Food chemoprevention and air pollution: the health comes with eating

Rev Environ Health. 2020 Jun 23;35(4):471-479. doi: 10.1515/reveh-2019-0072. Print 2020 Nov 18.


Ambient air pollution is known to be an important causative agent of many non-communicable diseases, mainly due to fine particulate matter (PM2.5). According to Global Burden Disease study in 2015, the estimated premature deaths caused by PM2.5 were 4.2 million. Besides deaths, airborne pollution's effect on human health also has dramatic economic and social costs, contributing greatly to disability-adjusted life-year (DALY). To reduce the health impact is necessary a double approach, which includes the improvement of air quality and food chemoprevention, aimed at enhancing the homeostatic abilities of exposed subjects. The scavenging, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties of nutraceuticals effectively counteract the pathogenic mechanisms common in almost all non-communicable diseases associated with air pollutants. Moreover, several bioactive compounds of food modulate, by epigenetic mechanisms, the metabolism of xenobiotics, favouring conjugation reactions and promoting excretion. This narrative review summarize the numerous pieces of evidence collected in the last decades by observational and experimental studies which underline the chemopreventive role of flavonoids, contained in several fruits and consumer beverages (wine, tea, etc.), and isothiocyanate sulforaphane, contained in the cruciferous vegetables belonging to the genus Brassica. These bioactive compounds, enhancing the individual homeostatic abilities, reduce the harmful effects of airborne pollution.

Keywords: air pollution; antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity; flavonoids; nutraceuticals; sulforaphane.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Chemoprevention / statistics & numerical data*
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Food*
  • Health Impact Assessment*
  • Humans
  • Particulate Matter / adverse effects*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter