A diet rich in vitamins C and E may protect the lungs of asthmatic children from the effects of ozone pollution, recent study findings from Mexico suggest. The study was conducted to determine if antioxidant supplements could protect asthmatic children from air pollution in the metropolitan area of Mexico City. Previous studies have indicated that children in the area have experienced deterioration in their lung function and increased respiratory problems.
The 158 children involved in the study were randomly divided into one of two groups that received a daily supplement of either vitamins or inactive placebo pills. They were then followed from October 1998 to April 2000. Overall, the children studied reported getting the recommended daily amount of vitamin C in their diets, but not nearly enough vitamin E.
The investigators found that the vitamin supplements protected the study group from the decreases in forced expiratory flow, the amount of air dispelled from the lungs during a certain time period, and peak expiratory volume, a measure of airway resistance, that were seen among those who received placebo pills. Although the study group included children with mild, moderate and severe asthma, the effect of the vitamin supplements was mostly seen among those with moderate and severe asthma. The researchers believe that this may suggest that children with more advanced asthma are more susceptible to the impact of ozone exposure because of a decrease in antioxidant defences in the lung.
The data suggest that vitamin C and vitamin E supplementation above the minimum dietary requirement in children with asthma with low intake of vitamin E provides some protection against the acute effects of ozone on their lungs. Children with heavy exposure to air pollutants may indeed need a higher intake of these vitamins to protect their lungs and should have a diet rich in vitamin C and vitamin E, including citrus fruits and green vegetables.
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