A Breath of Fresh Urban Air?

You don’t need your yoga teacher to tell you that the breath provides our life-force. But what about the quality of the air within that breath? What kind of air do we breathe in urban Canada when we are negotiating the downtown cores in each of our major cities?

Urban air pollution continues to be a major assault to human health. The volume of pollutants that pour out of a vehicle tailpipe has gotten smaller, but this sets up a false illusion that urban air is somehow Kootenay-Clean. It is not. As highlighted in a new research report, the non-exhaust part of emissions – e.g. brake wear, road wear, tire wear and road “dust”- contribute easily as much and often more than the tailpipe exhaust to urban air pollution. Then we have other volatile organic compounds (pollutants) emerging from gas stations, factories, dry cleaners, paint shops and many other urban sources. There is absolutely no debate concerning the ability of environmental pollutants to adversely affect health – of course asthma and lung diseases are probably the best known health consequence, however, air pollution is linked to lowered mental outlook, cardiovascular disease and stroke, cognitive function, and worsening of allergies.

The reason that air pollutants can contribute to so many chronic illnesses appears to be due to

  1. They increase the production of inflammatory chemicals
  2. They increase oxidative stress/free radical damage
  3. They diminish the diversity of beneficial microbes in the gut
  4. They alter gene expression, enhancing the cellular aging process

Even short term exposure in humans can alter physiological processes. Whether you cycle or walk for pleasure, to get to work, or both, consider this – during exercise, the intake of air pollution increases significantly due to changes in breathing and higher “stickiness” or what researchers call deposition of pollutants into the linings of the respiratory passageways. Depending on the situation, the burden on the antioxidant defense system may be 20+ percent higher while exercising in areas with high vs. low air pollutants. Based on this, in 2014, researchers indicated that breathing in airborne pollutants can put a dent in the well-known health benefits of exercise.

So what to do? Give up walking, running and cycling in urban environments? We don’t think so.

Research shows that the adverse health effects of air pollution are magnified by poor dietary choices. And vice versa. On the other hand, colourful diets rich in a variety of antioxidant phytonutrients can offer a layer of protection against environmental contaminants. There are about a dozen studies showing that dietary antioxidant support can provide value in the presence of air pollution. The lessons from these studies is that a variety of colourful antioxidants, rather than just a single-nutrient hope for defense (like vitamin c or E alone), is a much safer bet.

Dietary choices and select nutritional supplementation can provide a defensive shield around you. greens+ is the easy choice in supplementation – only greens+ contains the synergy that is required for defense. It contains so many of the individual ingredients known to protect against the detrimental effects of air pollution – e.g. green tea, ginseng, grape phytonutrients, green ingredients like spirulina and chlorella, apple pectin and beets. However, what really gives greens+ the edge is research-based consumer confidence. There is no mystery as to whether or not its broad array of phytonutrients are actually going to work inside your body as you pedal or walk down the streets of our urban centres. Two separate University of Toronto studies show that the colourful, defending antioxidants in greens+ are indeed absorbed into the bloodstream of healthy Canadian adults.  So keep on keeping on, walk, run and cycle and know that the invisible shield of greens+ is working.



Amato F, et al. Urban air quality: the challenge of traffic non-exhaust emissions. J Hazard Mater 2014 Jun 30;275:31-6.

Villeneuve PJ, et al. A cohort study of intra-urban variations in volatile organic compounds and mortality, Toronto, Canada. Environ Pollut. 2013 Dec;183:30-9.

Asbridge M, Ralph K, Stewart S. Private space second-hand smoke exposure and the mental health of non-smokers: a cross-sectional analysis of Canadian adults. Addict Behav. 2013 Mar;38(3):1679-86.

Wellenius GA, et al: Residential proximity to nearest major roadway and cognitive function in community-dwelling seniors: results from the MOBILIZE Boston Study. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2012 Nov;60(11):2075-80.

Bind MA, et al. Air pollution and gene-specific methylation in the Normative Aging Study: association, effect modification, and mediation analysis. Epigenetics. 2014 Mar;9(3):448-58.

Salim SY, Kaplan GG, Madsen KL. Air pollution effects on the gut microbiota: a link between exposure and inflammatory disease. Gut Microbes. 2014 Mar-Apr;5(2):215-9.

Bos I, et al. Physical Activity, Air Pollution and the Brain. Sports Med. 2014 In Press

Chan KH, et al. Chinese green tea ameliorates lung injury in cigarette smoke-exposed rats. Respir Med. 2009 Nov;103(11):1746-54.

Lee SE, Park YS. Korean Red Ginseng water extract inhibits COX-2 expression by suppressing p38 in acrolein-treated human endothelial cells. J Ginseng Res. 2014 Jan;38(1):34-9.

Herber D, et al. Sulforaphane-rich broccoli sprout extract attenuates nasal allergic response to diesel exhaust particles. Food Funct. 2014 Jan;5(1):35-41.

Arcand S, et al. Resveratrol protects against functional impairment and cardiac structural protein degradation induced by secondhand smoke exposure. Can J Cardiol. 2013 Oct;29(10):1320-8.

Tashakkor AY, Chow KS, Carlsten C. Modification by antioxidant supplementation of changes in human lung function associated with air pollutant exposure: a systematic review. BMC Public Health. 2011 Jul 5;11:532.

Sun L, et al. Ambient fine particulate matter and ozone exposures induce inflammation in epicardial and perirenal adipose tissues in rats fed a high fructose diet. Part Fibre Toxicol. 2013 Aug 22;10:43.

Egner PA, et al. Rapid and sustainable detoxication of airborne pollutants by broccoli sprout beverage: results of a randomized clinical trial in China. Cancer Prev Res. 2014 Aug;7(8):813-23.

Misbahuddin M, et al. Efficacy of spirulina extract plus zinc in patients of chronic arsenic poisoning: a randomized placebo-controlled study. Clin Toxicol. 2006;44(2):135-41.

Lee SH, et al. Six-week supplementation with Chlorella has favorable impact on antioxidant status in Korean male smokers. Nutrition. 2010 Feb;26(2):175-83.

Rao V, Balachandran B, Shen H, Logan A, Rao L. In vitro and in vivo antioxidant properties of the plant-based supplement greens+. Int J Mol Sci. 2011;12(8):4896-908.

Kang NN, Rao AV, De Asis K, Chan L, Rao LG. Antioxidant  effects of a nutritional supplement containing polyphenols and micronutrients in post-menopausal women: a randomized controlled study. J Aging Res Clin Practice 2012;1(3):183-187.