Air pollution is an inescapable health threat of our time, and no matter the amount of healthy choices you make, you are still vulnerable to exposure. The health effects of air pollution are many, including allergies, asthma, heart disease, lung disease, and even nerve damage. Even exercising outdoors in urban environments can increase our intake of pollutants, since strenuous exercise increases oxygen demands. Fortunately, specific dietary strategies may protect our body and brain from the effects of air pollution.
An Uncommon Fighter Against Air Pollution
An estimated 7 million deaths occur worldwide due to air pollution.  Researchers are constantly looking at bioflavonoids and chemical constituents in natural foods that could possibly reduce air pollution effects. A recent study looking at the effects of air pollution found it may be mitigated by broccoli sprouts, an antioxidant-rich food that is also high in beneficial enzymes.  Broccoli sprouts are extremely high in glucoraphanin, which initiates the production of sulforaphane. This compound increases enzymes that facilitate the removal of pollutants.
The study, including 291 participants, consumed a beverage containing freeze-dried broccoli sprout powder, whereas the control group consumed sterilized water mixed with pineapple and lime juice. Individuals consuming the broccoli sprout beverage increased their excretion of benzene, a toxic carcinogen, by up to 61%. Benzene is commonly found in our environment due to toxic emissions from heavy industry. Researchers believe the sulforaphane may be exhibiting the main protective effects, increasing the ability of cells to adapt and survive in the presence in toxic chemicals.
Air Pollution Starts in Your Home
When many people think of air pollution, an image of dirty and smoky downtown cities typically comes to mind. Our homes, however, are probably a major source of pollutants. Furniture, for instance, releases toxic flame retardants that interfere with hormonal health and may increase cancer risk. Since you live and sleep in your home, you’re probably breathing in a variety of toxins from furniture, cleaners, and even the paint on your walls. There are many ways you can reduce indoor air pollution, like finding furniture without artificial flame retardants and using non-toxic cleaning agents.
What do you do to fight air pollution? Do you think you’ll start consuming more broccoli sprouts?
- World Health Organization. 7 million premature deaths annually linked to air pollution. WHO News Release.
- P. A. Egner, J. G. Chen, A. T. Zarth, et al. Rapid and Sustainable Detoxication of Airborne Pollutants by Broccoli Sprout Beverage: Results of a Randomized Clinical Trial in China. Cancer Prevention Research, 2014; DOI: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-14-0103.