Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Increasing resilience to disease by increasing genomic resilience through nutritional supplementation

It is becoming clear that DNA mutations, epigenetic changes, and gene expression modulation are involved in medical disorders in general, and psychiatric disorders in particular. In addition to avoiding the offending environmental agents, what else can be done? A powerful approach in medicine is to increase resilience/immunity as a way to prevent/treat diseases.

De novo DNA mutations (micro- single nucleotide mutations , SNPs, or macro- copy-number variants, CNVs) in germinal cells may be responsible for the increased paternal and maternal age effects seen in most psychiatric disorders where modern genetic studies have been carried out to date. These parental age effects may turn out to be a widespread phenomena for psychiatric disorders and non-psychiatric disorders alike. Besides parental transmission, de novo mutations may arise in somatic cells, including neurons. Free radicals may be involved in mutation mechanisms. Free radical quenchers such as the antioxidant vitamins C, E and Selenium have a favorable risk/benefit ratio for preventive purposes. We also suggest it is of interest for the future to study their role in anxiety regulation processes.

Epigenetic changes (such as the addition or removal of methyl groups from DNA) may mediate the depressogenic effects of environmental stress and trauma on the genome. B vitamins, in addition to helping with energy metabolism, may reduce epigenetic changes and thus have an antidepressant role. We suggest it is of interest for the future to study their role in mood regulation processes.

Lastly, gene expression modulation by adverse environments and inflammation could be counteracted by omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D3. We suggest it is of interest for the future to study their role in cognitive regulation processes.

In conclusion, at the risk of sounding like a supermarket tabloid, here are some of our biologically informed practical applications. First do no harm, so one should not exceed manufacturer and/or FDA recommended doses. It is the cumulative combination of different vitamins taken over time that may provide inter-related benefits on anxiety, mood and cognitive disorders, rather than massive acute doses of any single one of them. The earlier they are started, the better the preventative effects. A multivitamin/multimineral pill is a good starting point, along with a diverse diet rich in (organic) fruits and vegetables, and along with overall calorie restriction.

Alexander B. Niculescu, III, MD, PhD