Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 22nd 2017 Contents A26 body & soul
guardian.co.tt Wednesday, March 22, 2017
B vitamins may help
against air pollution
B vitamins may offer some pro-
tection against the impacts of air
pollution, a small scale human
trial suggests. Researchers in the
US found that high doses of these
supplements may "completely off-
set" the damage caused by very fine
The scientists involved say the effect
is real but stress the limitations of their
work. Follow up studies are urgently
needed, they say, in heavily polluted
cities like Beijing or Mexico.
While the impacts of air pollution on
health have become a cause of grow-
ing concern to people all around the
world, the actual mechanics of exactly
how dirty air makes people sick are not
According to the World Health Or-
ganization (WHO), over 90 per cent
of the world's population live in are-
as where air pollution exceeds safety
One of the pollutants that is con-
sidered the most dangerous is very
fine particulate matter, referred to as
PM2.5, where particles have a diameter
of less than 2.5 micrometres.
These complex particulates come
from diesel cars, wood burning stoves
and as a by-product of chemical reac-
tions between other polluting gases.
At around 1/30 the width of a hu-
man hair, PM2.5 fragments can lodge
deep in the human lung and contribute
to lung and heart health issues in the
young and old.
Scientists have long suspected that
PM2.5 causes what are termed epi-
genetic changes in our cells that can
damage our health.
The genes in our DNA contain the
instructions for life, but epigenetics
controls how those instructions are
used---it's like the relationship between
an mp3 track and the volume control,
you can only hear the musical notes
(genes) when you dial up the volume
The study shows the very presence
of environmental factors like air pollu-
tion seems to alter genes in the immune
system at the epigenetic level---switch-
ing them on or off, and inhibiting our
Researchers had already seen that
nutrients could somehow stop this pro-
cess in animal studies with the chemical
Now in this new human trial, an in-
ternational team of scientists wanted
to see if exposure to concentrations of
PM2.5 could be mitigated by a daily B
vitamin supplement containing 2.5mg
of folic acid, 50mg of vitamin B6, and
1mg of vitamin B12.
Ten volunteers were tested initially
exposed to clean air while given a place-
bo to measure their basic responses. The
same volunteers were later tested with
large doses of B vitamins while exposed
to air containing high levels of PM2.5.
The researchers found that a four
week B vitamin supplementation lim-
ited the PM2.5 effect by between 28-
76 per cent at ten gene locations. They
found a similar reduction in impact on
the mitochondrial DNA, the parts of
cells that generate energy.
"Where we quantify the effect, it is
almost close to a complete offset on the
epigenome of the air pollution," said Jia
Zhong from Harvard School of Public
Health, who led the study.
"On the mitochondrial DNA side, it
also offset a big proportion of it."
However, the authors caution that
their study, while observing a real ef-
fect, has many limitations. As well as the
small number of participants, there was
little information on the size of the B
vitamin dose that elicited the response.
Other scientists in the field, while
welcoming the study, agree that cau-
tion is needed.
"The fact that they find a coherent
story in only 10 subjects is promising,
but clearly warrants further follow-up
in larger populations especially con-
sidering the ethnic variability in this
study," said Prof Carrie Breton from the
University of Southern California, who
wasn't involved in the report.
The study has been published in the
journal Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences.
(Source: PNAS via BBC)
FDA fees for review face steep rise
The cost to healthcare com-
panies for US regulatory review
of their products, including
drugs and medical devices,
would more than double un-
der the Trump administration's
proposed 2018 budget.
For 2018, the Trump administra-
tion has budgeted over US$2 billion
in fees to be collected by the US
Food and Drug Administration
from industry, twice as much as
in 2017, according to budget docu-
ments released on Thursday. Citing
a constrained budget environment,
the proposed budget said indus-
tries that benefit from the FDA's
approval "can and should pay for
In return, the budget said it also
offered measures that would help
speed up the approval process for
new drugs and other products.
The FDA has been criticized
by lawmakers for not being quick
enough at approving drugs, and
President Donald Trump told Con-
gress earlier this year that he aimed
to speed up the approval of drugs.
The FDA has been charging
companies to review their prod-
ucts since 1992. Most of the user
fees collected are for prescription
drugs---around US$866 million
estimated in 2017---and generic
drugs---around US$324 million,
according to the FDA website. The
FDA's 2017 budget was US$5.1 bil-
lion, the website said. Reuters
People in gas masks protest air pollution.
Links Archive March 21st 2017 March 23rd 2017 Navigation Previous Page Next Page