It is known that the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in India is significantly lower than in the United States. Researchers have postulated that the reason for this lower incidence is the presence of turmeric, a spice widely used in Indian cuisine. Curcumin, the yellow pigment present in turmeric, is thought to be a critical phytonutrient for managing chronic disease.
Researchers have been scouring the human genome to find the genetic connection to obesity. A large factor might be the epigenetic marks influenced by diet and environmental toxicants, especially the endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Find out how to protect yourself (and your children) from obesity and chronic disease with healthy dietary choices.
The most common and significant food allergies are to wheat, corn, soy, dairy, beef, tomatoes, and yeast – by slowly introducing these foods back into the diet, the food challenge can be an effective method for identifying specific allergies. Learn how to test these major food allergens and reduce your allergy symptoms.
Diet is the single most important factor in reducing inflammation and normalizing cortisol levels. The Adaptation Diet emphasizes the avoidance of pro-inflammatory foods and the use of inflammation-controlling foods that can prevent many of today’s major epidemic degenerative diseases. Learn which foods to include and foods to avoid to improve your adaptation.
The science of epigenetics is possibly the most important medical breakthrough in years, providing powerful new information on how to lose weight and prevent chronic illness. Epigenetics explores how genes, carried in the DNA, express their information. It is such a dynamic field that over 16,000 scientific articles are published every year and many academic medical institutions have established departments of epigenetics. Andrew Feinberg from Johns Hopkins University Center for Epigenetics wrote an article in JAMA in 2008 calling epigenetics the epicenter of modern medicine.
Epigenetics and the diet
Why is epigenetics so revolutionary? In the past it was thought that whatever was inherited through the genes and DNA was fixed and unchangeable, our biological destiny written in the double helix of our DNA. One of the first clues that this was not so, came from the world of honeybees. Scientists discovered that bees fed different foods as larvae became either workers or queen bees despite the exact same genetics. The differing diets of the larvae modified how their genes were expressed through a process called methylation, which influences the structures around the genes and whether genes are turned on or off.
In humans, the greatest influence on methylation, as well as other epigenetic processes (such as histone modification), is diet as well. What we eat, even what your mother consumed before you were conceived, can influence your gene expression and biological destiny. Obesity, and the risks of developing chronic disease including diabetes, heart disease and cancer are all a result of epigenetic phenomena and explains why the offspring of overweight mothers (and fathers) have a greater risk of diabetes and obesity.
Benefits of bioactive foods
The greatest positive influence on epigenetic expression appears to be from what are termed bioactive foods. This includes:
Broccoli and other crucifers
Turmeric and other spices
Folate-rich foods such as green leafy vegetables
Remarkably, even exercise and how stress is handled can influence gene expression as well.
However, there are also many disruptive influences on epigenetic gene expression leading to a host of chronic diseases including cancer, diabetes, depression and obesity. These include exposure to environmental toxins such as BPA, PCB’s, phthalates and heavy metals (especially lead and mercury). The interplay between intake of bioactive foods, a healthy diet, managing stress, adequate exercise and the amount of toxin exposure can determine so much about a person’s future health. I feel that epigenetic mechanisms are the most important focus in staying healthy.
Though there are currently no cost-effective tests to measure epigenetic processes (they do exist in research centers), we can test for abnormal gene patterns (called SNPs), levels of metabolites, toxins and other markers that influence the health of the epigenome. This should be part of everyone’s health assessment.