Background: Nutrition and lifestyle are well-defined modulators of chronic diseases. Poor dietary habits (such as high intake of processed foods rich in fat and low intake of fruits and vegetables), as well as a sedentary lifestyle clearly contribute to today's compromised quality of life in the United States. It is becoming increasingly clear that nutrition can modulate the toxicity of environmental pollutants.
Objectives: Our goal in this commentary is to discuss the recommendation that nutrition should be considered a necessary variable in the study of human disease associated with exposure to environmental pollutants.
Discussion: Certain diets can contribute to compromised health by being a source of exposure to environmental toxic pollutants. Many of these pollutants are fat soluble, and thus fatty foods often contain higher levels of persistent organics than does vegetable matter. Nutrition can dictate the lipid milieu, oxidative stress, and antioxidant status within cells. The modulation of these parameters by an individual's nutritional status may have profound affects on biological processes, and in turn influence the effects of environmental pollutants to cause disease or dysfunction. For example, potential adverse health effects associated with exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls may increase as a result of ingestion of certain dietary fats, whereas ingestion of fruits and vegetables, rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients or bioactive compounds, may provide protection.
Conclusions: We recommend that future directions in environmental health research explore this nutritional paradigm that incorporates a consideration of the relationships between nutrition and lifestyle, exposure to environmental toxicants, and disease. Nutritional interventions may provide the most sensible means to develop primary prevention strategies of diseases associated with many environmental toxic insults.