A recent study suggests that increased dietary intake of antioxidants such as vitamins C and E may protect against DNA damage in people exposed to ionizing radiation such as airline pilots.
According to the researchers, ionizing radiation increases at high altitudes due to greater exposure to cosmic radiation than at ground level.
The study involved 82 male airline pilots. Researchers used food frequency questionnaires to estimate dietary intakes of vitamins C and E and carotenoid compounds. They also assessed the frequency of chromosome translocations, as biological markers of cumulative DNA damage.
Greater intakes of vitamin C, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin and lutein-zeaxanthin were associated with significantly lower frequencies of chromosome translocations. In comparison to pilots who ate few vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables, pilots who ate more of such produce had a 39% lower frequency of chromosome translocations. Higher intakes of citrus fruit and green leafy vegetables were linked with 36% and 41% lower translocation frequencies, respectively.
The greatest protective effective, a 73% lower frequency of chromosome translocations, was observed for above average combined intakes of vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin and lutein-zeaxanthin from food.
More research is needed to determine whether antioxidants from food or supplements may reduce cancer risk in airline pilots or others exposed to ionizing radiation.
For more information about antioxidants, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements database.
1.Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. http://www.naturalstandard.com/
2.Yong LC, Petersen MR, Sigurdson AJ, et al. High dietary antioxidant intakes are associated with decreased chromosome translocation frequency in airline pilots. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Nov;90(5):1402-10. Epub 2009 Sep 30. View Abstract