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Vitamin D: an antioxidant?

Posted on: May 27, 2012   by  John Cannell, MD


Earlier this month, Dr. H. Dorota Halicka and colleagues from New York Medical College reported on a series of experiments showing activated vitamin D is both a natural antioxidant and helps repair damaged DNA. Humans live by burning (oxidizing) food and the byproducts of that oxidation damage your DNA. That’s why so many people take antioxidants like vitamins C and E.

Halicka HD, Zhao H, Li J, Traganos F, Studzinski GP, Darzynkiewicz Z. Attenuation of constitutive DNA damage signaling by 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3. Aging (Albany NY). 2012 Apr 11. [Epub ahead of print]

Dr. Halicka and colleagues pretreated numerous tissues with activated vitamin D and then tested if vitamin D reduced the products of oxidative DNA damage in the treated tissue. In all cases, they found vitamin D did just that, sometimes rather dramatically. They report, “Treatment of cells of several cell lines with activated vitamin D led to induction of enzymes involved in protection against oxidative damage.” That is, vitamin D serves as a powerful natural antioxidant.

Along the way, Dr. Halicka taught me that others recently discovered that vitamin D increases production of a powerful natural antioxidant, superoxide dismutase or SOD for short. Superoxide itself is one of the main reactive chemicals in the cell and SOD cuts it in half, turning one superoxide molecule into several less damaging molecules. Consequently, SOD serves one of the key natural antioxidant roles in the human body and the discovery that vitamin D increases it is a major one.

When Dr. Halicka wrote, “Recent studies on gene profiling revealed that the DNA repair genes are among a multitude of genes whose transcription is induced by activated vitamin D,” I wanted to know more. What are DNA repair genes? How exactly do they work? How many total DNA repair genes does vitamin D increase? Are their mechanisms of action all different? What is the magnitude of the increase? Is the increase off the wall or just 20%? Does this mean that vitamin D is the main protector of your DNA?

All they said was, “our data are consistent with the recent reports on the interaction between DNA damage and activated vitamin D . . . that leads to enhancement of DNA repair efficiency, and provide further support for the chemo-protective and anti-aging properties of this vitamin/hormone.”

Actually, when you think about it, that’s quite a lot to say.

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