Pollution and Our Health

With a huge microscope currently on global warming and the future of Earth, I wanted to share with you a unique perspective on how green house gases are affecting each and every one of us. Of course the effects of global warming are influencing the way our food system is working including the way our food is grown (increased water and pesticides as well as increasing the amount of GMO use).  However, how is this HOT topic affecting our actual health as opposed to our home?

Health.  Countless environmental factors effect our health everyday.  Typically our minds would jump to the MacDonalds on every corner and identify that as influencing diet and exercise on a global level.  However, there are so many other environmental factors that impact our health that I feel are often forgotten.

An article by Hart et al, found that women living closer to a busy road and therefore exposed to more traffic pollution, were at an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in addition to effects of asthma, lung function and cardiopulmonary mortality.  Being from Chicago, a city full of traffic this specific pollutant grabbed my attention.  What I found most interesting was that this pollution had similar mechanisms causing inflammation similar to substances found in cigarettes.  Currently as a society we are doing an astonishing job of eliminating the use of cigarettes compared to 20-30 years ago.  And this is because society has become aware and accepting of the harms it has to ourselves and those around us.  To see that traffic pollution is having similar health effects to smoking cigarettes, adds to the reasons of why society as a whole needs to accept global warming and make an initiative to do something about it.  I do believe as a society we are becoming more aware of the harms from air pollution with increased solar and wind power technologies, as well as the electric car or hybrid cars increasing in demand when specifically talking about traffic related pollution.  However, I believe it is time that legal regulation on the use of these clean energy sources is enforced to make a push into taking action rather than just being aware and accepting of the issue.

So how can diet help protect our health from pollutants?  From the above information provided we saw that increased green house gas pollution is causing our bodies inflammation.  Using antioxidants to aid against the oxidation process can help reduce inflammation and risks of developing an array of chronic diseases.  This means increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet.

Also, an article by Watkins et al suggests flavonoids and omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) may also aid in reducing inflammation.  Research has shown in detail the anti-inflammatory effects these fats hold.  The Watkins article also demonstrates how the American diet has shifted the omega 6: omega 3 fatty acids ratio to 10:1 as opposed to 2:1 which was typical in the hunter gatherer diet (one of the healthiest diets ever).  Consuming this unbalanced ratio leads to inflammation, a reason why some would tell you to avoid tilapia and increase your consumption of salmon. (For more information on this ratio check out my blog post “Extra Fat Please!”)

Obviously during the hunter- gatherer era there was not the amount of pollution we have today.  Knowing that toxins in our bodies are increasing from this pollution, yet nutrients that may help reduce these toxins are not being appropriately place in our bodies, is a scary thought.  To help achieve balance in this we need to ensure we are boosting the amount of omega 3 fatty acids as well as antioxidants as part of a healthy diet.

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