Vitamins, foods might improve your genes


Does heart disease or cancer run in your family? There are ways to stack the odds in your favor.

Taking your vitamins and eating a variety of fruits and vegetables such as raspberries and spinach can make up for your not-so-healthy genes.

That's according to a new book, Feed Your Genes Right (John Wiley & Sons, March 2005).

Your genes, which you inherited from your parents, contain the biological programs that control your health. But you don't have to be at their mercy.

Best-selling nutrition and health author Jack Challem points out that certain vitamins and foods enable your genes to function at their best.

For example, at least one-third of Americans have a variation in the gene that reduces activity of folic acid, a B vitamin. As a result, they are more likely to heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease. A woman with this defect is more likely also to have a baby with birth defects.

You can't change the gene, but taking a daily multivitamin and eating certain fruits and vegetables help that gene to work better, Challem says.

"Our bodies need B vitamins and other nutrients to make, repair, and regulate our DNA and genes," Challem says. "In a sense, vitamins are inexpensive gene therapy to help our genes function at their best."

The B-vitamins are involved in what biochemists call "one-carbon metabolism." The process donates molecules needed to make the nucleotides that form DNA and genes.

Challem's advice includes these suggestions:

  • Take a moderately high-potency daily multivitamin, which includes the B vitamins. Several of these vitamins help suppress cancer-promoting genes.
  • Eat spinach salads. Spinach is rich in folic acid, a B vitamin needed to make and repair genes.
  • Eat berries. Raspberries and blueberries are loaded with antioxidants, which protect genes from damage.
  • Drink green tea. It protects genes from the cancer-promoting effects of dioxin and other pollutants.
  • Go easy on foods high in refined carbs and sugars. They boost levels of insulin, a hormone that turns on fat-storage genes.

"The biochemical basis of our genetics comes back to nutrition," Challem says. "Nutrients provide the biochemical building blocks for our DNA and genes."

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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