Wednesday, April 7, 2010

How Food Controls Your Genes and Health

We've always heard the timeless adage, 'you are what you eat', but most people don't realize that the foods we consume every day have a dramatic effect on the basic mechanism which controls our existence, our genes.  Now that we have decoded the human genome, scientists have been able to discover the nimble ability of our genes to react to the foods we eat in a newly evolving field known as nutrigenomics, which has either a positive or negative impact on the way we live today.

Food Directly Controls Our Genes
Medical researchers now have the ability to watch specific genes and groups of genes which switch on and off based on external triggers such as pollutants, internally ingested foods and even factors such as stress.  The surprising fact about nutrigenomics is the discovery that individual food items have an immediate effect on the regulation of our genes.  Many had believed that our genes were static in nature, that is they required many generations to alter, and the genes we were born with were the genes we died with.

But our genes really are dynamic.  They are continually influenced by many factors and food is among the most powerful controlling mechanism.  Using genetic material extracted from blood, scientists are able to see the changes to specific gene groups after eating a single meal.  A Standard American Diet meal consisting of a bacon cheeseburger, fries and a shake have an instant and immediate negative effect on the body's controlling mechanism.  Conversely, a meal of raw, dark leafy greens, broccoli, lean protein and natural fats will have an up-regulating healthy impact on our genes.  The fact that we are able to watch gene regulation in virtual real-time demonstrates to us the importance of nutrigenomics, as we understand that we can change our health through dietary modification in a very short period of time.

Diet Can Be Used As Medicine
While a small percentage of our genetic predisposition toward certain diseases is inherited, most forward-thinking people understand that lifestyle choices and diet can modify and positively impact our health.  Many raw, natural vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes contain phytonutrients which the body interprets as a trigger mechanism for the switching of our genes.  As the body breaks down these foods, the thousands of nature-created vitamins, minerals and specific plant chemicals are released and absorbed by the cells.  These compounds have been found to directly influence how the cellular DNA replicates and transcribes newly created proteins which are the building blocks for the cellular structure of the body.

This is a critical step in disease proliferation if some part of the process goes awry.  As more is uncovered about the power of different foods, and the specific organs which they may influence, the rapidly emerging field of nutrigenomics will be used as a form of medicine, with counselors 'prescribing' a very specific regimen to help prevent or even treat a specific condition.

Super Foods as Pharmaceuticals
Super-foods such as broccoli and the cruciferous vegetable family have been studied for their unique ability to affect cellular proliferation in the prostate and breast.  The sulfur based compound sulforaphane is released when the vegetable is eaten, and small quantities have been found to have a significant impact on gene expression.  Many foods have been found to contain nutrients which affects how our body functions.  When we deprive ourselves of these natural food items, we set forward a cascade of potential health issues such as heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes and stroke.

As we learn to make natural, healthy dietary choices our body responds almost immediately.  Results of these changes can be seen at the cellular level in as little as two weeks, and over the course of several months, people have been able to make life altering changes to their health.  Now that the human genome has been mapped, we can determine the function of each gene and which food nutrients are best suited to provide an impact on a specific health concern.  A diet of refined carbohydrates, wheat and corn products, sugar, high fructose corn syrup and trans fats (the Standard American Diet - SAD), is the course to a lifetime of disease.  Foods eaten the way nature provides, raw vegetables, limited fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes and lean protein are the medicine of the future and can provide a miraculous new road toward your healthy lifestyle.

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