Impact of spinach consumption on DNA stability in peripheral lymphocytes and on biochemical blood parameters: results of a human intervention trial

Eur J Nutr. 2011 Oct;50(7):587-94. doi: 10.1007/s00394-011-0167-6. Epub 2011 Mar 9.


Introduction: A controlled intervention trial was conducted to assess the impact of spinach consumption on DNA stability in lymphocytes and on health-related biochemical parameters.

Methods: The participants (n = 8) consumed homogenised spinach (225 g/day/person) over a period of 16 days. DNA migration was monitored in single cell gel electrophoresis-comet assays under standard conditions, which reflect single- and double-strand breaks, after treatment of nuclei with lesion-specific enzymes (formamidopyrimidine glycosylase, FPG and endonuclease III, ENDO III) and after treatment of intact cells with H(2)O(2) before, during and after intervention.

Results: While no reduction in DNA damage was observed under standard conditions after different time intervals of spinach intake, other endpoints, namely ROS sensitivity and DNA migration attributable to the formation of oxidatively damaged DNA bases (i.e. pyrimidines-ENDO III-sensitive sites and purines-FPG sensitive sites) were reduced 6 h after consumption of the first portion and after 11 days of continuous consumption. In the case of ENDO III-sensitive sites, also after 16 days, a decrease in comet formation was observed. At the end of a 40 days washout period, the DNA stability parameters were not significantly different from the background values. Other biochemical parameters which were significantly altered by spinach intake were the folate (+27%) and homocysteine (-16%) concentrations in blood, and it was found in an earlier human study that folate may prevent oxidative damage to DNA bases.

Conclusions: Taken together, our results show that moderate consumption of spinach causes protection against oxidative DNA damage in humans and that this phenomenon is paralleled by alterations of health-related biochemical parameters.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants
  • Blood Cells
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Comet Assay
  • DNA Damage / drug effects*
  • DNA-Formamidopyrimidine Glycosylase / metabolism
  • Endpoint Determination
  • Female
  • Folic Acid / blood
  • Homocysteine / blood
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / metabolism
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Lymphocytes / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Leaves / chemistry
  • Plant Preparations / pharmacology*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Spinacia oleracea*
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • Vitamin A / blood
  • Vitamin B 12 / blood
  • Vitamin E / blood


  • Antioxidants
  • Blood Glucose
  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Plant Preparations
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Triglycerides
  • Homocysteine
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E
  • Folic Acid
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • DNA-Formamidopyrimidine Glycosylase
  • Vitamin B 12