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Snake Oil

Getcher Nucleic Acids, Cheap

Via Nathaniel Comfort on Twitter, I note that the health-food people are still selling “DNA supplements”. I remember seeing these in a vitamin store some years ago, and wrinkling my brow as I thought about the implications. Does your food have enough DNA in it? Actually, these pills turn out to be 100mg of RNA and only 10mg of DNA, so you might want to adjust your dosages accordingly.
Turns out that the only negative review on the actual site is from someone who’s upset that there’s so much filler in the pills themselves. More DNA is what he wants. He should try what another guy further down the page does, and swallow five of the things at a time. It gives him “energy”, y’know, and he’s not alone. Every one of these satisfied customers has felt the energy, and some of them even have picked up a healthy glow to their skin. So there you have it. I thought that peanut M&Ms gave me energy (although maybe not the healthy glow), but I should clearly start snacking on RNA instead.
When I called my wife with this news, her first comment was “RNA from what?” I countered that a whole bottle of pills was only $4.99, and this was (brace yourselves) fifty per cent off the usual price. (In the reviews, one customer found this price very “exceptable”). Anyway, I said, this was not the time to be looking under the hood of such an opportunity. “And how much is shipping?” she wanted to know. I replied that I’m really not sure how I’m still married to her, what with that suspicious nature and all. I tell you.

32 comments on “Getcher Nucleic Acids, Cheap”

  1. Pedantic Speaker says:

    Oddly enough, according to the wikipedia article on quorn (admittedly not totally reliable), too much nucleic acid is thought by some to be unhealthy:
    “Previous attempts to produce such fermented protein foodstuffs were thwarted by excessive levels of DNA or RNA; without the heat treatment, purine, found in nucleic acids, is metabolised by humans, producing uric acid, which can lead to gout.[29] However two recent studies have found dietary factors once believed to be associated with gout are in fact not, including the intake of purine-rich vegetables and total protein.[30][31] The Mayo Clinic, meanwhile, advises gout sufferers to avoid some foods that are high in purines.[32]”
    So it may be advisable to heat-treat the pills “to remove excess levels of RNA”.

  2. road says:

    Probably salmon sperm…

  3. bhip says:

    re: #2, only if said salmon bought me dinner. And at some place nice, with candles… & music. Not Olive Garden, for example….

  4. I know some people who have literally obeyed the Central Dogma of Supplement Biology: They went from DNA supplements —> RNA supplements —> Protein supplements.
    Which I suppose is an improvement of sorts.

  5. Anonymous says:

    @4 I guess the next logical leap for them would be “amino acid supplements”. Now that’s big business.

  6. luysii says:

    P. T. Barnum was wrong. Far more than 1 sucker is born every minute.

  7. DV Henkel-Wallace says:

    What would result if some of these reviewers married audiophiles?
    An experiment worth doing!

  8. ton says:

    Mr/Ms. Henkel-Wallace, i’m pretty sure audiophile scientists are some of the world’s most confused people. (and i count myself as both)
    as for the nutriceutical in question, how can you argue with something that operates at the Core of Life?

  9. aaron says:

    It says on the bottle that its from brewers yeast.
    probably a standard extraction yields a 10:1 DNA:RNA mixture.
    at half off its a steal!

  10. Paul says:

    I see a high tech follow-on to the home yogurt maker: a home PCR DNA synthesizer. Make your own DNA supplements!
    I wonder if any anti-GMO people take these DNA pills.

  11. weirdo says:

    Well, shipping is $4.99.
    Next week they’ll go back to the regular price and advertise “Free Shipping!”. OOP remains the same . . .

  12. erica fraaije-van der Stelt says:

    Thank you for this update in metaphysics. It remembers me to a nice trip I made once in de USA when I was 18 (bikecentennial). As European girl I was stunned about the fear some Americans appeared to have for chemicals that could hide in their food. These people that take DNA pills are a bit alike them I suppose.

  13. annon fore says:

    Can’t believe there’s such dripping sarcasm on this very serious and intellectual site.

  14. Magrinho says:

    I wonder if Sirtris charged GSK for shipping and handling;-)

  15. oldnuke says:

    Never underestimate the stupidity of the American consumer…

  16. maybe chemist says:

    Yes, GSK was handled and mangled, and then shipped one person to Philly when the Sirtris site in Cambridge was closed.

  17. Troy says:

    Look at their 7-leaf guarantee #2:
    Since 2001 Swanson Health Products has voluntarily participated in independent third party Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) audits, long before the FDA released their final regulations for the dietary supplement industry. Ingredients are tested at various stages throughout the production process to verify purity and potency, and finished products are tested for potency and stability by independent third-party laboratories to ensure that each supplement contains exactly what is stated on the label.
    How are they measuring potency and who are these “third party GMP” people?

  18. Teddy Z says:

    To me, the funniest part here is that these are the same people who are probably freaking out over GMOs. You know because of all of that “DNA” in there!

  19. jrftzgb says:

    As a former competitive power lifter I have to tell you the place I heard the most ridiculous nutritional BS was at the gym. It was a constant battle not to laugh out loud.

  20. RNA supplements were hot in the late 70s, thanks to Dr. Benjamin Frank.

  21. Interesting, there are some medical foods that do contain extra nucleotides.

  22. Fat Old Man says:

    I once saw a bottle advertising itself as human growth hormone. This was quite recently in one of the major chains. Intrigued, I looked at the ingredients. Sure enough, it contained all the amino acids necessary for your body to make HGH. Some assembly required!

  23. Shazz says:

    Ribonucleotides are a relatively new umami flavour enhancer that have been implicated in causing allergies in some people.
    Out of interest- is it actually possible to be DNA or RNA deficient? I’d guess the only way for it to happen short of outright C or N starvation is through phosphorus deficiency (that would probably turn up as deficient in bones long before the nuclei went short).

  24. Pedantic Speaker says:

    Actually, although I do not know if it occurs in practice, it is possible in theory if you have defective genes to synthesise the nucleobases to produce it. In fact a similar situation prevails with respect to many amino acids, known as essential amino acids. Likewise, many animals lack the ability to (“or have a very limited capacity to”) convert linoleic acid to arachidonic acid and are known as “obligate carnivores” because only animals (and some fungi such as the commercial source Mortierella alpina) contain as much arachidonic acid as they need. And of course there is the well-known example of ascorbic acid.

  25. Morten G says:

    Just found a different product “Nucleomega” that’ll give you 90 mg DNA per capsule ( Out of 500 mg I think that’s pretty good (if you need more DNA) @2. road this one is actually based on cod milk, not salmon, but close.
    Herring and cod milk (and probably from a bunch of other fish) are used in traditional dishes (traditional meaning that no-one eats them any more). I think you are supposed to soak in milk overnight and fry in lots of butter. But don’t hold me to that. I tried googling and got nothing.

  26. Jonathan says:

    If only I’d known about this sooner! I’d have saved a fortune compared to buying dNTP mix from Invitrogen. Do you know how many $260 aliquots it takes to fill up a wheatgrass smoothie?

  27. charlesj says:

    the spray-on version looks even better value – it also includes methylation factors.

  28. charlesj says:

    the spray-on version looks even better value – it also includes methylation factors.

  29. pc says:

    For the medichem or other folks working on drug discovery here I’m actually intrigued to know if any of you take fish oil on a regular basis, or if you recommend it to your friends/relatives who have real or potential cardiovascular problems. Or you think it belongs to snake oil category. Or maybe the EPA/DHA in there does have some sort of benefit but the manufaturers/retailors vastly exaggerated the perceived benefits. Comments are appreciated.

  30. johnnyboy says:

    @29: fish oil is definitely not in the snake oil category, there are many credible papers suggesting a potential beneficial effect of omega-3s for cholesterol and triglyceride levels. I tend to have slightly elevated LDLs and I took some supplements for a while, but didn’t keep at it (didn’t appreciate the fishy belching associated). But like most things, it’s probably more physiologic and beneficial to increase your omega-3 intake through normal diet changes (eating more fish) rather than supplements, and that’s what I’m doing now.

  31. pc says:

    johnny: Thanks for the comment. Obviously diet and also routine exercise are quite important. The reason I asked is also because my mother has cardiovascular problems and I do encourage her to take fish oil regularly. Lately I just noticed that there are some literature claiming that the krill oil (derived from crustaceans that whales consume as their food) provides better source of omega-3 than fish oil and I’m considering to switch to that for her. It’s more expensive but if it works better then I will go for it (one of the claims is the concentration is higher and absorption is better). It’s said to also have less fishy aftertaste. Anyone here have experience with that stuff?

  32. Humble Scrivener says:

    I’ve never been able to get past aversion to fish-oil taste/fear of fishy belching to take fish oils for the omega-3, so I periodically throw a tablespoon of chia seeds into the yogurt-fruit mixture I blend up for telecommuting lunch, occasionally eat flaxseed-enriched baked goods, and nosh on walnuts out of hand. Also occasionally eat fish (salmon is my go-to entrée at dinners with clients).

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