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Gene in Focus: SOD2

SOD2 is the gene that creates Manganese Superoxide Dismutase-2 (MnSOD2), an antioxidant found in the mitochondria – small “cells within our cells” which are where our body produces energy for both movement and everyday life. The enzyme helps to convert free radicals, which can cause damage to the mitochondria, into oxygen and hydrogen peroxide.This prevents the free radicals from causing too much damage, but hydrogen peroxide in and of itself can also damage the mitochondria. Our body then has to further break down this hydrogen peroxide to water, and two other enzymes help in this process, called catalase and glutathione peroxidase. A single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the SOD2 gene can change the structure of the protein found in the MnSOD2 enzyme, which can make it more or less efficient. The more efficient this enzyme is, the better you are at reducing free radicals to hydrogen peroxide and water. Whilst this might sound good, it has a secondary effect of increasing the amount of hydrogen peroxide that will be present, which, as already mentioned, can be damaging. Because the other enzymes, catalase and glutathione peroxidase, are supported by antioxidants, low intakes of antioxidants will lead to an increase in hydrogen peroxide build up, which will damage the mitochondria. So, whilst having a more efficient MnSOD2 enzyme might sound good, if your overall antioxidant intake is low, it can actually increase risk over time.
 What we know from a number of different studies is that the C allele of SOD2 is associated with a more efficient MnSOD2 enzyme – so if antioxidant intake is high, this is good, but if it is low, this is not ideal. We see this from studies such as this one by Li and colleagues, published in 2005. In this study, they looked at 567 people who developed prostate cancer, and compared them to 764 people who didn’t. They comparedSOD2 genotype between the groups, and also how many antioxidants each person consumed on a regular basis. What they found was that, when antioxidant intake was low, those with the CC genotype had a much higher risk of developing prostate cancer compared to the CT & TT genotypes – about 2.5 times higher. However, if antioxidant intake was high, their risk dropped, significantly, to around half that of those with the CT & TT genotypes. This is a really good example of how genes aren’t good or bad, just dependent on the situation; in this example, the CC genotype carries the risk if antioxidant intake is low, but is protective if antioxidant intake is high. A summary of the different genotypes can be seen below:
Greatest increased need for antioxidants
Moderately increased need for antioxidants
Standard requirement for antioxidants
At  Adam’s Genetics, we take a food first approach, so if you see you have a raised need for antioxidants, we think it’s a good idea to get this from fruits and vegetables, as these foods are highest in these nutrients. The most common forms of antioxidants are vitamin A (found in carrots and sweet potato), vitamin C (found in broccoli, peppers and oranges), and vitamin E (found in almonds and sunflower seeds). There are also other antioxidant compounds, such as carotenoids (found in colourful fruits and vegetables) and polyphenols (found in teas, coffee, wine and chocolate – it’s not all bad news!). All of these nutrients are important, so for those of you with a raised need, we recommend eating a wide range of fruits and vegetables per day, along with different teas, coffee, and maybe a few squares of dark chocolate with a glass of wine in the evening – depending on your fat loss goals of course.


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