Omega-3 fatty acids have been promoted for their heart-healthy and anti-cancer benefits, and soy is known as a vegetarian protein source with anti-cancer properties.
But new research suggests that omega-3s (found in fish oil) and soy supplements may actually provide the heart with protection from certain damaging effects of air pollution, according to Food Quality News. The research appears in Environmental Health Perspectives.
According to the article, exposure to vehicle exhaust and industrial emissions is known to negatively affect the heart. In addition, particulate matter (PM) associated with these emissions may prevent the body's natural antioxidant enzymes from performing their functions properly.
Omega-3 or soy supplementation may increase those natural enzyme levels.
The researchers recruited 52 elderly nursing home residents in Mexico City and observed them for seven months--three months with no supplementation and then four months of either fish oil or soy oil supplements.
The article says the participants had chronic exposure to particulate matter.
After the seven months, researchers analyzed blood samples taken before and after the supplementation, and observed that consumption of the omega-3 supplements was associated with lower levels of oxidative damage in blood cells. The antioxidant enzyme activity also increased in both the fish oil and the soy groups.
The group taking fish oil supplements were seen to have the greatest benefits, possibly due to the different types of polyunsaturated fatty acids in the supplements.
The researchers are quoted in the article: "We based our results on a limited sample size but suggest that essential fatty acids might play an important role in modulating the impact of PM on health, which warrants further investigation in larger populations."
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