Nutrition Influences Mutation Risk

Although parents largely determine one's genotype, DNA is always subject to mutation. A few or many bases can be destroyed by free radicals, for example, leaving the cell unable to produce a given protein. In turn, this affects the function of the cell. It should be noted that a single affected cell does not represent a lethal event, except for that particular cell. It becomes a problem when many cells have their DNA damaged in the same way and the loss of cell function is significant. In most instances, DNA repair will occur so well that there is little noticeable effect of the initial insult. However, over time, mismatch repair or cumulative assaults on the DNA can have cumulative effects on DNA and cellular function. This cumulative effect of assault has been suggested to explain aging. Aging as a result of cumulative effects of free radical attack on DNA as well as on the vulnerable membranes within and around the cell has been used to explain the gradual loss in cellular function that occurs with age.

Nutrients that protect cells against free radical attack are additional examples of nutrient-gene interactions in health and disease. Such nutrients as vitamin E, ascorbic acid, carotene (vitamin A),

Table 3 Nutrients that have a role in free radical protection

Nutrient

Role

Vitamin E

Quenches free radicals as they form via the

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