Air pollution has been shown to have a negative effect on heart health, and an important pair of studies add to the evidence.
According to research published in Circulation Research, an American Heart Association journal, fine particulate matter air pollution may be associated with blood vessel damage and inflammation among young, healthy adults.
Plus, in a study published in the European Heart Journal, long-term exposure to air pollution was linked to a greater incidence of high blood pressure.
Omega-3s Offer Pollution Protection
It’s certainly disheartening to know the air we breathe may be putting our heart health in danger, but there is also research that reveals how omega-3s can help protect against the negative effects of air pollution.
In a study reported at a scientific meeting of the American Heart Association, researchers monitored the effect of fish oil or olive oil supplementation on healthy middle-aged adults exposed to short-term concentrated air pollution.
The 29 participants in the study were given 3 grams daily of either fish oil or olive oil for four weeks, after which they were exposed to two hours of concentrated polluted air. Immediately following the pollution exposure, and again 20 hours after, they measured the participants’ heart rate variability, as well as changes in their blood lipids and other cardiac markers.
What they found was that the participants who were given the omega-3s in fish oil had less pollution-induced changes in both their cardiac markers and blood lipids.
What Does This Mean for You?
For years I have told patients to protect their cardiovascular systems from pollution by using air filters in their homes since they can make a big difference. So, too, can supplementing with omega-3s.
Plus, we know that one potential negative effect of pollution is disturbed heart rate variability (HRV), a measurement of the cardiac beat-to-beat flexibility. A disturbed (that is, more rigid) HRV means the heart has difficulty returning to a normal beat rhythm after exertion, a result of stress and flawed autonomic nervous system regulation of heart function. This research confirms what was previously known about fish oil’s ability to protect healthy HRV.
Given the fact that air pollution continues to be on the rise, it just makes sense to protect ourselves with omega-3s from food sources as well as supplements.