Secondhand smoke may deplete key nutrients

December 5, 2000 in Nutrition Topics in the News, Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements

Secondhand smoke may deplete key nutrients

Inhaling secondhand cigarette smoke (passive smoking) appears to reduce levels of important nutrients in the blood.

A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that people who live with a smoker have lower levels of alpha and beta-carotene and the antioxidant cryptoxanthin, compared with nonsmokers who are not exposed to secondhand smoke.

These findings suggest that even passive smoking may be harmful enough to use up our antioxidant defenses. Antioxidants are compounds that neutralize disease-causing free radicals in cigarette smoke and other chemicals and pollutants.

But it is not clear whether the reduced levels of certain nutrients in both smokers and nonsmokers is caused by cigarette smoke or by another factor such as poor diet. Studies that have tried to assess why smokers have lower circulating concentrations of some key micronutrients suggest that it is due to a combination of lower dietary intake and cigarette smoke directly depleting antioxidant micronutrients in the blood.

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