How does food modify our DNA ?
Updated: Apr 18, 2019
Last time we touched on antioxidants, this week we would like to take a step back to look at how food affects the DNA expression. For the most part of your genes, you inherited two working copies, one from your mother and one from your father. However, imprinted genes are different as we inherit only one working copy - depending on the gene, this could be from either parent, one gene is epigenetically silenced. Silencing usually happens through the addition of methyl groups during egg or sperm formation. Research shows that imprinted genes are particularly sensitive to environmental signals - this is because we only have one copy and no back-up ! Environmental signals can also affect the imprinting process, as noted previously through diet, toxins etc.
The way you live, stress, environment, exercise etc. cause epigenetic change - one of the most studied environmental factors is our diet. The nutrients contained in the foods we eat are subject to metabolic processes within the body. Food compounds are therefore manipulated modified and moulded into molecules that the body can utilise. One of these metabolic processes is responsible for making methyl groups, which are the epigenetic tags that silence genes. Nutrients from our food are funnelled into a biochemical process that extracts methyl groups and then attach them to our DNA. It is understood that nutrients like folic acid and B vitamins are key components of that methyl-making process. Diets high in these methyl-promoting nutrients can rapidly alter gene expression, particularly during early developmental years when the epigenome is first established.
There are a number of key nutrients our body needs to change our epigenome such as: Folic Acid - leafy veg, liver Vitamin B6 - meat, vegetables, nuts Vitamin B12 - meat, liver, shellfish, milk Choline - spinach, shellfish Resveratrol - red wine, red grapes Sulforaphane - brocolli
Remember: A methyl deficient diet leads to a decrease in beneficial DNA methylation, but changes are reversible when methyl is added back in via the diet.
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