Have you ever wondered why some smokers don’t get lung cancer, while some non-smokers do get the disease? You hear people say all the time, “My Uncle Charlie smoked for 70 years, never had a problem, and died in his sleep at 90 years old.” Well, Uncle Charlie may have had higher levels of Vitamin B and certain essential proteins that lowered his risk for lung cancer.
According to Reuters, scientists at the International Agency for Research on Cancer studied 900 people with lung cancer — most of them were current smokers, but the study also included some former smokers and people who had never smoked in their life. They found that all three groups had something in common - lower levels of Vitamin B6, folate - which is another type of B vitamin, and an amino acid called methionine — found in proteins like meat, fish and nuts. In people who had higher levels of those three nutrients - their risk for getting lung cancer decreased by 60 percent. Why do those nutrients make such a big difference? Because all three of those compounds combined are involved in the maintenance of DNA. In the vast majority of lung cancer cases, toxic smoke causes DNA damage and abnormal cell growth.
Now, this doesn’t mean smokers can just keep puffing away as long as they start taking Vitamin B supplements. 90% of lung cancer cases are a direct result of smoking. Dr. Graham Colditz is a physician at the Washington School of Medicine in St. Louis. He explains that simply taking vitamins for a few years won’t make a difference at all - long-term exposure is key. We’re talking decades. Researchers also caution that overloading on supplements containing B6 and folate is unhealthy and will not offset the risks of smoking cigarettes or prevent lung cancer. You need to get your vitamins from the foods you eat. Bananas are a good source of B6 – spinach and avocadoes have folate – and methionine is found in protein like lean meat and fish.