Genetic testing is becoming a hot topic in today’s medical literature. Scientists are now linking many common diseases to specific DNA blueprints. These blueprints will alert individuals that they may run a higher risk for certain chronic diseases than the average population. Genetic testing is now being developed to determine the efficacy and safety of pharmacological medications. Very soon in the near future your risk of taking certain medications and the possibility of side effects will be able to be determined prior to the initial use of the drug. As DNA testing becomes more available to the general public, what can one do with this information? Do lifestyle factors still remain important if you’re genetic blueprint shows low risk of disease? Is it possible to actually alter the outcome of your genetic makeup with lifestyle modification?
There is a new field developing and metabolic medicine called nutrigenomics. This refers to the molecular dialogue between certain dietary components and expression of our genes. Can the foods we eat really talk to our genes? The answer is becoming quite clear that nutrition plays a critical role in genetic expression. Recent studies on the health effects of green tea and GT Polyphenols with their antioxidant properties have demonstrated anticancer effects. These products have been shown to reduce the risk of leukemia and cancers of the breast, prostate, pancreas, G.I. tract, and lung. They are cardioprotective and help to lower blood pressure and prevent LDL oxidation which is a required step in athrogenesis (plaque formation). These products have also been shown to be neuroprotective in reducing risk of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and neuronal death after an ischemic stroke. The beneficial effects of trans-resveratrol through potent antioxidant mechanisms have been shown to be anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, increasing stamina and endurance, and be cardioprotective as well as helping in weight management. Cruciferous vegetables have been shown to be cancer preventive, anti-inflammatory, enhance detoxification of toxic substances, and be neuroprotective. The list continues and there are many other nutrients and food products that show similar beneficial effects. So what is the link between dietary intake, nutritional supplementation, and genetic expression? Does the phrase “you are what you eat” have any scientific validation?
In looking at the anatomy of a gene, there is a basic coding/structural region which is the blueprint in the formation of proteins. At the end of the structural region, is a promoter region which responds to an area of the gene called the regulatory/control region. This regulatory control region is called the response element which is where hormones and nutrition have a direct effect on genetic expression. The nuclear proteins that bind to specific response elements on the regulatory/control region of one or more genes are called transcription factors. These transcription factors cause conformational changes which have a direct influence on genetic expression. Bioactive components in food can bind to certain transcription factors and influence their ability to bind to the response element which has a direct effect on the control of genetic expression. Hormones work directly on these response elements which effects genetic expression. Many phytochemicals appear to exert their effects on health via nutri- genomic mechanisms as described above. I often check certain genetic profiles in high-risk patients regarding the use of estrogen. These genetic tests give me information on the individual’s genetic makeup which may predispose the patient to abnormal estrogen metabolites which could raise their risk of cancer. Through the use of certain nutrients and phytochemicals, this risk can be greatly reduced by promoting safer metabolites through the detoxification process.
The future in medicine is exciting in that we are beginning to understand the relationships between genetic expression, nutrition and dietary intake, hormonal optimization, and the adaptive stress response. Personalized medicine is the wave of the future. Through the use of nutritional genomics, we will be able to understand how dietary factors affect the total function of the genome as well as the different responses based on individual genetic makeup. The goal of this research will be to customize diets based on individual needs (macronutrients). Through the use of nutrigenomics, the understanding of molecular relationships between food components and genetic responses (the “food-genome junction”), we will be able to personalize use of micronutrients (supplements).
It is becoming more clear that health is quite complex. Genetic testing allows us to more clearly define individual risk factors and outline personalized treatment programs to have an optimal effect on each person’s outcome. All of this, however, is secondary to a good balanced lifestyle. Eating a balanced diet, getting adequate sleep, and having regular exercise remains critical in the maintenance of bodily health. So let’s all load up on antioxidants and have a colorful plate for dinner and we will begin to steer our ship away from the iceberg.
Kenneth Orbeck DO
ABAARM Board Certified
Fellowship Trained Anti-Aging Medical Specialist
BodyLogicMD of Greenville
300 Executive Center Drive, Suite 200
Greenville, SC 29615
Tel: (877) 341-7407
Fax: (864) 284-6774
Blogg @ www.drkennethorbeck.com
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