Exposure to high levels of air pollution increased stress hormone levels and negative metabolic changes in otherwise healthy, young adults in a recent study conducted in China. Air purifiers appeared to lessen the negative effects, according to new research published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.
Researchers focused on fine particulate matter (PM2.5) – a component of air pollution emitted from vehicles, factories, power plants, fires and smoking – because many studies have suggested this type of major air pollutant might lead to cardiovascular and metabolic health consequences, according to Haidong Kan, M.D., Ph.D., study author and professor of environmental health sciences at Fudan University in Shanghai, China.
However, the biological mechanisms linking air pollution to cardiovascular risk are unclear. In this study, the first of its kind, researchers used “metabolomics” – a method that could reflect how glucose, amino acids, fatty acids and lipids are metabolized – to get a snapshot of the chemical processes by which cells produce the substances and energy needed to sustain life.
Researchers recruited 55 healthy, young college students, who received alternate treatments of real and sham air purification in random orders in their dormitory rooms.
Researchers measured indoor and outdoor fine particulate matter levels during the study, and at certain points did health tests and collected blood serum and urine samples to analyze the students’ metabolites, inflammation and oxidative stress biomarkers. They looked for differences in blood serum metabolites, biomarkers and blood pressures with increasing exposure to fine particulate matter.