Several avenues of research point to the importance of continually challenging your immune system to keep it strong. This latest study looks at the role a healthy immune system plays in avoiding depression.
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This article originally appeared in The Paleo Diet Update, v5, #33 – Nucleotides and the Paleo Diet (August 14, 2009), published by www.ThePaleoDiet.com and Loren Cordain, Ph.D. It was written by Mark Connell of nuBound and is reprinted with permission.
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NUCLEOTIDES AND THE PALEO DIET
Nucleotides are small molecules that are the building blocks of DNA and RNA. They are composed of a nitrogen-containing base bonded to a sugar and one or more phosphate groups. Nucleotides occur in all foods of animal or vegetable origin as free nucleotides or nucleic acids. Their concentration depends on cell density, which explains why organ meats are such a rich source.
Traditionally, nutritionists have dismissed any dietary need for nucleotides arguing that the body can produce them itself. This view has begun to change over the last two decades as a mounting body of research has demonstrated that dietary sources of nucleotides play several key roles.
One hint to the larger story is that the preponderance of foods with high concentrations of nucleotides are Paleo foodstuffs, such as game, organ meats (heart, liver, spleen, lungs and sweetbreads) and whole fish. /1-2 Human milk also contains high levels of nucleotides. /3
Research has uncovered multiple roles for dietary nucleotides, including growth and repair of the intestinal lining and liver, /4-5 modulation of the immune system, /6-7 and protein synthesis, /8 among other functions.
While the body is able to synthesize nucleotides from scratch, dietary sources of nucleotides are now considered semi-essential nutrients /9 under stressful conditions (which hamper the body’s synthesis of nucleotides), such as rapid growth, malnutrition or infection. Additionally, certain tissues, such as the gut, which have a low capacity to produce nucleotides on their own, utilize salvage of dietary nucleotides to meet much of their need.
The long recognized superior health of breast-fed babies /10 is now attributed in part to the presence of nucleotides in mother’s milk. /11 Several infant formula makers now add nucleotides to their cow’s milk-based infant formula in an attempt to more closely mimic nature.
The lining of the gut is subject to rapid turnover with complete replacement occurring in less than one week. /4 Nucleotides assist both the continuous proliferation of cells and promote the development of the folds (villi), which allow proper absorption of nutrients. /12 Maintaining the integrity of the gastrointestinal tract is key in avoiding the complications arising from leaky gut.
Immune suppression is well documented in both endurance and strength/power athletes. /13 Recent studies of athletes supplementing their diet with nucleotides have suggested an improvement in immune function and faster recovery. /14-15
The Paleo Diet offers an abundance of nucleotides in comparison to a Neolithic diet, which includes the newer grains, dairy, and sugar never eaten by our Paleolithic ancestors. Basing your meals on the Paleo Diet, mainly lean meat, seafood, fruits, and vegetables, can help with intestinal permeability, immune function, and other functions that dietary nucleotides have been found to enhance.
1. Siegfried Souci, W. Fachmann and Heinrich Kraut. 2008. Food Composition and Nutrition Tables, 7th Edition. Medpharm.
2. Rodney Grahame, H. Anne Simmonds and Elizabeth Carey. 2003. Gout: Answers at Your Fingertips. London: Class Publishing Ltd.
3. Agget P, Leach JL, Rueda R and MacLean WC. Innovation in infant formula development: A reassessment of ribonucleotides in 2002. Nutrition. 2003; 19:375-384.
4. Carver JD. Dietary nucleotides: effects on the immune and gastrointestinal systems. Acta Paediatr Suppl. 1999; 430: 83-88.
5. Grimble GK. Dietary nucleotides and gut mucosal defense. Gut. 1994; 35: Suppl S46-S51.
6. Gil A. Modulation of the immune response mediated by dietary nucleotides. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2002; 56:Suppl 3, S1-S4.
7. Maldonado J, Navarro J, Narbona J and Gil A. The influence of dietary nucleotides on humoral and cell immunity in the neonate and lactating infant. Early Human Development. 2001; 65 Suppl: S69-S74.
8. Sanchez-Pozo A and Gil A. Nucleotides as semiessential nutritional components. British Journal of Nutrition. 2002; 87:Suppl. 1 S135-S137.
9. Grimble GK. Why are dietary nucleotides essential nutrients? British Journal of Nutrition. 1996; 76:475-478.
10. Dewey KG, Fleming J, Nommsen-Rivers LA. Differences in morbidity between breast-fed and formula-fed infants. J Pediatr. 1995; 126:696-702.
11. Schaller JP, Kuchan MJ, Thomas DL, Cordle CT, et al. Effect of dietary ribonucleotides on infant immune status. Pediatric Research. 2004; 56:883-900.
12. Ortega MA, Nunez MC, Gil A and Sanchez-Pozo. Dietary nucleotides accelerate intestinal recovery after food deprivation in old rats. Journal of Nutrition. 1995; 125:2090-2095.
13. Nieman DC. Marathon training and immune function. Sports Medicine. 2007; 37(4-5): 412-415.
14. McNaughton L, Bentley DJ and Koeppel P. The effects of a nucleotide supplement on salivary IgA and cortisol after moderate endurance exercise. J Sports Med and Physical Fitness. 2006; 46:84-89.
15. McNaughton L, Bentley DJ and Koeppel P. The effects of a nucleotide supplement on the immune and metabolic response to short term, high intensity exercise performed in trained male subjects. J Sports Med and Physical Fitness. 2007; 47:112-118.
The paleo diet seeks to mimic the diet of our human ancestors as they evolved over the last several million years. One of the reasons proposed for copying the ancestral diet is that numerous biochemical pathways have become optimized over time through evolution. On the other hand, the more recent changes to human diet since the start of agriculture (10,000 years ago) and the advent of processed foods (in the last 100 years) have left little time, on the evolutionary scale, for adaptation to occur.
One change that has occurred in modern diets is an increased ratio of omega 6 fats (found in grain feed meat and vegetable oils) to omega 3 fats (found in fish).
This new study seems to provide evidence that a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids (as anthropological evidence suggests was the case in the ancestral diet) leads to changes in gene expression which result in a lessened tendency for allergic inflammation and autoimmune disorders.
For the past century, changes in the Western diet have altered the consumption of omega-6 fatty acids (w6, found in meat and vegetable oils) compared with omega-3 fatty acids (w3, found in flax and fish oil). Many studies seem to indicate this shift has brought about an increased risk of inflammation (associated with autoimmunity and allergy), and now using a controlled diet study with human volunteers, researchers may have teased out a biological basis for these reported changes.
Anthropological evidence suggests that human ancestors maintained a 2:1 w6/w3 ratio for much of history, but in Western countries today the ratio has spiked to as high as 10:1. Since these omega fatty acids can be converted into inflammatory molecules, this dietary change is believed to also disrupt the proper balance of pro- and anti- inflammatory agents, resulting in increased systemic inflammation and a higher incidence of problems including asthma, allergies, diabetes, and arthritis.
Floyd Chilton and colleagues wanted to examine whether theses [sic] fatty acids might have other effects, and developed a dietary intervention strategy in which 27 healthy humans were fed a controlled diet mimicking the w6/w3 ratios of early humans over 5 weeks. They then looked at the gene levels of immune signals and cytokines (protein immune messengers), that impact autoimmunity and allergy in blood cells and found that many key signaling genes that promote inflammation were markedly reduced compared to a normal diet, including a signaling gene for a protein called PI3K, a critical early step in autoimmune and allergic inflammation responses.
This study demonstrates, for the first time in humans, that large changes in gene expression are likely an important mechanism by which these omega fatty acids exert their potent clinical effects.
A number of nuBound users, endurance athletes and folks who do CrossFit have discovered the benefits of a paleo diet, which has prompted the question, ‘Does nuBound fit with a paleo diet?’. ‘Surely nucleotide supplements weren’t available in the distant past’, people complain.
True enough, but then fish oil capsules as a dietary supplement weren’t available then either. nuBound occupies a similar niche to fish oil supplements in a paleo diet.
nuBound supplies nucleotides, which are the building blocks of DNA and RNA. Dietary sources of nucleotides have been shown over the last twenty years, in many dozens of peer reviewed studies, to play a role in the modulation and health of the immune system and in recovery.
Many companies market nutritional products enhanced with nucleotides, including Ross and Nestle who add nucleotides to their infant formulas. Both Novartis and Nestle produce nucleotide-enhanced recovery products for use in surgical and critical care situations. nuBound is the first product designed for athletes, providing dietary nucleotides to aid post workout recovery.
While you body produces the bulk of the nucleotides it requires, dietary sources become increasingly important when your body is under stress. (Although only a modest proportion of dietary nucleotides are directly absorbed, the balance are broken down and available for incorporation through various salvage pathways).
The best natural sources of dietary nucleotides are all paleo foods. They include: mother’s milk, fish, meat and specifically organ meats. Nucleotides are most highly concentrated in cell nucleii and mitochondria, which are abundant in these foods. (Not surprisingly, grains contain very low concentrations of nucleotides).
Supplementing a paleo diet with nucleotides is analogous to supplementing a paleo diet with fish oil. Both supplements provide nutritional components that are abundant in a paleo diet. However, even if you ate a strict paleo diet with ample amounts of fish and organ meats on a daily basis, you would still benefit from supplementation.
Why? Because modern athletes subject their bodies to elevated levels of stress from training. The average CrossFitter, triathlete or runner does substantially more work than the average hunter/gatherer.
Supplementing with fish oil provides anti-inflammatory (among other) benefits. Supplementing with nucleotides provides immune boosting and tissue repair benefits. Supplementation ensures that athletes always have an ample supply of these nutrients to ameliorate the stresses imposed by training. In conclusion, nuBound can play a useful role and is not inconsistent with a paleo diet.
The emerging swine flu epidemic looks to be spreading at a faster rate than the regular seasonal flu, making it comparable to some of the major flu epidemics of the 20th century like the Spanish Flu (1918) and the Asian Flu (1976). In a study to be published in the journal Science this week, Neil Ferguson and his colleagues at the Imperial College London analyzed the speed of transmission of the swine flu.
Athletes know from their own experience, and it has been well demonstrated in multiple studies, that hard exercise can depress the immune system making athletes more susceptible to catching colds and the flu. While most of these studies have focused on endurance athletes running marathons and ultramarathons, similar results have been observed among football players.
One of the body’s first lines of defense against respiratory infections (like colds and flu) is the level of immunoglobin in the saliva. Readers familiar with nuBound will know studies have shown that taking a dietary nucleotide supplement can help boost salivary immunoglobin in athletes.