Thrifty development: early‐life diet restriction reduces oxidative damage during later growth

Noguera, J.C., Lores, M., Alonso‐Álvarez, C. and Velando, A., 2011. Thrifty development: early‐life diet restriction reduces oxidative damage during later growth. Functional Ecology, 25(5), pp.1144-1153.


1. Conditions during early stages of life may have an important effect on phenotype, by inducing programmed responses that may remain throughout the lifetime of an animal. One very important factor that can promote long-term changes in phenotype is restriction of food intake (dietary restriction, DR).
2. Recently, it has been shown that DR may induce an increase in antioxidant and repair mechanisms as a result of hormetic responses. Interestingly, the induction of antioxidant and repair mechanisms may be triggered by transitory increases in reactive oxygen species. Dietary-derived antioxidants, such as vitamin E, may be important to determine the compensatory effect of DR.
3. To investigate the effect of DR on attenuation of oxidative damage, we manipulated dietary intake (by restricting food ingestion) and antioxidant availability (by vitamin E supplementation) during the first days of life of yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis) chicks. We then measured oxidative status and body mass during the early development of chicks.
4. We found that an early short event of food shortage strongly affected the oxidative status of the chicks and their growth patterns. We observed less oxidative damage to proteins and DNA in dietary restricted chicks, after the period of food restriction, than in non-restricted chicks. Unexpectedly, vitamin E supplementation did not suppress the hormetic effect of DR, but instead increased it.
5. These novel results support the idea that short events of DR during early development induce a reduction in oxidative damage in wild animals. The results suggest that DR promotes the induction of an early hormetic response in some antioxidant defence processes and/or repair mechanisms. These findings have important implications for our understanding of how early conditions may shape the phenotype of an organism, and also for the study of evolutionary trade-offs during early growth.

Differential effects of specific carotenoids on oxidative damage and immune response of gull chicks

Lucas, A., Morales, J. & Velando, A. Differential effects of specific carotenoids on oxidative damage and immune response of gull chicks. Journal of Experimental Biology 217, 1253–1262 (2014).


Micronutrients are essential for normal metabolic processes during early development. Specifically, it has been suggested that diet-derived carotenoids can play a key role in physiological functions because of their antioxidant and immunostimulant properties. However, their role as antioxidants remains controversial. Additionally, it is also unclear whether oxidative stress mediates their immunostimulatory effects. In this field study, we separately supplemented yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis) chicks with two carotenoids (lutein and β-carotene) with different molecular structures and different transformation pathways into other oxidative forms of carotenoids. We quantified their effect on the oxidative status and the immune response of chicks before and after an oxidative challenge with paraquat, a pro-oxidant molecule. Prior to oxidative challenge, none of the carotenoid treatments affected the oxidative status of chicks, but they enhanced the inflammatory response to an antigen compared with controls. The oxidative challenge enhanced plasma vitamin E levels (but not in β-carotene-supplemented chicks) and the antioxidant capacity in the short term. Interestingly, lutein-supplemented chicks showed lower oxidative damage to proteins than non-lutein-supplemented chicks. After the oxidative challenge, the positive effect of carotenoid supplementation on the immune response disappeared. Thus, these results suggest differential effects of two carotenoids with different molecular structures on the oxidative status. Lutein but not β-carotene helps to combat oxidative damage after a free-radical exposure. Additionally, the results indicate that the immunostimulatory effects of carotenoids are linked to oxidative status during early life.