The Columbia University (CU) study covered a group of healthy non-smokers who lived in an area with significant levels of air pollution. The participants were supplemented with B vitamins for the duration of the trial.
Its findings showed that vitamin B supplementation undid almost all of the negative effects of air pollution on the cardiovascular and immune systems of the participants. Their heart rates improved by up to 150 percent, the amount of white blood cells in their blood rose almost as high, and lymphocyte levels effectively doubled.
The CU study offered initial evidence that B vitamin supplements could strengthen the health of a person who is constantly exposed to air pollution. It could lead to further research on ways to protect human health from harmful particles through vitamin-based interventions. (Related: New science: A combination of B complex vitamins can slow the onset of Alzheimer’s.)
As many as 3.7 million people die each year due to health complications caused by fine particulate matter found in air pollution. These tiny particles achieved this gruesome tally by disrupting the vital cardiovascular system.
CU researchers Jia Zhong specified PM2.5 pollution as one of the most widely encountered air pollutants. Like the other particles, this one interferes with the proper functions of the heart and the immune system.
Zhong added that his team's findings showed that B vitamin supplementation could reduce or even reverse the cardiac dysfunction and inflammation attributed to PM.25. Their results correlated with those of a different study published on March 2018.
The earlier study looked at the inheritable genetic markers of participants who took B vitamins. Similar to the CU research, it found that supplementation could undo the damage done by air pollution.
For their pioneering experiment, Zhong and his fellow researchers gathered 10 healthy volunteers. The participants were non-smokers who did not take any type of medication or B vitamin supplements.
For the first four weeks, each participant was given a placebo. Then they were exposed to concentrated ambient PM.25 for a period of two hours, which simulated exposure to the particle over much longer periods of time.
Over the next four weeks, the volunteers received B vitamin supplements. The particle exposure test was repeated at the end of the second half.
In addition, the researchers conducted a two-hour exposure event that did not have any actual fine particles. They used this as a baseline of comparison for the results of the actual exposure events.
"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," reported Zhong's fellow CU researcher, Andrea Baccarelli. "Further, we demonstrated that these effects are nearly reversed with four-week B-vitamin supplementation."
Baccarelli added that the results of their study should spur efforts to further reduce air pollution in urban areas. A combination of effective enforcement of air quality regulations and B vitamin supplementation would achieve much greater health benefits than either venture would if pursued on its own.
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