For those with respiratory ailments, here’s one more reason to eat fruits and veggies rich in vitamin C--it can lessen the harmful effects of pollution.

A study posted on found that people with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and low levels of vitamin C also have a higher risk of having breathing problems when outdoor air pollution levels are high.

Researchers at the Imperial College in London measured levels of coarse particulate matter from burnt fossil fuels before and after participant patients were admitted to the hospital. The majority of the patients were between the ages of 54 and 74, but some were as young as 18, and many were former smokers. Researchers found that during the days when air pollution was high, there was a 35-percent risk of hospitalization for the patients. They also noticed that the admission risk was 1.2 times greater in patients with low vitamin C.

Michael Brauer, environmental health scientist at the University of British Colombia in Canada, said that the study is proof that "air pollution might be modified by antioxidants."

Antioxidants like vitamin C may protect the body from harmful free radicals that destroy cells. Coarse particulates found in air pollution become free radicals when they enter the lungs. Antioxidants, on the other hand, bind themselves to free radicals to prevent damage.

While this study is important in supporting the importance of antioxidants and vitamin C, the researchers and doctors who conducted the study advised patients with asthma or any respiratory disease to continue with their medication and to avoid being exposed to pollution as much as possible.

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(Photo by James Bowe via Flickr Creative Commons)

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