Air pollution has become an overwhelming problem in our society, with an estimated 90% of people living in areas where the particles in the environment are significantly higher than the perceived healthy amount. Scientists believe that they have recently found a way in which supplements may be able to help us counteract the disastrous effects of pollution in the air.
Negative Effects of Air Pollution on Health
One of the main causes of this air pollution is the presence of a great amount of fine particulate matter (PM2.5). This is the result of emissions from wood burning stoves, diesel cars, and chemical reactions caused when other gases are burnt. The particles can become lodged in our lungs, resulting in problems with our breathing and heart health.
The effect that the environment has on the way our bodies operate is called epigenetics. When exposed to these particles, they cause changes within our genes that subsequently inhibit the way that they may function. This switching on and off of our genes, results in adverse effects which then cause a decrease in our immunity levels.
How B Vitamins May Help
In initial experiments, researchers noticed that when given certain nutrients the cells within an animal’s body would stop switching on and off. They realised that this method could be used to maintain our health even in polluted areas.
To expand their findings, scientists conducted tests on 10 healthy, non-smoking volunteers between the ages of 18 and 60. The participants were also not using any medication, including vitamins, at the time. Before beginning, each person’s epigenetic function was checked using a placebo and clean air. Ambient particles were then collected from a heavily trafficked area and administered to volunteers through an instrument like an oxygen mask. Each person was subsequently given a daily Vitamin B supplement which consisted of folic acid, and vitamins B6 and B12.
After a month, blood samples were collected and measured from each person, and showed that the effects of the particulate matter were between 28 and 76% lower. There was also less impact on the mitochondrial cells which are responsible for our energy.
The limitations of the experiment, including the minute number of volunteers and the fact that there isn’t much known about the way in which air pollution affects our molecular structure, have made researchers caution that experiments are currently inconclusive. They may be the start, however, of a different way of tackling the effects of air pollution which would be free of possible side effects.
Even though the scale of the experiment was too small to yield definitive results, researchers believe that their findings are promising. They have suggested expanding the project into areas with large scale air pollution, such as Beijing, India and Mexico, to determine the effects the vitamin supplement would have on a larger percentage of the population. The main solution that needs to be found, however, is a method of lowering air pollution and scientists believe that emission control and regulation need to be more focused.