Diet Vital in Protecting Against Effects of Harmful Pollutants


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 17, 2011) - While government authorities and the private sector work together to make our living environments safer and healthier, is there anything the average person can do to fight back against the potential harmful effects of exposure to pollutants?   The answer is 'yes,' based on research being led by Bernhard Hennig, program director for the University of Kentucky Superfund Research Program (UK-SRP) and professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, College of Agriculture.

Hennig recently delivered the 2011 SRP Distinguished Lecture hosted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences/National Institutes of Health (NIEHS/NIH).  Hennig and his UK-SRP team work together to pinpoint the science behind the interaction among environmental toxins, nutrition, and disease. 

"There is evidence that chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, are linked to environmental pollution," said Hennig.  "Our research indicates that diet can play a key role in fighting back against the effects of pollutants on vascular dysfunctions and related pathologies."

As an example, work in Hennig's lab demonstrates that fruits and vegetables, rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients or bioactive compounds, may provide protection against environmental insults induced by PCBs, which are highly toxic  compounds.  PCBs have been found to contaminate water supplies near what are now Superfund Cleanup sites in Kentucky, such as in Paducah and Harlan County, and elsewhere around the U.S.  Conversely, certain dietary fats may increase the risk of diseases related to environmental pollution.

"There is a great need to further explore this nutritional model in environmental toxicology and to improve our understanding of the relationship between nutrition and lifestyle, exposure to environmental toxicants and disease," said Hennig.   "Nutritional interventions may provide the most sensible means to develop primary prevention strategies of diseases associated with many environmental toxicants."

Hennig and the UK Superfund Research Program team are dedicated to raising the public awareness of their research results through the Community Engagement and Research Translation Core, which reaches out to educate residents about the importance of diet for overall health and protection against the harmful effects of exposure to pollutants.  In addition, UK-SRP collaborates with UK's statewide Cooperative Extension Service.


MEDIA CONTACT: Carl Nathe, (859) 257-3200;