Food and Behaviour Research

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The role of nutrition in influencing mechanisms involved in environmentally mediated diseases

Hennig B, Petriello MC, Gamble MV, Surh YJ, Kresty LA, Frank N, Rangkadilok N, Ruchirawat M, Suk WA (2018) Rev Environ Health.  33(1): 87-97. doi: 10.1515/reveh-2017-0038. 

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Human exposure to environmental contaminants such as persistent chlorinated organics, heavy metals, pesticides, phthalates, flame retardants, electronic waste and airborne pollutants around the world, and especially in Southeast Asian regions, are significant and require urgent attention.

Given this widespread contamination and abundance of such toxins as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the ecosystem, it is unlikely that remediation alone will be sufficient to address the health impacts associated with this exposure. Furthermore, we must assume that the impact on health of some of these contaminants results in populations with extraordinary vulnerabilities to disease risks. Further exacerbating risk; infectious diseases, poverty and malnutrition are common in the Southeast Asian regions of the world. Thus, exploring preventive measures of environmental exposure and disease risk through new paradigms of environmental toxicology, optimal and/or healthful nutrition and health is essential.

For example, folic acid supplementation can lower blood arsenic levels, and plant-derived bioactive nutrients can lower cardiovascular and cancer risks linked to pollutant exposure. Data also indicate that diets enriched with bioactive food components such as polyphenols and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids can prevent or decrease toxicant-induced inflammation. Thus, consuming healthy diets that exhibit high levels of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, is a meaningful way to reduce the vulnerability to non-communicable diseases linked to environmental toxic insults.

This nutritional paradigm in environmental toxicology requires further study in order to improve our understanding of the relationship between nutrition or other lifestyle modifications and toxicant-induced diseases. Understanding mechanistic relationships between nutritional modulation of environmental toxicants and susceptibility to disease development are important for both cumulative risk assessment and the design and implementation of future public health programs and behavioral interventions.


See these articles for more research on the relationship between between nutrition and environmental pollutants.