DNA Damage

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Smoking and meat consumption are associated with increased DNA damage. Processed meats may contain carcinogenic nitrosamines that can even be found in the vapors from frying bacon. Smoked meats and fish capture most of the smoke’s carcinogenic compounds. Liquid smoke is not likely to be as carcinogenic as smoked foods. Cooked meats in general may cause DNA damage and have been linked with increased breast cancer risk. Heterocyclic amines found in eggs, cheese, cooked meat (including poultry and fish), and creatine may be one factor in that DNA damage. Animal fat also has the potential to increase the growth of gut bacteria that turn our bile acids into carcinogens.

Plant-based diets have been associated with decreased DNA damage overallslowed cancer growth, and possibly even slowed aging. This may be due to the high amounts of antioxidants in plant foods. Chlorophyll may also protect our DNA against carcinogens by intercepting mutations.

Specific studies have shown the possible prevention or repair capabilities of applesalmonds and grapescarob, broccolibroccoli sproutslegumes, dragon’s blood, garlic, green tea and white tea, coffee, purple potatoes, kiwi and other fruits, and soy (edamame, tofu, tempeh). Certain spices may be particularly beneficial in protecting against DNA damage such as turmericblack pepperginger, rosemary, and tarragon (but there are concerns about a toxic compound in the latter). Ginger and lemon balm may even reduce the DNA damage caused by radiation, including radiation exposure from airline travel. Watercress may counter the DNA damage caused by high-intensity exercise. Meditation and stress management is also helpful in keeping our DNA healthy.

Our risk of DNA damage through pesticide exposure by eating conventional produce is outweighed by the anti-cancer effects of eating more fruits and vegetables.

Topic summary contributed by Crystal.