A study that tracked genetic mutations through the human equivalent of about 5,000 years has demonstrated for the first time that oxidative DNA damage is a primary cause of the process of mutation – the fuel for evolution but also a leading cause of aging, cancer and other diseases.

The research, just published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also indicated that natural selection is affecting the parts of the genome that don’t contain genes – supposedly “junk” DNA that increasingly appears to have important roles in life processes that are very poorly understood.

The analysis was done by scientists at Oregon State University, Indiana University, the University of Florida and University of New Hampshire, in studies supported by the National Institutes of Health.

“Most life on Earth depends in some form on oxygen, which is great at the production of energy,” Denver said. “But we pay a high price for our dependence on oxygen, because the process of using it is not 100 percent efficient, and it can result in free oxygen radicals that can damage proteins, fats and DNA. And this process gets worse with age, as free radicals accumulate and begin to cause disease.”

This is one of the first studies, Denver said, that is clearly demonstrating the effects of oxidative damage at a genome-wide scale.

“The research showed that the majority of all DNA mutations bear the signature of oxidative stress,” Denver said. “That’s exactly what you would expect if you believe that oxidative stress is an underlying cause of aging and disease.”

Beyond that, however, the study also found that mutation and natural selection is also operating in the “junk DNA” parts of the roundworm, which actually comprises about 75 percent of its genome but traditionally was not thought to play any major role in life and genetic processes. This suggests that these poorly-understood and little appreciated parts of the genome may have important biological roles that are not yet known, Denver said.

Oxidative stress for decades has been suspected as a mechanism for some of the processes that lead to aging and disease, and it has been studied extensively for that reason. This research provides a better fundamental understanding of the genetic impacts of oxidative stress and its role in both genetic disease and evolution, researchers say.

Source: Eureka Alert

More evidence of the free-radical theory of aging.  I agree that the evidence shows that free-radical damage is one of the major factors in all of the symptoms of aging.  This underscores the importance of limiting free -radical formation and adopting healthy habits that protect your body form the oxidative damage.


The authors of this study make a point to explain that breathing oxygen is a potent producer of free radicals.  The second most potent generator is inflammation and therefore any strategy to maitain health as we age must include reducing inflammation


There are dietary steps to take such as including plenty of fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables to your diet.  Omega-3 fatty acids available in fatty fish such as salmon, as well as in supplement form have many benficail properties, reducing inflammation chief among them. 


Alternative healing modalities such as chiropractic care, massage, and accupuncture can assist the body to reduce its inflammatory load.


For more about this topic read: Free Radicals, Antioxidants and You