Antioxidants Like Vitamin C Soothe Damaging Effects of Pollution

From the WebMD Archives

Sept. 27, 2001 -- Since pollution doesn't seem to be going anywhere any time soon, researchers are looking for ways to help protect our lungs from the damaging effects of ozone.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in conjunction with the National Institutes of Health, have found that antioxidant supplements can reduce the harmful effects of ozone gas on our lungs.

Ozone gas, the main chemical in smog, affects millions of Americans daily, and previous studies have shown that this highly active gas leads to decreases in lung function. Since the destructive effects are believed to be due to harmful types of oxygen in a process called "oxidation," researchers set out to see if antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C, and E, could save our lungs.

They looked at 31 adults and first put them on a vitamin C-restricted diet for three weeks. They then gave each volunteer either an antioxidant supplement or placebo while continuing them on the special diet. While exposing everyone to ozone gas for two hours, the researchers measured lung function while exercising.

As expected, the group taking the antioxidant supplements had higher levels of both vitamins C and E in their blood, but they also saw that this group had a 25%-30% improvement in lung function tests compared to those taking placebo.

The researchers did not find that the antioxidants reduced inflammation in the lungs but do believe that antioxidant supplements could be a safe and effective way to prevent some of the damaging effects of pollution and ozone gas on the lungs.

Of course, this is just one study, and we can't change our way of living based only on these results, but these findings do lend support to antioxidants as one way to save our lungs from the haze and smog of everyday living.