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These vitamins protect against the health damage caused by air pollution


How can we protect ourselves from increasing air pollution?

According to a new study, taking the right vitamins before traveling to a city with heavy air pollution could protect your DNA from inheritable damage that is usually caused by inhaling the finest particles.

A study by Columbia University 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-defense mechanism of so-called genomic molecules, which occur at high concentrations of PM2.5 (suspended particles with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less ) mutate easily. Inflammatory and other symptoms of short-term exposure to air pollution can be better compensated for. Because of the early results, the researchers were unable to recommend dosages, but they recommended eating more B-vitamin-rich foods than usual when traveling 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, it can be expected that B vitamins in food have the same effect on the epigenome as dietary supplements based on tablets, the study authors explain. A healthy, balanced diet with sufficient sources of vitamin B should therefore 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. The researchers suspect that people who are constantly exposed to a high PM2.5 content, for example in heavily polluted cities, could benefit from taking food supplements. If not overdosed, B vitamins are considered safe for most people when taken orally. If you want to increase the intake, however, it is best to speak to your doctor beforehand.

Study was done on humans

In contrast to most previous studies carried out on animals or cultivated cells, the researchers in the current study examined ten people. They were all healthy non-smokers from different ethnic backgrounds and between the ages of 18 and 60. In the first phase of the experiment, the volunteers inhaled the concentrated smog with a PM2.5 value of more than 250 micrograms per cubic meter of air for two hours before giving blood samples. In the second phase, they were given B vitamin supplements for four weeks before going through the same process.

What are the symptoms of air pollution?

Known symptoms of exposure to smog include chest pain, dizziness, headache, and heart disease. The researchers led a historical study that found that high levels of air pollution were associated with a tenfold increase in mortality. Some recent studies have also found that PM2.5 can damage human brain cells and affect how genes work. However, the molecular mechanism has not yet been fully elucidated.

Vitamin pills have a preventive effect and repair existing damage

The authors of the new study confirmed that high levels of air pollution can overwhelm a gene's adaptability and lead to errors in gene replication, which can then trigger unexpected mutations. They observed such damage in the T helper cells that play an important role in the human immune system. Taking vitamin B supplements over a four-week period reduced the damage caused by exposure to high PM2.5 levels by 28 to 76 percent, the study authors further report. The results indicate that the vitamin pills were not only preventive, but could also repair some of the genetic damage caused by exposure to high PM2.5 levels, the researchers explain.

People have to fight pollution

The fight against damage from air pollution cannot be won in the long term by taking vitamins, it is much more important to combat pollution in general. Here, emissions control and regulation remains the backbone of disease prevention. (as)

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