Sunday, April 13, 2008

The food you eat can change your ‘genetic expression’

Have you ever thought how beneficial your diet is? Not just in terms of loosing kilos, but to what extent it can cause behavioural changes and or diseases to your body. Scientific researchers believe that what you eat influences your genetic expression that in turn regulates all your body processes.

As Professor Ian Johnson sated at the Institution of Food Research “It's quite a strong possibility that nutrients might cause DNA changes. We think diet may have a role to play as a regulator in genes.”

There are around 1000 to several hundred thousand genes in an organism, but not all of them are active. Studies in various mammals show that nutrients can alter genetic information of animals by switching on or off certain genes. As suggested by in the article by New Scientist, there is a good chance that food can do same in humans. While mutations to DNA may be responsible for many human disorders, however some disorders such as cancer occurs when specific genes are turned on or off.

Moshe Szyf from McGill University in Canada carried out an animal experiment that proves diet is important in controlling gene activity. When specific amino acids of L-methionine were injected in adult rats their normal behaviour was observed to change. They were less confident when exposed to new surroundings and increased levels of stress hormones. Through the addition of a methyl group, the L-methionine amino acid had changed the gene for glucocorticoid that helps reduce an animal’s response to stress.

Scientists are now researching to convert such negative impacts into positive behavioural variation by using richostatin A (TSA) which is reverse to L-methionine, it removes the methyl groups.
Furthermore it is suggested that due to change in mother’s level of DNA methylation can have a great impact on the offspring’s genes.
Jhonson’s team are further studying healthy individuals before initiation of colon cancer in order to investigate whether it is activated by diets through DNA methylation. Although more research is required it is believed that shortage in folate levels can lead to development of breast and colon cancer in most adults.

As he advised “one would want to choose diets that would give you the most beneficial pattern of DNA methylation in the gut.”


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