Is there an association between muscle building supplements and DNA damage in resistance trainers?

A recent study published in Nutrition investigated whether muscle-building supplements are associated with deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) damage in individuals who engage in resistance training.

Study: Association between the use of muscle building supplements and DNA damage in resistance training practitioners.  Image Credit: Rost9/
Study: Association between the use of muscle building supplements and DNA damage in resistance training practitioners. Image Credit: Rost9/


Resistance training improves muscle strength, endurance and power and is popular with people involved in recreational sports. The percentage of recreational athletes using nutritional supplements to improve performance and body composition has increased. Muscle building supplements are classified into three types based on evidence of their safety and effectiveness.

These are supplements with strong (SESEAS), limited/mixed (LMESE), or poor/no (LNESES) evidence to support safety and efficacy. Few studies have evaluated the associations between sports supplements and genotoxicity. DNA damage is a promising approach among genotoxicity markers for assessing health risks.

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In the current study, researchers explored potential associations between the use of muscle-building supplements and DNA damage in individuals who weight train. This cross-sectional study was conducted among resistance trainers aged 18 to 60 in 14 gyms in Santa Cruz do Sul, Brazil.

Individuals were excluded if they lacked adequate data or refused to provide biological samples. Participants filled out a self-assessment questionnaire that collected data on sociodemographics, exercise habits, and lifestyle. Body fat percentage and body mass index were determined.

Samples of oral mucosa and blood were taken. The supplements were stratified into one of three categories of trials. DNA damage was assessed by buccal micronucleus cytome (BMCyt) and comet assays. Lymphocytes were isolated from whole blood samples; two slides of cells (per participant) were prepared and analyzed under a microscope.

DNA damage was classified according to tail size and intensity. Feulgen was used to stain the prepared slides. Cells were examined for nuclear buds (a biomarker of amplified or unresolved DNA elimination) and micronuclei (a biomarker of chromosome missegregation or breakage). Participants were stratified into supplement users and non-users.

Pearson’s chi-squared test and analysis of variance (ANOVA) were used to compare categorical and continuous variables between groups, respectively. Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was performed after adjustment for gender, age, smoking or alcohol status, body fat percentage, type of exercise, duration, and frequency.


The study included 307 individuals, mostly males (52%), with a mean age of 37.9 years. Of these, 150 did not use supplements. SESEAS supplements have been used more often than other types of supplements. Males and individuals under 40 had more frequent use of supplements. There were significant differences in the type, duration, and frequency of exercise between groups.

Most people practiced different exercises; users of LNESES or LMESE supplements practiced more than an hour five to seven times a week. Similarly, SESEAS complements users who have exercised for one hour up to seven times a week. Non-users had a significantly higher percentage of body fat than supplement users.

The comet test revealed a significantly elevated rate and frequency of DNA damage in supplement users compared to non-users. There were no significant differences in the frequencies of nuclear bud and micronucleus in the elevated groups. SESEAS supplement users had a significantly increased DNA damage rate and frequency compared to LMESES or LNESES supplement users.


To summarize, resistance training professionals using muscle building supplements had a high DNA damage rate and frequency in the comet test. Users of SESEAS supplements had a significantly higher rate and frequency of DNA damage. However, the micronucleus and nuclear gem frequencies were not significantly different between groups.

The results suggest a relationship between supplements and genotoxic effects and underscore the use of supplements with caution and only to supplement the diet. Participants primarily used whey protein and creatine supplements, classified as SESEAS supplements. Previous studies reveal the antioxidant properties of creatine and whey protein supplements.

No significant changes were observed between users and non-users in nuclear gems or micronuclei. This implied that although DNA lesions occurred, they were repaired, preventing chromosomal damage. The significant DNA damage among users identified in the comet test was not observed in the BMCyt test, indicating damage repair likely due to the presence of DNA repair agents and antioxidant cofactors in creatine and whey protein supplements. milk.

Therefore, these types of supplements may not cause chromosomal instability. Additionally, regular exercise may result in low oxidative stress, leading to increased DNA damage repair. Overall, the findings suggest that muscle-building supplements are safe and not associated with permanent DNA damage.

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