Eating carrots, celery protects you from toxins in cigarette smoke, air pollution

NEWARK, Del. — If you live in a smoggy area, new research finds you should definitely load up on vegetables while grocery shopping. Scientists at the University of Delaware report eating more apiaceous vegetables (celery, carrots, parsnip, parsley) can help mitigate the negative health effects of air pollution.

A research team led by Jae Kyeom Kim, assistant professor of behavioral health and nutrition, investigated how this specific vegetable family protects the body from acrolein accumulation, which is a lung and skin irritant featuring a strong unpleasant odor. Acrolein is present in large quantities in both cigarette smoke and automobile exhaust.

Air pollution is a major global health problem, responsible for over four million deaths annually. The U.S. is no exception. Many cities in California, like Los Angeles and Bakersfield, are notorious for smog.

In a series of lab tests, researchers analyzed how efficiently apiaceous vegetables, which are high in phytonutrients, mitigated acrolein-induced toxicities. Sure enough, the findings show how oxidative stress, which is triggered by acrolein, can indeed be reduced by the vegetables.

“Kim’s research discovered that apiaceous vegetables supported detoxification through an increase in antioxidant enzyme activity,” Dr. Jillian Trabulsi says in a university release. “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.”

Less than 2 cups of veggies can protect people

Moving forward, the research team is keen to settle on a reasonable dosage for humans. Prof. Kim is also planning on holding human intervention trials eventually.

“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,” Prof. Kim adds. “It doesn’t require a high intake to see a difference, and this is an achievable amount in daily life.”

In conclusion, study authors say eating more vegetables appears to help combat the buildup of toxicants caused by exposure to 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,” Dr. Trabulsi concludes. “Focusing on a healthy whole food diet is more impactful than relying on individual supplements.”

The study is published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

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