Vitamin B minimizes adverse health effects of air pollution
-by Dena Schmidt
A new study is showing that getting enough vitamin B could offer a protective effect against air pollution and toxic fine particulate matter. In fact, high doses of vitamin B have been shown to “completely offset” the harmful effects, according to researchers.
Editor’s note: For simplicity sake, we refer to all the B vitamins as ‘vitamin B’ for this special report and wish to illustrate the health protective value of riboflavin, niacin, plus many other B vitamins – including B12.
The international team of scientists involved in the study are excited about the prospects of these findings, especially for areas plagued by air pollution such as New York City, Los Angeles and many areas within China (to name a few). However, they caution that there could be limits to the benefits of vitamin B and that more research is required to verify their findings.
Warning: Air pollution affects up to 90 percent of world’s population
The most dangerous type of air pollution is very fine particulate matter, also referred to as PM2.5. This refers to particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter. They are just 1/30 the width of a human hair, which means they can all too readily get lodged deep within lung tissue, causing lung problems, breathing issues and heart health problems in persons of all ages.
Air pollution and its impact on heart health and other areas is a growing concern in many cities across the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates as much as 90 percent of the world’s population could reside in areas where air quality is not within established safety guidelines.
Air pollution harms the immune system at the DNA level
Complex PM2.5 air particulates are emitted in high amounts by automobiles (especially diesel cars) and wood burning stoves. They are also emitted as a by-product from chemical reactions that occur between two or more pollutant gases.
At least as troubling as the lung and heart health issues caused by these particulates are the negative effects at the DNA level. Our DNA contains the blueprints for life, with different genes managing every process in the body.
Epigenetics refer to genetic changes caused by outside influences. A “signal” triggers the expression of different genetic codes and patterns. Epigenetics can be positive or negative. Environmental factors such as air pollution have been found to alter immune system genes in ways that impede its protective effects.
Vitamin B found to limit negative genetic effects of air pollution by up to 76 percent
However, the new research indicates that vitamin B can help to offset these changes at the DNA level. For the study, 10 participants were exposed to PM2.5 air pollution while taking high levels of B vitamins.
Four weeks of high B vitamin supplementation was found to limit the PM2.5 effect by from 28 to 76 percent at ten gene locations. Air pollution also had less of a negative effect on mitochondrial DNA, the energy generators of the cell.
While researchers are optimistic, they admit a larger and more comprehensive study must be conducted to verify the findings. However, the benefits of vitamin B supplementation hold tremendous promise for those living in areas with high air pollution such as Beijing, Mexico City and India.
If you live in a heavily polluted area of the world, we suggest you add lots of plants to your indoor living space and consider investing into a good quality, air purification system for added protection.