What makes whole food such a powerful tool for our health and lifespan?
To answer this question, we need to first understand a few key interactions between epigenetics and nutrition. Epigenetics is the study of how our environment and behaviors can affect the way our genes work. Epigenetic factors do not alter our DNA, but rather signify the reversible changes that impact the way our DNA messages are expressed through our health. Epigenetic influences have been studied in cancer, inflammatory diseases and immune conditions, to name a few.
Nutrigenomics is a rapidly evolving field which forms the framework for the role of nutrients in gene expression. Numerous nutrients have been studied individually to demonstrate their roles in various epigenetic processes. These can range from macronutrients (proteins and fatty acids) to micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Nutrients can significantly impact which genes are expressed or suppressed, subsequently resulting in health or disease. Having an ideal balance in genetic expression and suppression ensures that beneficial genes are turned on, while inhibiting the expression of genes we do not want to be activated. As we focus on offering personalized dietary solutions, we hope to minimize the long-term risks of chronic diseases in a particular individual.
For example, DNA methylation is an epigenetic process involved in detoxification and anti-inflammatory response. Nutrients found in certain foods can work in multiple ways to influence DNA methylation. Take for example folate and vitamin B12, which support the role of methyl donors that are needed for adequate function of the methylation cycle. These nutrients can be found in foods such as green leafy vegetables, eggs, poultry, seeds and more. Other nutrients such as curcumin (turmeric) and EGCG (found in green tea) play a more supportive role in ensuring that methyl donors are used correctly, to keep a system of checks and balances in place. The entire cascade of methylation proceeds smoothly when the various nutrients are available. This highlights the tremendous value of whole foods. Whole foods, balanced appropriately, provide a complex of beneficial nutrients which work together to optimize epigenetic processes.
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