The study, which was published online in Scientific Reports, found that healthy non-smokers who took vitamin B supplements reversed any negative effects on their cardiovascular and immune systems, weakening the effects of air pollution on heart rate by 150%, total white blood count by 139%, and lymphocyte count by 106%.
This is the first study to investigate whether B vitamins change the body’s response to air pollution exposure. The research initiates a course for development of preventive pharmacological interventions using B vitamins to minimize the health effects of air pollution.
Industries, households, cars and trucks emit a large variety of air pollutants, many of which are harmful to the health of humans and other animals. Of all of these pollutants, fine particulate matter has the greatest effect on human health.
Fine particulate pollution contributes to roughly 3.7 million deaths worldwide each year, mainly through acute effects on the cardiovascular system. Particulate matter pollution is the most frequent trigger for heart attack at the population level, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
For the new study, researchers recruited ten healthy, 18 to 60-year-old non-smokers who were not taking any form of B supplement or any other medication. All volunteers were given a placebo for 4 weeks preceding a 2 hour exposure experiment to concentrated ambient PM2.5, after which they were administered B vitamin supplements for 4 weeks before the next two-hour exposure experiment 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,” said Andrea Baccarelli, MD, PhD, chair and Leon Hess Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the Mailman School. “Further, we demonstrated that these effects are nearly reversed with four-week B-vitamin supplementation.”
The study builds on research published last month which found that B vitamins reduce the negative effects of air pollution as measured by epigenetic markers.
Source: Science Daily