Sources of nucleotides for cell regeneration
Having established in the last section, “The science of extremely large numbers“, the extraordinary amount of cells in our bodies that constantly require replacement, repair or regeneration and the nucleotides that are required to make this possible, it’s time to talk about where these nucleotides come from.
There are four ways in which the human body can obtain the nucleotides that are essential for cell regeneration:
- synthesised in the body from amino acids or glucose
- salvaged from DNA and RNA degradation
- obtained through the diet
- taken in the form of a nutritional supplement
So why all the fuss about dietary nucleotides?
Requirement for nucleotides derived from dietary sources
Many of the body’s cells can utilise nucleotides sourced through synthesis or salvage, but there are certain types of cells that must complete their requirement from nucleotides derived from dietary sources.
The 4 types of cells that rely on dietary sources of nucleotides are:
- cells forming the lining of the digestive system (intestinal mucosa cells)
- ‘good’ bacteria in the intestinal tract (e.g. bifidobacteria)
- white blood cells of the immune system (especially lymphocytes)
- red blood cells (erythrocytes)
The body has a great demand for a rapid turnover of all these types of cells. Many factors, including our lifestyles, state of health, and stress levels will determine how rapidly the body requires these new cells to be produced to keep it healthy and the associated biological processes working efficiently.
It is also more efficient for the body to utilise a dietary supply of nucleotides during periods of the greatest cellular turnover because the methods for creating a varied supply of them through synthesis and salvage are both costly in metabolic energy terms.
This has led to a view within the scientific community that dietary nucleotides are now “conditionally essential”.
The low nucleotide content of our modern diet
What’s on your plate?
The likely nucleotide content of our modern Western diet has changed considerably when compared to that of our grandparents. If we go back even further in time to before the domestication of animals and plants and the industrialisation of agriculture and food production methods we find the changes to be even more significant.
A selection of results from recent investigations into the nucleotide content of a range of different foodstuffs is shown in figure 1 below. Based on the analysis of freeze-dried samples by High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) the total nucleotide content for a typical adult portion size is shown in each case.
The results reveal some dramatic differences in the likely nucleotide intake of meat versus vegetarian diets, pointing to the highest contents in the offal-type (or organ) meats far less likely to be found on dinner plates today.
figure 1: The results reveal some dramatic differences in the likely nucleotide intake again pointing to the highest contents in offal-type (or organ) meats that are far less likely to be found on dinner plates today.
Source: Chemoforma/ProBIO AG.
To add to the confusion: not all nucleotides are the same!
What should be taken into consideration is that a lot of foods in the modern Western diet, although seemingly high in total nucleotide content, do not carry the full spectrum of both pyrimidine and purine nucleotides required for optimum results. Only a diet containing nucleotide content with a ready availability of all five major nucleotide bases is considered to be truly effective – this subject will be addressed in detail in an “Advanced nucleotides” science page article in the very near future.
There is no doubt therefore, that this decrease in offal-type meat consumption has dramatically reduced both the total amount of, and the variety of, nucleotide content in the modern Western diet. We refer to this reduction as “dietary simplification”.
This information is taken from our ground-breaking publication, “Putting you completely in the picture” – an introduction to nucleotides.