DNA damage from micro nutrient deficiencies is likely to be a major
cause of cancer.
By Bruce N. Ames, professor of molecular and cell biology at UC Berkeley
A deficiency of any of the micro nutrients: folic acid, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6, niacin,
Vitamin C, Vitamin E, iron, or zinc, mimics radiation in damaging DNA by causing single-
and double-strand breaks, oxidative lesions, or both. For example, the percentage of the
US population that has a low intake (<50% of the RDA) for each of these eight micro
nutrients ranges from 2 to >20%. A level of folate deficiency causing chromosome breaks
was present in approximately 10% of the US population, and in a much higher percentage
of the poor. Folate deficiency causes extensive incorporation of uracil into human DNA (4
million/cell), leading to chromosomal breaks. This mechanism is the likely cause of the
increased colon cancer risk associated with low folate intake. Some evidence, and
mechanistic considerations, suggest that Vitamin B12 (14% US elderly) and B6
(10% of US) deficiencies also cause high uracil and chromosome breaks. Micro nutrient
deficiency may explain, in good part, why the quarter of the population that eats the fewest
fruits and vegetables (five portions a day is advised) has about double the cancer rate for
most types of cancer when compared to the quarter with the highest intake. For example,
80% of American children and adolescents and 68% of adults do not eat five portions a
day. Common micro nutrient deficiencies are likely to damage DNA by the same
mechanism as radiation and many chemicals, appear to be orders of magnitude more
important, and should be compared for perspective. Remedying micro nutrient
deficiencies should lead to a major improvement in health and an increase in longevity
at low cost.
" The doctor of the future will prescribe no drugs, but will interest his
patients in the care and nutrition of the human frame and in the cause
and prevention of disease "
"Doctors give drugs of which they know little,
into bodies, of which they know less, for
diseases of which they know nothing at all."