(NaturalHealth365) Air pollution, which can cause a variety of serious conditions including heart attacks, strokes, and lung cancer, is a life-threatening health concern. In a recent study, researchers from MIT’s Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment estimated that air pollution causes 200,000 premature deaths each year in the United States alone; according to research released by the World Health Organization in March 2014, the global toll from poisoned air is currently a staggering 7 million deaths every year.
However, encouraging new research presented at the 2014 American Thoracic Society International Conference provides a note of hope.
How to protect the circulatory system – naturally
In a study conducted by research biologists from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, olive oil supplements helped to protect human volunteers from the adverse cardiovascular effects of air pollution.
The researchers wanted to find out if olive oil and fish oil have protective effects against airborne particulate matter – a dangerous component of air pollution that can cause damage to the endothelium, or inner layer of blood vessels. Endothelial dysfunction helps to set the stage for heart disease and atherosclerosis.
Olive oil yields dramatic study results
The 42 study participants received 3 grams – less than a teaspoon – of either olive oil or fish oil once a day for four weeks; those in the control group received no supplementary oils. Participants then underwent two-hour exposures to filtered air, which contained no pollution, so researchers could set up a baseline. This was followed the next day by the real test — exposure to fine and ultrafine concentrated ambient particulate matter.
Researchers used sonographic measurement to assess the flow-mediated dilation of the brachial artery prior to, immediately after, and 20 hours after the exposure. They also measured fibrinolysis, the body’s natural defense mechanism against the forming of blood clots.
The control group, who had received no oils, experienced substantial reductions in their dilation. The fish oil group fared better, but also had significant reductions.
By contrast, those who had been given the olive oil seemed to be completely protected from the effects of the particulate matter, experiencing a reduction in dilation so infinitesimal as to be statistically insignificant.
How does olive oil protect us from air pollution?
The olive oil group enjoyed other benefits, as well. Immediately after the exposure to the concentrated particulates, their levels of tissue plasminogen activator – a protein that functions to break down blood clots—increased. And that wasn’t all – the team reported that this beneficial protective reaction continued for 20 hours post-exposure.
The olive oil also ameliorated changes in blood markers that are linked with vasoconstriction – the temporary shrinkage of blood vessels – and fibrinolysis, a process which stops blood clots from developing. The team reported that fish oil, on the other hand, didn’t benefit post-exposure endothelial function or fibrinolyisis.
Lead study author Dr. Haiyan Tong concluded that olive oil could be a safe, low-cost and effective way of counteracting some of the adverse health consequences of air pollution.
Air pollution involves a virtual witches’ brew of toxic chemicals
Dangerous toxins and pollutants in our air include carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, sulfur dioxides, nitrogen oxides, benzene and particulate matter – the tiny bits of soot and metals that give smog its smoky brownish color. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, it is fine particles – measuring less than one-tenth the diameter of a human hair – that pose the most danger; these penetrate deep into the lungs. Other chemicals cause coughing, choking, stinging eyes and reduced lung capacity.
Recent studies document the destructive effects of air pollution.
In a study published in March, 2014, in American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, researchers found that exposure to high levels of traffic-related air pollution was linked with changes to the right ventricle of the heart. Greater right ventricular mass is associated with a higher rate of heart failure and death.
Scientists have already linked pollution with damage to the left ventricle, which can result in hypertrophy and heart attacks.
And, a study published in 2011 in British Medical Journal showed that high levels of air pollution increase the risk of having heart attack for up to six hours after exposure.
Olive oil provides many disease-fighting benefits
To olive oil aficionados, the results of the latest study are not surprising. From its content of healthful monounsaturated fatty acids and oleic acid to its numerous antioxidant components such as flavonols, phenolic compounds and anthocyanins, olive oil is high in disease-fighting constituents.
Numerous studies have shown that people who regularly consume olive oil – a key component of the Mediterranean diet – lower their chances of developing a constellation of health ills, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis and stroke. In addition, olive oil promotes healthy metabolism, reduces inflammation, and may even help ward off Alzheimer’s disease.
Although it sometimes seems that our bodies are besieged at every turn by toxins in the air, water and soil, we are not without defenses. With the golden, health-promoting oil from the olive tree, Mother Nature has provided us with a powerful ally.
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