This season’s craze has little to do with the perfect pair of Dolce and Gabbana skinny jeans—except that it just may help us squeeze into them. It is called nutrigenomics; a new area of scientific study that proves what we put in our mouths can change the expression of our genes.
Scientists are looking to our genes for answers to questions like “Why are we experiencing such a huge upswing in insulin resistance, diabetes, and obesity in the United States?” And “Why is it that we are having such a difficult time turning it around despite the many new weight loss products on the market?” What does this search for answers mean for you and me? It means finding out that in many cases we can persuade the genes we were born with to behave the way we want them to. Like Dr. Dean Ornish, founder and president of the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California and Clinical Professor of Medicine at UCSF says, “Your genes are not your fate!”
The food and supplements we ingest and the lifestyles we live affect the signaling that occurs within our cells. Simply put, our digested food is translated by enzymes into dietary signals that are then “read” by our DNA. Diseases like insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and even some cancers may be the result of faulty signaling between these enzymes and our genes. Why the malfunction? The answer lies in America’s obsession for processed, synthetic foods and the widespread state of psychological stress we have come to accept as normal. Poor food choices and excess stress result in inferior physiological communication within our bodies. As a result we experience up-regulation (turning on) of genes that encourage tumor growth, fat storage, inflammation, and many other harmful phenomena. We also experience down-regulation (turning off) of genes that were once protecting us from disease. In order for us to ensure that our genes receive the proper signals to keep us healthy and slender, we need to feed our bodies clean, whole food and minimize the stress we experience.
For many years, knowledgeable doctors have recognized the power of nutrition to help their patients become well and prevent disease. The study of how nutrition effects the expression of our genes has the potential to change the face of medicine, as we know it today. In the future we will be able to design diets specifically for our unique genotypes and genetic tendencies. This will truly be the ultimate personalization of medical treatment. After all, we are all unique. We should not expect the same medical treatments. In the meantime anti-aging physicians continue to embrace what we already know about nutrigenomics by teaching patients to base their diets on phytonutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats and the right carbohydrates.
The fall season is here, and Halloween is on its way. Before we invite endless bags of candy into our homes, maybe we should think about this: The typical American diet and lifestyle have literally made their mark on our genes by clouding the communication occurring within us at the cellular level. Are we encouraging changes in the expression of our children’s genes which will one day make it more difficult for them to stay healthy, slender, and strong?
If you have questions about what kinds of foods constitute a truly clean, whole diet, check out the Fountain of You website for tips, tools, ideas, and recipes: Fountainofyou.md.