Plant-based foods damage DNA

2 April 2013

Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center has discovered that common plant-based foods, like liquid smoke flavouring (common in vegetarian cooking)along with tea and coffee, contain DNA-damaging toxins. Each of these have been found to activate a gene linked with cancer, called p53.

Increased p53 activity has been found in pyrogallol acid, common in smoked foods, cigarette smoke, bread crust, malt and cocoa powder. Gallic acid, found in black and green tea as well as coffee, also activates the p53 gene. The greater the damage caused by these foods, the greater the risk of a cancer diagnosis.

Scott Kern, MD, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, identified compounds in plant-based foods that may be the main culprits behind DNA damage: cellulose in stems, tannins in leaves and beans.

Dr Kern said the studies should not necessarily encourage people to stop tea, coffee and flavourings altogether, however, there is a serious need for more research to done. In the meantime, Dr Kern recommended replacements for DNA-damaging foods, for example, Scotch whiskey or hickory smoke powder could substitute for liquid smoke.

Posted by Jeanette Royston

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