Did you know that the Human Genome project that began in 1987 and concluded in 2001 discovered that we only have about 25,000 genes; not much more that more rudimentary creatures? It came as a complete shock to scientists.
FOOD AS INFORMATION
Article by Dr Nyjon K Eccles BSc MBBS MRCP PhD
How is it possible that there are 100,000 different proteins in the body each of which requires a separate gene code for it to be made? Maths was never my strongest subject but I can see a basic mathematical dilemma here. How do 25,000 genes make 100,000 proteins? Furthermore, how is it that simple species seem to have almost as many genes as we do? The answer to this conundrum comes from the field of EPIGENETICS. In higher species a gene can change its expression according to different environmental signals that it may receive; so a single gene can express more than one way and therefore produce more than one type of protein. The higher the species the more complex the cell membrane seems to be, enabling it to receive, translate, and respond to environmental signals. We must remember that proteins are the fabric of all cellular structure and function. Collagen is an example of a structural protein while all the enzymes that digest our food and control energy production in our cells are functional proteins and without the latter, life itself would not be possible.
So what have we learnt from Epigenetic research?
1. Genes cannot turn themselves on and off
2. Gene expression is altered by signals from the environment which can turn them on and off and regulate their activity
3. Certain key nutrients can change gene expression
4. Many of these key nutrients that alter genetic risk have already been identified
Under point 4 we must list a whole array of thousands of phytonutrients that exist in fruit, vegetables and herbs.
We know from the world of Anti-Ageing medicine that a group of phytonutrients called polyphenols are able to stimulate longevity genes as well as genes involved in regulating cell metabolism. I now want to give you a further example of a nutrient-gene interaction based on my research work at my Harley Street clinic that relates to reducing women’s risk of breast cancer. The diagram below shows how women break down oestrogens in their body’s to produce several waste metabolites of oestrogens. The 2-metabolites are non-toxic to the breasts and uterus, but the 16- and 4- metabolites can damage the breasts and uterus. Hence these are called Toxic Oestrogens. These metabolites are easily tested for using a simple urine test but most doctors are not aware of this. It is a test that I routinely use in my clinic as a measurement of one of the breast cancer risks that women face. If the balance of these waste oestrogens is in favour of the toxic forms mentioned above then there is potentially greater risk from oestrogens to these women compared to women who produce more non-toxic waste oestrogens. IT HAS BEEN FOUND THAT A FAMILY OF PHYTONUTRIENTS CALLED ISOTHIOCYANATES, FOUND IN CRUCIREOUS VEGETABLES (Broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, watercress), CAN ALTER THE GENE EXPRESSION OF THE ENZYMES THAT BREAKDOWN OESTROGENS IN A MANNER THAT INCREASES THE NON-TOXIC
OESTROGENS. This is an example of how nutrients can alter gene expression – i.e. Nutrigenomics or Nutrigenetics.
The notion that all our genes are rigid, “set in stone” and unchangeable is simply not true. Do you see how liberating and empowering this information is? It means that we do not have to be victims to our genetic make-up. It seems to me more than a coincidence that certain nutrients can alter gene expression. I cite two examples about of how phytonutrients can change gene expression favourably. Given the thousands of phytonutrients that are found in plant-based foods, I have made the case here for another critical reason to find ways to ingest a broad range of phytonutrients on a daily basis. This is the reason why I recommend to my clients that they take NewGen Superfoods Plus as an organic source of a broad variety of phytonutrients as well as healthy bacteria.
Whoever coined the phrase “we are what we eat” almost certainly did not realise how deep that statement goes – our genes receive information from our food!