What are the causes of cancer? What makes us older? If lifestyle choices like smoking cigarettes or drinking cola increase our risk of cancer, what can we do to try reverse or slow aging? Are cancer and aging related?
Adequate, or more than adequate, levels of vitamins and minerals are thought to play a significant role in DNA repair and protection. The repair and protection of DNA is then thought to play a critical role in preventing cancer and slowing aging. This article looks specifically at nutrient-gene interactions with the hope of finding vitamins that could be used as a kind of diet medication.
Carotenoids (vitamin A precursors) such as beta-carotene are now conclusively considered anti-oxidants which ensure genomic stability. Their role in preventing cancer, however, is still considered somewhat controversial, with some studies reporting that carotenoids prevent cancer, and other studies reporting no effect.1
Vitamins B3 (Niacin), B9 (Folate), and B12 (Cobalamin) have also been found as essential for DNA metabolism.1-4 Vitamins B9 and B12 particularly are required for the maintenance of DNA conformation and methylation patterns. The exact concentrations required to maintain DNA integrity are unknown. There is also increasing evidence that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) might affect the activity of the proteins required for the absorption, transport, and metabolism of b12 and folic acid. In other words the amount of vitamin B12 and folic acid you absorb depends on your own genome, or genetic fingerprint.1
Vitamin D has also been shown to play a role in stabilizing DNA structure, and has been proven to help in bone health, multiple sclerosis, hypertension and possibly cancer. The idea of taking vitamin D supplements should be approached with caution, however, as too much is potentially toxic to the body.1
Vitamin E is lipid peroxyl radical scavenger which makes it very effective at reducing chromosome damage. However, there is mixed evidence if vitamin E supplements play a role in reducing heart disease, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's.1
In summary, vitamins play an important role in maintaining DNA integrity and stability. Key vitamins to eat include beta-carotene, Vitamin B12, Folate (B9), Vitamin D, and Vitamin E.