Taking B vitamin supplements could protect us against air pollution, which is becoming recognised as one of the world’s biggest health challenges, responsible for heart disease and other chronic problems.
High doses of the vitamin could “completely offset” the damage to our DNA caused by pollution from cars—and especially diesel cars—wood-burning stoves and industrial processes, say scientists.
These generate microscopic particles—known as PM2.5—that interfere with our DNA, and trigger a range of diseases. Scientists now suspect that air pollution is responsible for heart disease, asthma, and other chronic diseases.
But taking vitamin B seems to reverse most of the damage, scientists from Columbia University in New York have discovered. They gave a high-dose supplement—which contained 2.5mg of folic acid, 50mg of vitamin B6 and 1mg of B12—to 10 volunteers every day for a month. During that time, they were exposed to air that contained PM2.5 particulates.
The same volunteers had been earlier exposed to similar levels of the pollutant but were given a placebo, or dummy pill, to gauge any DNA damage.
At the end of the month trial with the vitamin, levels of damage to DNA were up to 76 per cent less. Similar reductions of damage were also seen with the mitochondrial DNA, which are responsible for generating energy in the cells.
The scientists point out that their study was limited to just 10 people, and other doses of the vitamin weren’t tested, but say it’s still a very real antidote to air pollution—until governments start cleaning up the air we have to breathe.
Around 90 per cent of the world is exposed to levels of air pollution that the World Health Organization (WHO) considers dangerous to our health.
(Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2017; doi: 10.1073/pnas.1618545114)