On Nutrition by Ed Blonz

Still No Evidence for DNA Supplement Theory

DEAR DR. BLONZ: I’ve been taking 1 to 3 grams of RNA/DNA nucleic acid supplements per day for the last 30 years. I’m almost 70, but most people think I’m 50. -- H.W.

DEAR H.W.: It has been 40 years since the publication of “Dr. Frank’s No-Aging Diet” by Benjamin Frank. This book is considered to be the popular starting point of the dubious concept that dietary nucleic acids can slow aging and assist with degenerative diseases. I used the word “dubious” because there has been no reliable evidence in the scientific literature to support such a notion.

Stepping back a bit, the principle nucleic acids in our genetic material are DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), which is found mainly in the nucleus of our cells, and RNA (ribonucleic acid), which can be found throughout the cells. Both DNA and RNA are large, complex biochemical compounds that contain particular sequences of substances known as purine and pyrimidine bases. Similar to how sentences in Morse code are made up of dots and dashes, the arrangement of the bases in the nucleic acids contain a message, which, in this case, is the genetic blueprint of how we are made.

Frank promoted in his book that increasing one’s dietary intake of nucleic acids, from either foods or supplements, could “de-age” the body and slow ailments connected with getting older.

It would be great, if it were that simple.

At the time, the concept was characterized by promoters as a “revolution in the making,” but there are problems with the logic. First, everyone’s nucleic acids are unique. Most nucleic acid supplements come from yeast, and it is a bit of a stretch to think that they would have the claimed effects for us. Another problem is that when consumed, the nucleic acids will be broken down by the digestive system. Finally, individuals at risk for gout should be aware that taking nucleic acids will increase their dietary intake of uric acid. All this said, these dietary supplements are still available in stores.

The most telling fact is that in the 40 years since the book was published, there has been no evidence in the scientific literature to support claims of youth promotion from nucleic acid supplements.

One reliable benefit from RNA and DNA supplements? Profits for their marketers.

DEAR DR. BLONZ: I eat the whole apple -- seeds, stem and all. Is this bad? -- J.G.

DEAR J.G.: How many entire apples are we talking about? The skin and flesh are good food, and no problem. There would be no problem with eating a washed stem, although I don’t see the attraction.

One thing to be aware of are the seeds, which for any plant are the keys to the next generation and, in essence, the survival of the species. Plants have evolved to produce chemical defenses in seeds to help them survive and develop. The seeds of apples contain amygdalin, a compound that degrades into hydrogen cyanide: a deadly toxin in high doses.

Swallowing apple seeds intact should not represent a problem, as their tough seed coats will allow them to pass through your system. Nor should crunching a few seeds by accident send you to the ER; as with most toxic substances, it’s the dose that makes the poison. A danger zone for a 150-pound individual, for example, would take the contents of over 200 apple seeds. Check out the article at b.link/seeds35 for more details.

Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.