When you think about all the dangers of flying, you probably don't think about radiation. At high altitudes, like those achieved by commercial jet airlines, the exposure to radiation is significantly higher than at ground level. According to the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), airline flight crew workers are exposed to higher average doses of radiation than any other worker, including those in nuclear power plants. The detrimental effects of radiation exposure on the body are well known. The effects are linked to the increased risk of DNA damage, which is considered an important trigger in cancer development and accelerating the aging process. So what can you do when you know you still need to fly?
Recently, a nutritional study uncovered that B vitamins could help protect DNA during radiation exposure, especially during flying. Dr Lee Yong and Martin Petersen from the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health examined B vitamin intakes in over 80 pilots’ diets and correlated it to DNA damage measured in their blood samples. This study was the first of its’ kind to discover that pilots with higher B vitamin (namely niacin) levels had a 42% reduction in DNA damage as compared with pilots with the lowest dietary intakes. Niacin plays an important role in the enzyme production that repairs DNA after DNA strand breaks. Foods high in B vitamins especially Vitamin B3- niacin are whole grains (i.e. oatmeal, rye), ginger, mushrooms, eggs, chicken, Soya foods and dairy products. Consuming less red and processed meats also protect against DNA damage.
Dr. Yong and Petersen concluded that these findings could be applicable to flight crews worldwide and frequent fliers. Utilizing key nutrients, such as B vitamins to assist the body’s repair mechanisms after radiation exposure (from air travel), could be key for any Tignum executive. At Tignum, we talk a lot about a new level of preparation. This includes preparing for travel so you can be a Sustainable High Performer. Increasing your B vitamin intake may be one simple nutrition strategy to help you prepare. Try it out and please let us know how it works.
by Patti Milligan
Director of Nutrition