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Eating vegetables can protect us against air pollutants

A new study led by the University of Delaware has found that increasing our daily intake of apiaceous vegetables, such as celery, carrots, and parsley, could mitigate the effects of air pollutants in our bodies. According to the experts, these vegetables protect the body from the accumulation of acrolein, an irritant of the lungs and skin with a strong unpleasant smell, which is abundantly found in cigarette smoke and automobile exhaust.

Through a series of laboratory tests, study senior author Jae Kyeom Kim (an assistant professor of Behavioral Health and Nutrition at the University of Delaware) and his team analyzed how apiaceous vegetables mitigated acrolein-induced toxicities and reduced the oxidative stress triggered by these harmful substances.

“Kim’s research discovered that apiaceous vegetables supported detoxification through an increase in antioxidant enzyme activity,” said study co-author Jillian Trabulsi, an associate professor of Nutrition at the University of Delaware. “The results suggest that apiaceous vegetables may provide protection against acrolein-induced damages and inflammation because, in the liver, the vegetables enhance conversion of acrolein into a water-soluble acid for bodily excretion.”

In a next step, the scientists investigated what is a reasonable dosage amount for human consumption in order to fully benefit from these vegetables.

“When we calculated this, we determined the actual daily calorie amount of apiaceous vegetables for humans is roughly 1 and 1/3 cups per day,” Professor Kim said. “It doesn’t require a high intake to see a difference, and this is an achievable amount in daily life.”

In future studies, Professor Kim and his team plan to integrate human intervention trials to better understand the health benefits of apiaceous vegetables. For the moment, they stress the importance of implementing behavioral changes in diet as a solution for combating the buildup of toxic substances derived from air pollution.

“Research has identified that it is the totality of nutrients in fruits and vegetables that support beneficial health outcomes, rather than a single nutrient. Focusing on a healthy whole food diet is more impactful than relying on individual supplements,” Professor Trabulsi concluded.

The study is published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry


By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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