You Are What You Eat – Your Genes are What You Eat

November 18, 2011

You Are What You Eat – Your Genes are What You Eat 

 Reference:  Cell Research Chen-Yu Zhang, Nanking University Sept 20th 2011 

 Yea, yea!  We have all heard, “You are what you eat”.  But it bores you to death.  Now, we know something much more profound.  What you eat controls your genes in a very profound way.  Micro RNA. What’s micro RNA?   Very easy.  It’s a short chain of RNA molecules, averaging about 22 nucleotides long that has been found to be a critical factor in turning on and off your genes.  Your genes are made of DNA.  That we know.  RNA is what results from reading the DNA code.  

When we make a protein, we have to copy thousands of DNA nucleotides into a mirror copy of RNA that is also thousands of nucleotides long.  That is then translated into proteins.  So far, so good.  The micro RNAs are just short little pieces of RNA strings – and are a very hot topic of current research.  We have all been confused why the human genome seems to be able to manage on just 20,000 genes that only take up a small percentage of all that DNA.  What is the rest of that DNA being used for?  Well, some of it is being used to make microRNAs.  And that microRNA is used to run the expression or silencing of your genetic code. 

 What did Dr. Zhang discover that was such hot news?  He found that he could measure the microRNAs from rice in our blood.  MIRI68a is the name of one of those micro RNA molecules.  It is not digested and broken down in our stomach or intestine.  Once in our blood, it travels to our livers where “MIR168a could bind to the human/mouse low-density lipoprotein receptor adapter protein 1 (LDLRAP1) mRNA, inhibit LDLRAP1 expression in liver, and consequently decrease LDL removal from mouse plasma MIR168a.”  

Said plain and simple, the micro RNA can get into your liver and affect your genes that manage the removal of LDLs from your blood.  (Did you notice this significant research came out of China?) The implications are pretty interesting.  The food we eat is not just calories.  It also consists of messages distributed to every part of our bodies.   It is a complex web or potpourri of hormones too.   Delicate, nuanced, complex, and fully integrated.   This will surely add some heat to the debate about GMO-based foods.  When we change the balance of the messages our bodies receive from our food, we are changing the balance of all those messages too.  This becomes a mechanism that can explain some of the odd associations noted with GMO-based foods. 

 WWW. What will work for me?  I’m not changing any behavior with this one.   But it does provide me with a critical new respect for the concept that our food needs to be natural and pure.  Our bodies evolved eating many complex whole foods.  The more I process them, the more I remove the natural balance of messages.  Our food is more than calories and macronutrients.  Micro-RNA affects me.  My rice is my body. 

Pop Quiz

1.   What are micro RNAs?                Answer:  Short little chains of messenger RNA that act as biological switches to proteins or genes.

2.   Where do we find them?                Answer: One source is in our food, which then affects the genes inside us, making us changed by the food we eat.

3.   This study found what amazing finding about rice?               Answer: It releases a micro RNA that is not digested in your gut and affects the LDL receptor in your liver to increase your LDLs.   Oops!  Perfect example.  So, LDLs aren't just made by our liver.  Their level is changed by the mRNAs in rice. 

4.   For most of human history, we ate whole foods, collected raw in the environment.  In modern agriculture, we are changing the genes of our plants without regard to understanding the mRNA implications.  Is that good?       Answer: Time will tell

 Written by John E Whitcomb, MD  Brookfield Longevity and Healthy Living Clinic,  262-784-5300