Eating three times the recommended daily intake of folate and vitamin B12 may lower the risk factors for heart disease and cancer, a CSIRO study has found.
Folate-rich foods include leafy green vegetables and wholegrains, while B12 is found in meat, chicken, fish, liver and kidneys.
CSIRO Health Sciences and Nutrition scientist, Dr Michael Fenech who led the research says that his team's findings suggest eating more folate and B12 actually slows the wear and tear of DNA - genetic material found in the nucleus in our cells.
"We have found that people with above-average damage to their DNA may reduce some of the damage by boosting their intake of these vitamins," Dr Fenech says.
The results are part of ongoing studies that measure the types and levels of DNA damage in cells' chromosomes among a group of 1000 South Australians.
Dr Fenech is now sharing his results with 40 other scientists in a global study which hopes to provide evidence to link DNA damage with diseases related to age, diet and lifestyle.
"Folate and B12 play a very important role in DNA synthesis and function," says Dr Fenech. "I believe between five and 10 per cent of people eating a Western diet do not take enough to optimise DNA repair and synthesis."
Dr Fenech's studies found wide variations in DNA damage amongst people in similar age groups. This could be due to genetic defects in DNA repair, bad diet or exposure to carcinogens.
Those with above-average rates of DNA damage have two to three times the level of cancer risk than those who have low DNA damage.
The studies found a 25 per cent reduction in chromosome damage amongst the high-damage group, after supplementing their diet for 12 weeks with folate and B12. Those in the low-damage category had no change.
"The message is that it is essential to take care of your DNA, as this should optimise your chances for longevity and reduced cancer risk," Dr Fenech said.
New studies will now determine the optimum level of other vitamins needed to minimise DNA damage.
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Materials provided by CSIRO Australia. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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