Nutritional and lifestyle determinants of DNA oxidative damage: a study in a Mediterranean population

Carcinogenesis. 2002 Sep;23(9):1483-9. doi: 10.1093/carcin/23.9.1483.


In order to evaluate dietary and lifestyle determinants of oxidative DNA damage we used a modification of the 'comet assay' (single cell alkaline gel electrophoresis), with the fpg enzyme (formamidopyrimidine DNA glycosilase), to measure the basal level of DNA oxidation in peripheral lymphocytes donated by 71 healthy adults living in Florence, Italy. Detailed information about dietary and lifestyle habits was collected by two validated and standardized questionnaires; we also measured plasma concentrations of selected micro-nutrients (six carotenoids, retinol, alpha- and gamma-tocopherol). DNA damage, measured as percent DNA migrated in the comet tail (mean 4.67%, interquartile range 2.36-6.62%), was not associated with gender, age, weight, body mass index, physical activity or smoking history. A positive correlation with height and period of blood sampling emerged: DNA damage tended to be higher among taller subjects (P = 0.02) and in samples obtained in summer months (P = 0.02). Multivariate analyses showed a positive association with coffee (P = 0.01) and tomato consumption (P = 0.05). Instead, the consumption of cruciferous vegetables tended to be negatively associated with oxidative damage (P = 0.09). Furthermore, a positive non-significant association between the consumption of total vegetables and fresh fruit and DNA damage emerged (P = 0.08 and P = 0.10, respectively). The estimated intake of simple sugars showed a strong positive association with oxidative DNA damage (P = 0.01), while vitamin E showed a borderline positive association (P = 0.06). The plasma levels of several micro-nutrients did not appear to influence DNA damage. Our results, although based on a relatively small group of subjects, indicate that individual dietary and lifestyle habits only modestly affect the levels of lymphocyte DNA oxidation and suggest that specific dietary patterns, rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, are not clearly related to decreased oxidative damage in peripheral lymphocytes in a Mediterranean population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Comet Assay
  • DNA / drug effects
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • DNA Damage*
  • Diet* / adverse effects
  • Dietary Fats / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Male
  • Meat
  • Mediterranean Region
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Wine


  • Dietary Fats
  • DNA