Nutritional Prevention of DNA Damage to Sperm and Consequent Risk Reduction in Birth Defects and Cancer in Offspring

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The damage produced by endogenously generated oxygen radicals has been proposed as a major contributory factor to aging and the many degenerative processes associated with it, including cancer, heart disease, and cognitive dysfunction (1). Under physiological conditions, endogenous oxidants are produced at a high rate, resulting in extensive oxidative damage to proteins, lipids, and DNA (2–5). Oxidative damage to DNA, based on the urinary excretion of DNA adducts, occurs at an estimated rate of 105 hits/cell/d in the rat and about 104 hits/cell/d in the human (6) Evidence is accumulating to suggest that rates of cellular oxidative damage can also be modulated by exogenous factors. Oxidative insult to tissues is increased by smoking and exposure to ionizing radiation, and decreased by intake of antioxidants, such as ascorbate and tocopherols, that are part of endogenous antioxidant defenses (7–10). Hence, a critical determinant of the rate of cellular damage is the balance between antioxidant defense capacity and the oxidant insult to the tissue. Improved nutrition, increased intake of antioxidants, and cessation of dangerous habits, such as smoking, is critical for lowering individual risk of degenerative disease.