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Understanding HODEs and Your Health

October 17, 2017

You don’t feel them.  You don’t see them. You’ve probably never even heard of them, but HODEs are an important marker of oxidative stress and potentially disease within the body.

What’s a HODE?

The chemical structure of 9-HODE

HODE, which is Hydroxy-octadecadienoic acid, serves as a sign or biomarker in our blood and urine that relays to scientists the status of inflammation or oxidative stress in our bodies. The accumulation of oxidative stress and inflammation causes cellular damage that research finds is an underlying factor in diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease.

The presence of HODE in our bodies is normal because it is a by-product of metabolism.  There are triggers like dietary choices, smoking, pollutants, and even intense exercise that escalate the production of HODE, which increases the potential of disease-promoting cell damage. Scientists measure HODE levels in the body to quantify the level of inflammation and oxidative stress in order to find ways to prevent or reverse the effects and, in turn, help people make lifestyle choices that will keep them healthier.

Let’s take a look at two examples involving the liver and exercise recovery.

HODE and Alcoholic Liver Disease

Zhanxiang Zhou, PhD. Credit: UNCG Research

We’re told to eat certain foods to get healthy levels of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in our body. The liver is the organ that makes these nutrients available to all of our body tissues, one of the many reasons it’s important to have a healthy liver. The liver can become overwhelmed with increasing amounts of alcohol, leading to alcoholic liver disease (ALD).

On a molecular level, the development of ALD involves HODE. A finding established by Zhanxiang Zhou, PhD, co-director of the UNC Greensboro Center for Translational Biomedical Research at the NC Research Campus (NCRC) in Kannapolis.  He published a study in Scientific Reports that shows, when stimulated by alcohol, the ALOX15 gene metabolizes HODE in the liver in a way that transforms harmless fats into toxic fats, a process that ultimately leads to liver cells dying. He is studying ways to reverse liver damage due to ALD by targeting the ALOX15 gene to prevent the generation of HODE and save liver cells.

Read more about Zhou’s study.

HODE and Exercise

A 2014 study conducted by two NCRC scientists was the first to place HODE in the context of exercise. David Nieman, DrPH, Director of the Appalachian State University Human Performance Lab, and Kevin Knagge, PhD, Analytical Sciences Leader at the David H. Murdock Research Institute (DHMRI), published a study in the  American Journal of Physiology  that established HODE as a biomarker for oxidative stress during exercise, a marker even more abundant than the then-current “gold standard” for measuring oxidative stress, F2-isoprostanes.

A collaboration between Nieman, Knagge, and Nick Gillitt, PhD, Director of the Dole Nutrition Institute, also at the NCRC, reported in an April 2017 study published in the FASEB Journal that HODE levels, which are very high after a long run or bike ride, can be reduced by either a Cavendish banana with water or a sugar beverage better than water alone.

Read more about this study.



HODE and Everyday Life

Bananas aren’t the only food that can play a role in reducing the effects of elevated HODE levels in the body. Research shows that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is essential to reducing HODE and correspondingly inflammation and oxidative stress.

So when you are at the grocery store, pick your fruits and vegetables with confidence knowing that you are doing your body a big favor by reducing potential risk factors for chronic disease.

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