Learn more about dietary nucleotides (from meat and supplements): what they are, how they relate to DNA, and how they are able to benefit your health, including seven scientifically-backed benefits. Read this post to learn more about the science of nucleotides, and my personal experience with them.
What are Nucleotide Supplements?
Dietary nucleotides (from food and supplements) provide a range of health benefits.
Nucleotides are the building blocks of DNA and RNA. One nucleotide is one “unit” of a DNA or RNA strand.
Our body needs billions of these any time a cell divides to make a new copy of DNA, and also when it makes proteins. These proteins are responsible for pretty much everything that goes on in our body.
Dietary sources of nucleotides are found to varying degrees in many foods – lamb, liver, and mushrooms are good examples.
Being important for growth, nucleotides are also present in human breast milk.
In healthy people, dietary nucleotides are probably not essential, however, under certain circumstances (e.g. in the sub-well, diseased, or under conditions of stress or poor diet) dietary nucleotides may be “semi-essential”, optimizing the function of the gastrointestinal and immune systems.
Humans adapt to dietary nucleotide intake by downregulating production [R].
Supplemental nucleotides contain four “ribonucleotides”: Cytidine Monophosphate (CMP), Uridine Monophosphate (UMP), Adenosine Monophosphate (AMP), and Guanosine Monophosphate (GMP).
Nucleotides are the building blocks for DNA synthesis, though I’m not sure exactly which aspect of the supplement accounts for the stimulating effect.
The Benefits of Nucleotides
1) Nucleotides Benefit the Immune System
Nucleotides have important effects on the growth and development of cells that have a rapid turnover, such as those in the immune system and the gastrointestinal tract.
Nucleotides also help gut mucosal defense, which is also part of the immune system [R].
2) Nucleotides Repair Your Intestines
Nucleotides enhance intestinal repair after injury, such as with alcohol, gluten, casein, etc [R].
Animal work shows that villi height and crypt depth in the intestine is increased as a result of dietary nucleotides. Intestinal villi increase the absorption area of the small intestine, allowing for an increase in nutrient absorption. Dietary nucleotides enhance the intestinal absorption of iron.
Nucleotides have been found to promote healing of small bowel ulcers in experimental ulcerative ileitis [R].
They also help in the prevention and treatment of the injurious effects of NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen [R].
3) Nucleotides Enhance Learning
In rats, dietary nucleotides increase phospholipids in the cerebral cortex. These rats were found to have enhanced learning [R].
4) Nucleotides May Help Prevent Cancer
Nucleotide deficiency promotes a high frequency of genome mutations in the early stages of cancer development [R].
Chromosomal instability in early cancer stages is caused by stress on DNA replication [R].
Nucleotides rescued the replication stress and DNA damage and dramatically decreased cancer-induced transformation [R].
5) Nucleotides Help Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a chronic disorder affecting an estimated 15 to 22 percent of Western populations.
The increase of villi height and crypt depth in the intestine is also helpful to fight against Irritable Bowel Syndrome as well [R].
Dietary nucleotides may be semi-essential under conditions of ill-health, poor diet, or stress [R].
Dietary nucleotide supplementation improves some of the symptoms of irritable bowel above the baseline and placebo level [R].
6) Nucleotides Extend Lifespan in Rats
A 2013 study found that nucleotides in relatively low dosages dose-dependently inhibit the age-related decrease in the activities of antioxidant enzymes and the age-related increase in the levels of oxidation product in both sexes [R].
Compared to the control group, the incidence of death from tumors was decreased in both sexes [R].
Nucleotides increased the average lifespan and the maximal lifespan [R].
7) Nucleotides Help Liver Regrowth
An exogenous supply of nucleotides is reported to improve liver regrowth [R].
Nucleotide supplements are most stimulating but also have a sedating side.
The stimulating aspect may be because the nucleotide adenine stimulates thyroid hormone release [R].
UMP is more relaxing and I occasionally take it at night before bed, so UMP surely doesn’t cause the wakefulness in nucleotide supplements.
AMP contains adenosine, which is a drug used to induce sleep. This is probably what accounts for the tiredness I feel amidst the stimulation.
My first encounter with nucleotide supplements was about six years ago. It was in a formula with other herbs for accelerating recovery from a cold. The dosage wasn’t high (50mg). However, I would take 20 of these pills, yielding a dosage of 1000mg. I noticed a stimulating effect from the supplement, but it had other ingredients.
Swanson’s vitamin company recently came out with a nucleotide supplement that provides 300mg.
My experience thus far has been positive and I’ve noticed a marked increase in performance.
I find it beneficial to take when my body is stressed in some way, such as in sleep deprivation, intense exercise, and psychological stress or if I feel I’m coming down with some infection.
It’s also great during those periods when I overwork myself. I find it increases motivation and energy expenditure. If not stressed in any way, I take 300mg, but only on the days when I don’t eat animal proteins (whey, chicken, fish).
Nucleotides include uridine, which has a bunch of research supporting it for cognitive function.
I’ve noticed that eating fish or chicken also gives me a similar boost as nucleotides, albeit less intense. So, I think the real benefits are realized on diets that restrict these foods. However, these foods also require digestive energy, whereas nucleotides don’t.
I put the nucleotides in my water because taking large doses at once can theoretically put your cells into overdrive and increase cancer risk [R].
Too little, however, can promote genomic instability because of a lack of DNA building blocks and potentially cause cancer [R].
Ultimately, I pay close attention to my body. If I feel worn out or fatigued in any way, I’ll take 300mg or more.
Like everything else, balance is important. The more I study nutrition, the more I understand that too much of something can be worse than too little. This concept seems simple and makes sense to people, but most don’t seem to internalize it (sometimes I don’t).
Overall, I’d say nucleotides deserve a place in people’s toolkit and should be taken by all vegans/vegetarians and omnivores in situations where the body is stressed.