Contrary to popular opinion, vitamin supplements do not alwalys bring benefits, on the contrary, these may even be harmful to our health, as shows a study conducted by researchers from the University of Oslo. Statistics show that last year 70 % of the population purchased vitamin supplements and that annually billions of dollars are spent on these products; what is concerning is that many consume these supplements in doses much higher than recommended.
Hilde Nilsen, who is heading a research group at the Biotechnology Centre, University of Oslo, pointed out that we believe that antioxidants are good for us because it protects cells from oxidative stress that can damage our genes. However, our body has an inherent ability to cope with stress. It seems that the body’s response to stress prevents DNA from eroding. Nilsen added that the delicate balance in our cells can be disrupted by vitamin supplements.
Environmental factors such as smoking, stress, ultraviolet radiation or products resulting from cellular processes can damage DNA. To see how the body defends itself from these injuries that can affect DNA, researchers at the University of Oslo made a study in which they used a microorganism called Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans ), a nematode, that is a worm of 1 mm long, containing 20,000 genes. Nilsen said that C. elegans is a powerful tool because they can change its hereditary properties. In other words, researchers can increase the ability to repair DNA or can be removed it altogether. They also investigated what happens to the damaged DNA that is not repaired.
There are several types of proteins that repair damaged DNA and the most common are those that cut DNA at the damaged site and replace it with one single base. Researchers saw that aging occurs more rapidly than normal in some specimens that have the ability to repair this damage. Although most researchers believe that this is happening because lesions accumulate in DNA, which cannot synthesize the proteins needed for repair, Nilsen is not of the same opinion. After several experiments, Nilsen noted that these lesions does not accumulate but results in less DNA. It seems that C.elegans change its metabolism and creates its own defense systems. Moreover, Nilsen showed for the first time that this response is under genetic control. Researchers call this reprogramming process. “The process has the same effect as a reduction in caloric intake, which we know helps increase the lifespan in many species”, researchers said.
It seems that the balance between oxidants and antioxidants is essential for the proper functioning of the body, but is not very clear is the echilibrium between these two. Therefore, researchers draw attention to the fact that vitamin supliments could disrupt this balance. This is why researchers recommend a healthy diet instead.