Your DNA is an information molecule inside each of your cells that tells your genes what to do. When DNA is replicated as cells divide – and that happens about 50 billion times a day! – the information might not always be copied correctly. And damaged DNA can lead to mutated cells and on to cancer (Ref.)
Moreover, DNA is also under attack from numerous outside sources, including UV radiation, oxidative stress (free radical damage), environmental hazards, and dietary carcinogens (things in your food that cause cancer).
Dietary carcinogens include processed meats (like hot dogs and bacon), raw meats cooked at high temperatures (above 300°C) and acrylamides – formed when sugars and starches are cooked at a high temperature, in for example potato crisps/chips or French fries.
On average, we suffer thousands of hits to our DNA a day! So, some DNA damage is inevitable, but the extent to which DNA damage can be prevented and repaired correlates closely with how long we will live (Ref.). Mutations resulting from DNA damage that are not repaired are a significant cancer risk.
The good news is that we have effective mechanisms in our bodies that repair DNA. If we didn’t, we would die before 20, because cell turnover and DNA copying is on a huge, continuous scale from birth onwards.
But inevitably these DNA replication errors are not always caught and as a result, genetic damage accumulates, and cells therefore can break down and lose function or even turn cancerous.
So, scientists are working on drugs to improve the mechanism that repairs DNA. And we already know that Vitamin B3 as nicotinamide (Ref.) and certain phyto-nutrients (plant nutrients) can do that, too.
Colin Rose is a Senior Associate Member of the Royal Society of Medicine, and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He is the Founder and Director of Research and Innovation of Uni-Vite Healthcare and author of a recent book: Delay Ageing: Healthy to 100, where he reveals how to slow ageing and, therefore, help prevent later-life illness.
On why he wrote this series of articles on how to live A Longer, Healthier Life, Colin says:
"The following chart – created by the American Association for the Advancement of Science – is sobering.
"Why the steep increase in all these health threats after the age of say 55? Previously we might have muttered – “Just getting older, what can you expect?”
"But a mountain of recent research has uncovered the processes that are driving all these age-related diseases and how to counteract them for a longer, healthier life.
"That’s what I explore in this series."
Protecting your DNA with nutrients
Why can phyto-nutrients help? Because plants face even greater risks to their DNA than animals do – since they can’t move to prevent solar or insect damage or to seek shade or water when DNA-threatening environmental stress sets in.
So, many plants are naturally rich in biochemical DNA-protective compounds. We inherit these benefits when we eat the plants – and these phyto-compounds seem to work as well in our cells as they do in theirs (Ref.).
Phyto-nutrients in berry fruits like resveratrol in blueberries and bilberries and fisetin in strawberries are powerful DNA protectors (Ref.) and also assist repair.
So do quercetin (apples, onions) and chlorophyllin, which is found in green vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, kale and especially in watercress (Ref.) .
Lemons contain several phyto-nutrients, including hesperidin, which are strong DNA protectors. Indeed, in a trial, lemon juice cut DNA damage by a third (Ref.) and a sub-test showed it was not the vitamin C that had the effect.
Curcumin from turmeric – and its cousin ginger – are particularly powerful protectors of DNA (Ref.) BBC’s Dr Michael Mosely recently teamed up with the Universities of Newcastle and University College London to test the effect of turmeric (Ref.), which contains curcumin. They found that turmeric helped modify the way that certain genes worked, resulting in improved DNA protection.
Curcumin helps protect DNA in a second way. It stimulates the body’s own production of a protein called glutathione (Ref.). Glutathione is a highly potent antioxidant and used by cells and DNA in their defence against oxidative stress – free radical damage.
You should note that turmeric typically contains only about 3% curcumin and even that is poorly absorbed, whereas a good curcumin supplement will be 98% curcumin.
Other nutrients that support glutathione production – which otherwise declines with age – are sulphur (found in green vegetables like kale, Brussels sprouts, watercress and in onions and garlic) and selenium (high in Brazil nuts, fish and seafood).
DNA protection is only half the story. You need to support your body’s ability to repair DNA. Studies in the British Journal of Nutrition and other science journals shows that the carotenoids – beta carotene, lycopene and lutein – have a major role to play in DNA repair (Ref. Ref.), as does nicotinamide (vitamin B3).
Carotenoids have all-round importance. A huge study involving 6,958 people over 50, called the Third Nutrition and Health Examination Survey (Ref.), showed that higher blood levels of lycopene (the nutrient that makes tomatoes red) and lutein/zeaxanthin (in leafy green vegetables) are correlated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s and Alzheimer’s mortality.
A theme in ageing research is how all the drivers of ageing are connected. The following illustration is an example. The blue line shows the reduction in NAD levels over time. NAD is the vital molecule that drives energy production that we looked at in the first article on slowing ageing.
The red line is the increase in DNA damage over time. So, as you might expect, as energy levels decline, so does the power to repair DNA.
Summary – How to protect and repair DNA
DNA errors lead to dysfunctional cells, potentially to cancer and to ageing. Phyto-nutrients that help protect DNA include resveratrol (found in blueberries, and in bilberry and grapeseed extracts), lemon juice and zest, quercetin, fisetin (highest in strawberries), chlorophyllin, curcumin plus vitamin C.
DNA repair is supported by nicotinamide (vitamin B3) and the carotenoids beta carotene, lutein and lycopene.
Plant supplements that support repair include grapeseed extract and green tea extract. And since energy is vital for DNA repair, all the nutrients that support NAD+ production like nicotinamide, are needed.
All these natural ingredients are in the supplement NutriShield: NutriShield | Daily Nutritional Health Supplement from Uni-Vite Healthcare.
Thanks for reading
I spend my time researching the new science of healthy, successful ageing. And how to extend health span rather than just lifespan.
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