In the study, researchers evaluated data from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Diet and Health Study. The study followed 548,699 people, with an average age of 62 upon enrollment, for over 17 years. In that period, 126,835 participants of the study died.
The researchers grouped the participants into five according to their level of adherence to a Mediterranean diet. This diet includes more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, olive oils, fish, and poultry, and limits red meat and processed foods. It is rich in antioxidants, which eliminate free radicals in the body that cause cell and tissue damage. (Related: 11 Delicious Key Ingredients that Make The Mediterranean Diet So Nutritious.)
Then, they linked participants to estimates of long-term exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and ozone (O3) based on census tract information. After these, they compared the results of the participants who adhered the least to a Mediterranean diet with those who adhered the most to the dietary pattern.
For every 10 parts per billion (ppb) increase in long-term average NO2 exposure, deaths from all causes, cardiovascular disease deaths, and heart attack deaths increased by five, 10, and 12 percent, respectively, among participants with the least adherence to a Mediterranean diet. In comparison, participants with the most adherence to a Mediterranean diet only had two, two, and four percent increased deaths, respectively.
For every 10 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3) increase in long-term average PM2.5 exposure, cardiovascular disease and heart attack deaths increased by 17 and 20 percent, respectively, in those with the least adherence, compared to the five percent increased risk for cardiovascular disease and heart attack deaths in those who adhered the most to a Mediterranean diet. However, adherence to a Mediterranean diet did not provide protection against the detrimental side effects of long-term exposure to O3.
"Given the benefits we found of a diet high in anti-oxidants, our results are consistent with the hypothesis that particle air pollution caused by fossil fuel combustion adversely affects health by inducing oxidative stress and inflammation," said George Thurston, of the New York University School of Medicine and senior author of the study.
The researchers concluded that following a Mediterranean diet can help minimize the negative effects of air pollution.
Not sure on how to get started eating a Mediterranean diet? Here are some tips:
Read more news stories and studies on natural ways to prevent diseases by going to Prevention.news.