How can we protect ourselves from increasing air pollution?
Taking a new study, choosing the right vitamins before travelling to a city with heavy air pollution could protect your DNA from genetic damage, which is usually caused by the inhalation of the finest particles.
A recent Columbia University study in New York found that vitamins can protect us from the harmful effects of air pollution. The results of the study were published in the English language journal “PNAS”.
Combination of three B vitamins protects against air pollution
An international team of researchers found that a combination of three B vitamins (folic acid, B6 and B12) appears to strengthen the self-defence mechanism of so-called gene molecules that are found at high PM2.5 concentrations (suspended particles with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less ) mutate quickly. Thus, inflammatory and other symptoms of short-term exposure to air pollution can be better compensated. Due to early results, researchers were unable to recommend dosages but recommended that they eat more foods rich in B than usual when travelling to cities with high levels of air pollution (such as Hong Kong and Beijing).
Is a balanced diet sufficient for protection?
From a biological point of view, B vitamins in food are expected to have the same effect on the epigenome as dietary supplements based on pills, explain the authors of the study. A healthy, balanced diet with sufficient sources of vitamin B should be enough. Leafy vegetables and beans are rich in folic acid, vitamin B6 is found in fish, beef liver and starchy vegetables and B12 in fish, meat, eggs and milk. People who are regularly exposed to high levels of PM2.5, for example, in heavily polluted cities, could benefit from taking supplements, researchers suggest. If not overdosed, B vitamins taken orally are considered safe for most people. However, if you want to increase the intake, it is best to talk to your doctor beforehand.
The study was conducted on humans
In contrast to most previous studies done on animals or cultured cells, the researchers investigated ten people in the current study. They were all healthy non-smokers of different ethnic backgrounds and between the ages of 18 and 60 years. In the first phase of the experiment, the volunteers inhaled the thick smog with a PM2.5 value above 250 micrograms per cubic meter of air for two hours before submitting blood samples. In the second phase, they received B-vitamin supplements for four weeks before undergoing the same process.
What symptoms can air pollution trigger?
Known symptoms of exposure to smog include chest pain, dizziness, headache and heart disease. Researchers cited a historical study that found that high levels of air pollution are associated with a tenfold increase in mortality rates. Some recent studies have also found that PM2.5 can damage human brain cells and affect the functioning of genes. However, the molecular mechanism is not yet fully understood.
Vitamin pills have a preventative effect and repair existing damage
The authors of the new study confirmed that high levels of air pollution could overwhelm the adaptability of a gene and lead to errors in gene replication, which then trigger unexpected mutations. They observed such damage in T helper cells, which play an essential role in the human immune system. Taking vitamin B supplements over four weeks reduced the damage caused by exposure to high levels of PM2.5 by 28 to 76 percent, the study authors report. The results suggest that the vitamin pills were not only preventive but also repaired some of the genetic damage caused by exposure to high PM2.5 levels, the researchers explain.
People have to fight against pollution
The fight against air pollution can not be won permanently by taking vitamins, but it is more important to combat corruption in general. Here, emission control and regulation remain the backbone of disease prevention.