Can vitamin supplementation prevent lung injury in runners?


Hot, hazy conditions can make running more difficult for some people due to all the ozone in the air. Source: Wikipedia.

There’s a mountain of evidence that running is good for you. However, there are some some adverse conditions, like polluted air, that can cause lung injury and/or hinder performance. During the summer months, air in and around large cities often gets polluted with ozone, especially during heat waves, which can cause respiratory problems or even permanent lung damage.

But is there a way to prevent this without having to curtail outdoor fitness activities? Can vitamin supplementation, in particular, antioxidants like vitamin C or vitamin E help? According to: Effect of vitamin supplementation on lung injury and running performance in a hot, humid, and ozone-polluted environment:

These findings suggest that antioxidant supplementation might help to decrease the lung injury response of runners when exercising in adverse conditions, but has little effect on performance.

According to this study, it looks like these particular supplements may be helpful for decreasing the risk of lung injury(but almost no performance improvement), but it would be foolish for runners to start supplementing based on one small study. We need more research, and supplements aren’t without risks. If you want extra vitamins for their possible protective effects, eat more fruit. If there is an ozone alert in your area, it may be necessary to stay home instead of going out for a run, or to do a shorter run, especially if you have a pre-existing respiratory condition or lung disease.


2 responses to “Can vitamin supplementation prevent lung injury in runners?

  1. That’s very interesting, albeit a rather simplistic solution to a difficult problem! I am very lucky to live in a relatively clean place and right by the sea. I often forget just how good I’ve got it, until I travel and find myself running in a big city and immediately feel tired and run down. I’ve got no doubt that this is because of pollution.. I don’t think there’s anything I can do about it though… =(

  2. I envy you. Actually, the area I live in isn’t very polluted, and there are some woodlands nearby, but the big city is a little south from here so we have some bad days. I feel tired and rundown too if I run in the city long enough, plus my throat feels scratchy. I’m always trying to find ways of dealing with pollution while running, and vitamin supplementation appears to not do anything. Good luck with the Big Big Race, Julia!

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