Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Public Health and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Modification by antioxidant supplementation of changes in human lung function associated with air pollutant exposure: A systematic review

Amir Y Tashakkor, Katherine S Chow and Chris Carlsten*

Author Affiliations

The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Public Health 2011, 11:532  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-532

Published: 5 July 2011

Abstract

Background

Outdoor air pollution, given its demonstrated negative effects on the respiratory system, is a growing public health concern worldwide, particularly in urban cities. Human exposure to pollutants such as ozone, nitrogen oxides, combustion-related particulate matter and oxides of sulfur is responsible for significant cardiopulmonary morbidity and mortality in both adults and children. Several antioxidants have shown an ability to partially attenuate the negative physiological and functional impacts of air pollutants. This study systematically presents current data on the potential benefits of antioxidant supplementation on lung function outcomes associated with air pollutant exposures in intact humans.

Methods

Electronic databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, BIOSIS Previews, Web of Sciences, Environmental Sciences & Pollution Management and TOXNET) were systematically searched for all studies published up to April 2009. Search terms relating to the concepts of respiratory tract diseases, respiratory function tests, air pollution, and antioxidants were used. Data was systematically abstracted from original articles that satisfied selection criteria for inclusion. For inclusion, the studies needed to have evaluated human subjects, given supplemental antioxidants, under conditions of known levels of air pollutants with measured lung function before and after antioxidant administration and/or air pollution exposure. Selected studies were summarized and conclusions presented.

Results

Eight studies investigated the role of antioxidant supplementation on measured lung function outcomes after subject exposure to air pollutants under controlled conditions; 5 of these studies concluded that pollutant-induced airway hyper-responsiveness and diminution in lung function measurements were attenuated by antioxidant supplementation. The remaining five studies took place under ambient (uncontrolled) exposures and unanimously concluded that antioxidant supplementations attenuate the negative effects of urban air pollution on lung function.

Conclusions

The data evaluating modification of changes in lung function associated with air pollutant exposure by antioxidant supplementation, in intact humans, is limited. Of 13 studies dedicated to this concern, ten demonstrated an attenuation of pollution-associated decrements. There is growing evidence for the benefit of anti-oxidant supplementation in moderating the effects of air pollution on lung function, but more research on human participants is needed to inform this topic.