I just got off the phone with your DNA. Yep, it’s true. It called because it’s concerned that you aren’t aware of its fragility now that you’re getting a little older. Sure, sure, you could do a lot of things when you were younger (and you did), but now your DNA is starting to feel a little out of sorts.
What’s happening as we age is that DNA repair is a bit slower unless we provide a solid nutritional base of fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s just not enough that we drop a multi-vitamin or supplement with vitamin A, C and E. As a matter of fact supplementing with some of those individual antioxidants, or multivitamins has proven harmful. Many studies show supplementation increases the incidence of cardiovascular disease, cancer and increases mortality from all causes. Now what?
The key is to actually eat fruits and vegetables. Your DNA responds to nature’s packaging. When you eat an apple you’re not just getting vitamin C or A. When you eat broccoli and kale you aren’t getting three vitamins or seven antioxidants, you’re getting a nutritional package made up of hundreds of phytonutrients. Your DNA responds to whole foods because it has evolved through hundreds and thousands of years of eating the whole package. It does not know what to do with single nutrients isolated in a lab.
There is a lot of information on the internet, and a lot of misinformation. In researching this topic I came across a site that put forth specific antioxidants for DNA repair, including beta-carotene and vitamin E, both of which have been shown to cause an increase in overall mortality when taken alone or together. That’s simply irresponsible. Instead of taking supplements, make sure your diet includes nature’s packages high in those antioxidants: spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, peanuts, sunflower seeds and almonds, to name a few.
This singe-nutrient focus hasn’t been around very long. It began in mid-1930 with vitamin B and a semi-synthetic vitamin C, but really took off when Linus Pauling got on board with a high-dose Vitamin C regimen in the 70’s. Prior to Pauling’s interest, there wasn’t much to intrigue the general public, but the cover of the April 6, 1992 issue of Time magazine was a colorful pile of pills with the lead article, “The Real Power of Vitamins: New research shows they may help fight cancer, heart disease, and the ravages of aging.” Unfortunately, the research was flawed, but the supplement makers were all over this and the rest is history. Except that …
In 1994 National Cancer Institute found that smokers who were taking vitamin E, beta-carotene or both were more likely to die than those on placebo. In 1996 another study showed higher mortality from cancer and/or heart disease in the supplement group.
In a 2004 review of randomized trials involving over 170,000 participants, researchers concluded that those taking vitamins C, E, A or beta-carotene had higher mortality. When reviewing the seven best studies, mortality rates were 6% higher in the supplement groups.
I could list study after study, from 2005 through 2011 showing a strong correlation between vitamin supplementation and an increased risk of death from cancer and heart disease. I’m betting you’re just not that interested in reading all of them. If you are, I invite you to read this article in The Atlantic.
The bottom line in DNA repair is to toss those multi-vitamins in the garbage and focus on whole foods. The USDA recommends that we get 9-13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. I would add that you should be thinking variety as well. If all you eat is grapes and oranges, you’re not getting a full spectrum of nutrients. If you or your loved ones subsist on green beans and corn, you aren’t even close to getting the nutrients you need. Variety. Fresh.
I’ll let Dr. Avery, an oncologist from the Cancer Care Center in Montgomery, Alabama have the last word on DNA repair. Click here for this two-minute video. It’ll make your DNA happy!