Transcript: Mediating Radiation Exposure from Airline Travel
Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.
Doctors appear to be causing tens of thousands of cancers with CT scans; dentists may be causing a few brain tumors with dental X-rays. What about the new-fangled airport full-body scanners, that use so-called backscatter technology to reduce X-ray exposure? A thousand times less radiation exposure than a chest X-ray, though they’re still being phased out. In fact, you may get a hundred times more radiation just during the flight every hour, just because you’re so high up in the atmosphere, and exposed to more cosmic rays.
Wait a second, does that mean a round trip cross-country flight is almost like getting a chest X-ray? Yes. Anyone who’s been on my website and seen my speaking schedule knows I’m totally screwed. But, what can you do? As is the answer to so many health questions, you can eat healthy.
“High dietary antioxidant intakes are associated with decreased [DNA damage] in airline pilots.” Note the word dietary. Antioxidant supplements did not work. No benefit was found for those taking multivitamins, vitamin C pills, or vitamin E pills. But, those getting the most vitamin C from food saw a significant decrease in DNA damage; beta-carotene from food; cryptoxanthin from food; lutein zeaxanthin from food. These are all phytonutrients, of course, so when they say food, they really mean plants.
And, because antioxidants can have synergistic effects, the greatest protection was found when they were eating a combination of phytonutrients. So, the greatest protection was found in those eating the citrus and broccoli, AND nuts and seeds, AND pumpkins AND peppers, AND dark green leafy vegetables—though, if one had to pick, greens may work the best.
And, all this time, I’d been packing kale chips on planes as a snack just because they’re so lightweight. But, now I know their dual purpose. “These findings suggest that a diet consisting of a variety of fruit and vegetables that provide a natural source of these antioxidants as well as other potential protective factors may offer the best protection against cumulative DNA damage associated with [ionizing radiation] exposure. Our results may be applicable to flight crews…, astronauts in space flight, and frequent flyers in the general population.”
Same thing was actually found after Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb survivors were followed for decades. Models based on the available data suggest that “[t]he cancer risk reduction by vegetables in exposed persons” may have went from about 50% increased risk of cancer, knocked down by daily green and vegetable consumption, down to about 30% increased risk. And, similarly with fruit consumption. So, fruit and vegetable consumption can decrease, but not eliminate, the risks of radiation.
Same thing with kids after Chernobyl. Consumers of fresh vegetables and fruits afforded protection to the immune systems of young children—whereas egg and fish consumption was associated with significantly increased risk of chromosome damage in their bloodstreams. This was explained by saying, look, maybe the eggs and fish were radioactive—or, maybe it was just damage from the animal fat intake alone.
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