May 29 (UPI) -- New research could shine a light on how air pollution contributes to heart and circulatory health, new research shows.
Researchers discovered 69 metabolites changed drastically in the bodies of people who attended the 2008 Beijing Olympics, according to findings published Wednesday in Environmental Health Perspectives. Those metabolites could lead to stress on the cardiovascular system, researchers say.
"Our study found that the human body had systemic changes at the metabolite level before, during and after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when ambient air pollution changed drastically," Zhongzheng Niu, a researcher and study co-author, said in a news release.
The results come from the 2008 Beijing Olympics Air Pollution study when temporary air pollution controls were in place in China.
For the study, the researchers employed the "omics" technique to measure metabolites in groups rather than one by one. In all, it counted 886 metabolites.
When air pollutants invade the body, particularly through the nose and lungs, they can break down its membranes and disorder its secretion. This could send signaling molecules to other bodily organs which may begin a chain reaction of responses. The small molecules that result from those reactions are called metabolites.
The study examined 201 adults when air pollution was high, just before Beijing's air quality improvement initiative went into effect. The researchers followed the participants during the Games once the air pollution was lower, and then when it returned back to being poor.
The researchers then selected 26 non-smokers between age 30 and 65 for metabolic analysis.
The researchers uncovered two primary metabolic markers, one with lipids and another that consisted of dipeptides, polyunsaturated fatty acids, taurine, and xanthine. Those metabolites contribute to oxidative stress, inflammation, and the cardiovascular and nervous systems.
"We found that these metabolites together depicted a relatively comprehensive picture of human body responses to air pollution," said Rachael Hageman Blair, associate professor of biostatistics at the University of Buffalo and study co-author.
According to the World Health Organization, 91 percent of the premature deaths from poor air quality occur in low -and middle-income countries.
"The good thing is that we also found some protective molecules, namely antioxidants, also increased when air pollution is high, indicating our body has a defense system to reduce harm," said Lina Mu, an epidemiologist at the University of Buffalo and study author.