a1 Human Nutrition Research Centre, School of Clinical Medical Sciences, Framlington Place, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4HH, UK
The DNA in all cells of the human body is subject to damage continuously from exogenous agents, internal cellular processes and spontaneous decomposition. Failure to repair such damage is fundamental to the development of many diseases and to ageing. Fortunately, the vast majority of DNA damage is detected and repaired by one of five complementary DNA repair systems. However, recent studies have shown that even in healthy individuals there is a wide inter-individual variation in DNA repair capacity. Part of this variation can be accounted for by polymorphisms in the genes encoding DNA repair proteins. However, it is probable that environmental factors, including dietary exposure as well as diet–gene interactions, are also responsible for much of the difference in repair capacity between individuals. Whilst there is some evidence from human studies that generalised malnutrition or low intakes of specific nutrients may affect DNA repair, as yet there is limited understanding of the molecular mechanisms through which nutrients can modulate this key cellular process.