B-vitamin supplements could diminish the toxic effects of air pollution on the immune and cardiovascular systems, according to an American study published in Scientific Reports.
Researchers studying the impact of air pollution in moderately polluted urban areas from July 2013 to February 2014 found that a cocktail of B vitamins (50mg of B6, 2.5mg of B9 and 1mg of B12) taken for four weeks reduced the harmful impact of fine particle pollution (PM2.5 pollution) by 150% on heart rate, 139% on total white blood count and 106% on lymphocyte count.
Scientists recruited a panel of 10 healthy nonsmokers aged between 18 and 60 years old. The recruits were not taking any form of B vitamin supplement or other medications. Participants took a placebo for four weeks prior to two hours of exposure to concentrated ambient PM2.5 levels -- 250 micrograms/m3 compared to WHO guideline limits of 10 micrograms/m3.
Next, participants were administered B-vitamin supplements for four weeks before undergoing a further two-hour exposure to PM2.5.
"Our results showed that a two-hour exposure to concentrated ambient PM2.5 had substantial physiologic impacts on heart rate, heart rate variability, and white blood counts. Further, we demonstrated that these effects are nearly reversed with four-week B-vitamin supplementation," explained Andrea Baccarelli, MD, Ph.D., of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.
The researchers caution that it may not be possible to generalize the beneficial effects of B vitamins to populations at higher risk of pollution-induced cardiovascular effects, such as children, older people, individuals with pre-existing cardiovascular disease or those living in heavily polluted areas.
According to the WHO, 92 percent of the world's population lives in places where air pollution levels exceed 10 micrograms/m3 of fine particles (particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers, or PM2.5).
Fine particle pollution is responsible for 3.7 million premature deaths worldwide, mainly due to toxic effects on the cardiovascular system, and could be linked to 18 million premature births, according to a study published in Environmental International in February.