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2014-06-25

Antioxidants Alter Gene Expression

Here is a new study that confirms what I've been saying about "antioxidants" over the last few years now. Since free-radicals are typically seen as bad (but not always, as I recently discussed HERE), many started pumping themselves full of antioxidants with the assumption they would mop up those harmful molecules. Of course, much of this was based on in vitro studies (test tube or laboratory studies), and most with even a small understanding of the human body would quickly realize that you can't use what happens in a test tube as a reliable indication of what happens in a living biological system.


The newer--and mounting--evidence behind these so-called "antioxidants" shows that they actually DO exert health benefits to a living organism, but its effects aren't do to clearing out free-radicals, but modifying the expression of certain genes (for example, turning on genes related to health, and turning off genes related to illness).

This new study showed that  daily supplementation with 200 mg of oligomeric procyanidins (OPC) from grape seeds changed gene expression associated with cardiovascular disease pathways. In total OPCs modulated the expression of 864 genes, which play a role in a number of key biological processes, including cell adhesion, cell infiltration, and chemotaxis.

This brings up another discussion on randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trials (usually abbreviated as RCT). Many in the scientific community look to these types of studies as the "gold standard" for clinical research. And yes, I subscribed to that way of thinking too. However, in an age of genetic sequencing and testing, I've felt for a few years now that RCTs are rather outdated and starting to look archaic. Why? RCTs take a random sample of the population, control for certain confounding variables (like age, lifestyle factors, etc.) and administer a therapeutic (or toxic) substance and observe what happens. With this observation data, it's put through a statistical analysis to see if something actually has an effect--positive or negative.

The problem here is that a study could result in a null conclusion, the therapeutic agent doesn't work, or the toxic substance is not harmful. This ignores the unique individual genetics of the participants in the study. For example, you may have heard of the "Southampton colours" (the artificial reds, oranges, and yellows linked to hyperactivity in children). This was reported many times, and I've witnessed it myself with my oldest son. Yet when investigated in an RCT, the conclusion was that it didn't result in hyperactivity. While some did respond with hyperactivity, the number were too few to result in a "statistically significant" result.

While in the conventional food industry saw this as proof these chemicals are safe, make no mistake, they ARE toxic to certain individuals--individuals that likely have a genetic polymorphism that makes them react a certain way to these chemicals.

In the future, I believe the new "gold standard" will be studying how certain compounds interact with certain genes (as the OPC study discussed above did). Then we can start to see what sort of genes benefit from things like OPCs, what variations of those genes mean (maybe some won't receive the amazing benefits of OPCs because of their genetic profile), so we can truly personalized medicine and healthcare to help us all reach our full potential in health, longevity, and live life abundantly!


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Source: Dietary Flavanols Modulate the Transcription of Genes Associated with Cardiovascular Pathology without Changes in Their DNA Methylation State

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