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Study at the MedUni Vienna: Spinach protects genes

(Vienna, 28th of October 2011) The popular comic hero "Popeye", who topped up his strength with spinach, was actually right - at least partly: this is because spinach has been shown to protect human DNA from damage caused by oxidation. These are the findings of researchers at the Institute for Cancer Research at the MedUni Vienna in a recent study. The study was published in the “European Journal of Nutrition”.

Just 225 grams of spinach a day can protect the genetic make-up of white blood cells against damage. Study leader Siegfried Knasmüller: “We have demonstrated that the body absorbs the folic acid in spinach extremely well. And folic acid is an important stabiliser of genetic material.”

Eight study participants ate 225 grams of spinach a day for eighteen days. Before, during and afterwards, scientists measured how the genetic material of lymphocytes from their blood responded to DNA-damaging enzymes. The result: just six hours after eating spinach, the DNA’s stability was better protected against damage by enzymes. According to Knasmüller, a similar effect can be achieved by eating Brussels sprouts – although around 300 grams of these are needed a day.

Side effects included further positive changes in the test subjects' blood: their folic acid levels increased by 27 per cent, while the concentration of the amino acid by-product homocysteine, which is linked to vessel damage, fell by 16 per cent.

It was also noted, however, that combining spinach with certain foods can cause problems in the gastrointestinal tract. Says Knasmüller: “Fish and spinach or cheese and spinach aren’t great.”

Service: European Journal of Nutrition
"Impact of spinach consumption on DNA stability in peripheral lymphocytes and on biochemical blood parameters: results of a human intervention trial." Moser B, Szekeres T, Bieglmayer C, Wagner KH, Mišík M, Kundi M, Zakerska O, Nersesyan A, Kager N, Zahrl J, Hoelzl C, Ehrlich V, Knasmueller S. Eur j Nurt. 2011 Oct; 50(7):587-94. Epub 2011 Mar 9.