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In a recent review, researchers looked at 33 studies on vitamin D and diabetes and concluded that taking a vitamin D supplement significantly improved markers of inflammation and oxidative stress in diabetic patients. This is important, because diabetic patients are more susceptible to increased inflammation and oxidative stress, which can lead to some of the complications of diabetes like cardiovascular disease. Many of us think of diabetes as a simple issue of poor blood sugar balance, but high blood sugar leads to inflammation, inflammation leads to excessive oxidative damage, excessive oxidative damage leads to high blood sugar, resulting in a dangerous cycle that over time, leads to chronic inflammation and increased oxidative damage, both underlying factors in most chronic diseases. Vitamin D supplements provide an easy and affordable way to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. And with the days getting shorter and opportunities to obtain vitamin D from sunlight dwindling, it’s important to adopt simple habits, like a daily vitamin D supplement, to support optimal health. Now, more than ever, it’s crucial for everyone to return to the foundational tenets of health, and vitamin D is a good place to start.
Air pollution is an environmental risk factor associated with a wide variety of health conditions, ranging from asthma to cognitive decline. Fine particulate matter, a common type of air pollution found in smoke and emissions from power plants and vehicles, poses a particular threat, as these microscopic particles are able to penetrate deep into the lungs. We can’t always choose the air we breathe, but new research is showing that the omega-3 fats can mitigate the harmful effects of air pollution, including fi ne particulate matter.
A 2020 study published in the journal Neurology examined the effects of omega-3 fat consumption on brain size in 1,315 dementia-free women between the ages of 65 and 80. The researchers used models to measure the participants’ average particulate matter exposure over a three-year period and compared that data to MRI brain images several years later. The participants’ omega-3 dietary intake and blood levels of EPA and DHA were also assessed. The researchers found that exposure to particulate matter from air pollution reduced brain size, but these effects were mitigated in those participants who had higher blood levels and dietary intakes of EPA and DHA. The women with higher blood levels and dietary intakes of the omega-3s had “significantly greater volumes of white matter and hippocampus.”
Another recent study compared the effects of dietary omega-3 and omega-6 fat intake on asthma severity in 135 asthmatic children exposed to indoor air pollution in Baltimore City; the majority of the subjects were African Americans between the ages of five and 12. The researchers analyzed the amount of omega-3 and omega-6 fats the children obtained from their diets and then measured the amount of air pollution and particulate matter each child was exposed to in their homes. The researchers found that high omega-6 intake amplified the effects of indoor particulate matter, particularly systemic inflammation, and was associated with increased asthma severity and reduced lung function. These effects increased with each additional gram of omega-6 fat intake. However, in the children with higher omega-3 fat intakes, the negative effects of particulate matter exposure were diminished and asthma symptoms were reduced.
These studies highlight the promising effects of the omega-3 fats in mitigating the damaging effects of air pollution and are great reminders for why we should all aim to get more of these important fats. Omega-3 fats are found in cold-water fish such as wild-caught salmon and sardines, but optimal levels are most easily obtained from omega-3 supplements containing EPA and DHA.