duo with a highly protective effect on cells and the cardiovascular system. This is because vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties.
When we expose ourselves to air pollution and breathe various types of environmental toxins, it generates free radicals, which are aggressive molecules with an unpaired electron. In their hunt for a replacement for the missing electron, free radicals attack our cells and cause chain reactions that lead to cellular damage, atherosclerosis, disease, and decay. Our only shield against free radicals is the presence of different antioxidant such as vitamin E. By donating an extra electron, vitamin E can terminate the chemical activity of the free radicals, thereby limiting their damage.
Oxidative stress is a phenomenon that occurs when free radicals are overrepresented in the body and there are too few antioxidants to fight them. It is therefore important to have an adequate amount of protective antioxidants as protection. It is also essential to have strong cell membranes, and that requires cholesterol, omega-3, and omega-6.
The study results
Researchers from the Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine carried out the study. They exposed rats to a specific particle (PM2.5) that is found in polluted air and studied the damage that it caused. Fourteen days prior to the study, the scientists had divided the rats in three groups. One group got vitamin E, the other group got omega-3 fatty acids, and the third group got supplements of both. The three groups were then compared to a control group that got placebo (physiological salt water).
The researchers found that the combination of vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids had a stronger effect than either of the supplements taken alone. Also, the researchers found that the supplemented rats had less heart damage compared with the rats in the control group.
The preventive treatment with vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids significantly inhibited the formation of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the rats. The study results may serve as a guideline in the quest for future strategies to protect the heart and cardiovascular system against oxidative stress caused by air pollution and harmful particles such as PM2.5
The study was published in the science journal Chemosphere in 2017.
How air pollution harms the cardiovascular system
everal studies have shown that air pollution not only causes harm to our airways but even to our cardiovascular system. Free radicals that originate from particles in air pollution oxidize our LDL cholesterol, and this process promotes the risk of cellular damage, atherosclerosis, and blood clots.
However, it is not the cholesterol as such that is a problem, as this substance is essential for all cell membranes and for making vitamin D, sex hormones, and stress hormones. It is LDL, the protein that attaches to cholesterol, which is vulnerable to oxidation.
The important thing is to protect the body against oxidative stress, and according to this study, the risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic ailments is reduced with supplements of vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Another thing that the researchers observed was that omega-3 fatty acids inhibit the inflammatory processes that free radicals cause in the lipids of cell membranes. Omega-3 fatty acids have numerous physiological properties, which is why it is vital to get enough of this particular type of fat. Oily fish and fish oil supplements have a high content of the two omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, which have anti-inflammatory properties.
Vegetable omega-3 sources such as linseed oil contain a type of omega-3 called ALA (alpha linolenic acid), but many people have difficulty with converting ALA to EPA because of weak enzymes and are therefore more likely to benefit from the animal sources.
According to the researchers, vitamin E is not only an effective antioxidant, it also helps reduce certain markers of potentially harmful proteins and lipids. Most people probably don’t get enough vitamin E from the diet, which can be blamed on the fact that modern diets largely consist of raw materials that have been refined to the degree where levels of vitamin E and other nutrients are heavily reduced. Another thing is our fear of fat, which has also contributed to lower intake of vitamin E sources, especially plant oils, nuts, almonds, kernels, seeds, whole-grain, and avocado.
Gary Scattergood. Dynamic duo of vitamin E and omega-3 reduces cardiovascular injury caused by pollution. NUTRA ingredients-asia.com