DNA damage may be a marker of insufficient zinc status

DNA damage may be a marker of insufficient zinc status

Life Extension Update

Tuesday, December 30, 2014. A randomized, double-blind trial reported online on October 16, 2014, in Nutrition Research found a protective effect for zinc supplementation against DNA strand breaks. This type of genetic damage is caused primarily by reactive oxygen species and can lead to further damage and consequent disorders if not repaired.

The study included 40 Ethiopian women believed to be of low zinc status due to decreased meat intake and high dietary phytate levels, which reduce zinc absorption. Plasma zinc levels were measured in blood samples collected at the beginning of the study. The women were given 20 milligrams zinc from zinc sulfate or a placebo daily for seventeen days. Comet assay of intracellular DNA strand breaks was conducted in cells collected at the beginning and end of the trial.

While plasma zinc levels were not significantly changed by the end of the study, comet tail measurement of DNA strand breaks decreased from an average of 39.7 to 30.0 in the supplemented group.

"Zinc deficiency in both in vitro and in vivo models is associated with increased oxidative stress and increased DNA damage," note Maya L. Joray of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and colleagues in their introduction to the article. "As a result of this relationship between cellular zinc levels and DNA damage, the comet assay, a method that measures DNA strand breaks in cells, may represent a sensitive functional tool to assess response to zinc supplementation."

"Plasma zinc comprises a very small percentage of the total body zinc, and plasma zinc may not be a priority pool for repletion in chronically deficient adults," the authors remark. "Because of zinc's essential role in maintaining DNA integrity, the comet assay may be a useful tool to assess cellular impacts of alterations in zinc intake and possibly zinc status."

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Antioxidant nutrients could protect older fathers
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In an article published online on August 27, 2012, in the journal Fertility and Sterility, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in collaboration with scientists from the University of Bradford in England report a protective effect for several nutrients with antioxidant benefits on the quality of sperm in older men.

Andy Wyrobek of Lawrence Lab's Life Science Division and his associates analyzed sperm damage in 80 nonsmoking men aged 22 to 80 years. Dietary questionnaire responses were analyzed for the intake of beta-carotene, folate, vitamins C and E, and zinc from food and supplements. A reduction in damage was associated with increased intake of specific nutrients, particularly vitamin C. "It appears that consuming more micronutrients such as vitamin C, E, folate, and zinc helps turn back the clock for older men," Dr Wyrobek reported. "We found that men 44 and older who consumed at least the recommended dietary allowance of certain micronutrients had sperm with a similar amount of DNA damage as the sperm of younger men. This means that men who are at increased risk of sperm DNA damage because of advancing age can do something about it. They can make sure they get enough vitamins and micronutrients in their diets or through supplements."

"The different response of the old and young men presents new opportunities for health care, especially for older men planning families," he added. "Our research points to a need for future studies to determine whether increased antioxidant intake in older fathers will improve fertility, reduce risks of genetically defective pregnancies, and result in healthier children. The research also raises a broader question beyond sperm DNA: How might lifestyle factors, including higher intakes of antioxidants and micronutrients, protect somatic as well as germ cells against age-related genomic damage?"

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Health Concern

Lung cancer

Lung cancer tends to develop slowly though there are very aggressive types of lung cancer that grow and metastasize rapidly (Hayabuchi 1983; Lozic 2010; Cooper 2000; Alberts 2002). The transformation of healthy lung tissue into cancerous tissue occurs at the cellular level as DNA is damaged by various possible mechanisms, including environmental carcinogens such as those found in tobacco smoke, with the likelihood of cancer development dependent upon each individual's genetic predisposition. Prolonged DNA insults eventually lead to disruption of signaling pathways that control cellular growth in lung tissue. Once genes and pathways that control cellular growth are sufficiently damaged, malignancy emerges (Horn 2013a; Sato 2007).

Zinc is an important component in several enzymes that help maintain normal DNA replication. A study of 1,676 people with lung cancer compared to an equal number of healthy individuals found that those with the highest dietary intake of zinc (greater than 12 mg daily) had a 43% lower risk of lung cancer (Mahabir 2006). A similar study found a 33% reduced risk (Zhou, Park 2005). Another study analyzed hair samples of lung cancer patients and healthy control subjects. Individuals with lung cancer were found to have significantly lower zinc levels in their hair samples compared to control subjects (Piccinini 1996).

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Life Extension Update wishes its readers a safe and healthy New Year.