Please note that the below is my own compilation of various information sources, last years study and heavy reading. Some of the words are not mine although only used because I do agree 100% with them.
Four words 3 important meanings: Nutrigenome/Nutrigenomics, Microbiome, and Methylation.
- Nutrigenome or Nutrigenomics is the same thing. It is the study of how our food and our genes interact. The main aim is to use information about genes to work out the effects that foods can have on an individual’s health, performance and risk of disease.
- Human Microbiome is the aggregate of microorganisms that resides on the surface and in deep layers of skin (including in mammary glands) in the saliva and oral mucosa, in the conjunctiva, and in the gastrointestinal tracts. They include bacteria, fungi, and archaea. The human microbiome refers to their genomes. The genome includes both the genes and the non-protein-coding
- DNA Methylation is a process by which methyl groups are added to DNA. Methylation modifies the function of the DNA. DNA methylation is essential for normal development and is associated with a number of key processes including genomic imprinting, X-chromosome inactivation, repression of repetitive elements, aging and carcinogenesis. Yes, the last work is the actual formation of a cancer.
Nutrigenome: Eating Your Way to Better Genes
The most important thing you do to control your genes every day is eat well. Food; and the combination and quality of macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrate), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), fiber, and phytonutrients (plant-based bioactive compounds); all wash over your DNA every day turning on or off, up or down signals from your genes. This field, called nutrigenomics, offers a powerful way for you to control your destiny.
Researchers have found, for example, that depending on your genes, you may respond better to different diets—some do better with more fat and protein and less carbs, others may not. One of the most important discoveries of the decade is how food—whether it is plant-based, nutrient-rich, phytonutrients-rich food, or processed, high sugar, nutrient-depleted food—changes your gene expression in real time over the course of weeks to months. Dr. Dean Ornish showed how this works in his seminal prostate cancer research. He was able to beneficially affect over 500 cancer-controlling genes simply by having his patients eat a plant-based, whole foods diet.
In 2002, the Human Genome Project completed an awesome undertaking: the first comprehensive map of the tens of thousands of genes, those tiny bits of DNA, that make us human. Yet as towering as that achievement was, what researchers have discovered in the years since may be even more important. Although all of us have very similar genes, hundreds of thousands of tiny differences exist. These genetic variations—what scientists refer to as single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs—make each of us unique in all sorts of ways, including how our bodies respond to different types of foods. For example, one gene discovered in May of this year appears to stimulate the desire to eat sweet foods. People with a particular form of this gene consistently consume more sugar and sweet foods and beverages than those with a slightly different one.
Why the whole media misery on ‘this is good for you’ then it comes another research to suggest ‘no, don’t believe what you hear because that is not good for the health’! And boy, we get so confused!
Researchers are still a long way from understanding the whole picture. But nutrigenomics is starting to explain several baffling mysteries. Consider coffee. A number of studies offer evidence that drinking java lowers heart-disease risk, most likely as a result of antioxidants and other beneficial compounds in coffee beans. But a few studies show heavy coffee drinkers having a higher than average risk of heart disease—leaving scientists scratching their heads. Nutrigenomics suggests an explanation. In people with the genetic variant that causes sluggish metabolism of caffeine, the stimulant sticks around in the bloodstream longer than usual, where it may disrupt normal heart rhythms and boost blood pressure, overwhelming any benefit. Quick metabolisers, on the other hand, clear the caffeine fast from their bloodstreams but still enjoy the benefits.
When researchers do large studies and pool the data, treating all the subjects as if they’re genetically alike, such differences typically get lost in the averages. What’s more, most prevailing diet recommendations are based on such studies. So the advice may work for most people but not all. “Dietary recommendations are based on averages across large populations,” says Jose Ordovas, Ph.D., who directs the Nutrition and Genomics Laboratory at Tufts University in Boston and has published more research on diet and gene interactions than almost anyone in the field. “What nutritional genomics teaches is there is no one-size-fits-all diet that works for everyone.”
Can nutrigenomics explain why some people’s cholesterol levels respond to a healthy diet and others’ don’t? Here, too, there are plenty of clues. Scientists have detected one gene variation that seems to enhance the health benefits of polyunsaturated fats, for example, giving people who possess it a bigger boost in good cholesterol when they eat a diet rich in plant oils. Another appears to make bad-cholesterol levels more likely to soar when people eat a high-fat diet. “Variants in a gene called APOE, which controls cholesterol metabolism, seem to be especially important”. People with one genetic pattern see a big drop in cholesterol levels when they switch to a healthier diet. Those with a slightly different pattern get almost no benefit at all.
Microbiome: The Most Important DNA in Your Body Is Not Your Own
The human body hosts 100 trillion microorganisms. The DNA of the bugs living in and on you, outnumber your own DNA by 100 times. This is called the microbiome. Our bodies are simply a host environment for bacteria. They use us for their own purposes. The molecules produced by the DNA of these bacteria have significant impact on our health. This is called “metaproteomics”.
This microbiome, particularly the ecosystem of nearly 500 bugs that live in your gut, have been linked to everything from obesity, to cancer, to autoimmune and allergic disorders and even heart disease and diabetes. Our modern lifestyle and diet and the overuse of antibiotics has changed the population of bacteria living in our guts and it has made us sick. Which bugs we grow in our intestine determine whether we will be fat or thin, inflamed or healthy. The critical discovery of this microbiome and its implications for influencing many of the diseases of the 21st century will provide novel treatments involving changing our diets and the use of pre-and probiotics to shift the gut ecosystem into a health-promoting balance. We are only as healthy as our gut bacteria.
Methylation and the reason why the Methylation Cycle is Important
Methylation is a key biochemical process that is essential for the proper function of almost all of your body’s systems. It occurs billions of times every second; it helps repair your DNA on a daily basis; it controls homocysteine (an unhealthy compound that can damage blood vessels); it helps recycle molecules needed for detoxification; and it helps maintain mood and keep inflammation in check.
- The Methylation Cycle manages or contributes to a wide range of crucial bodily functions, including:
- Immune function
- Maintaining DNA
- Energy production
- Mood balancing
- Controlling inflammation
To keep methylation running smoothly you need optimal levels of B vitamins. Without enough B vitamins methylation breaks down, and the results can be catastrophic. In these cases we see more birth defects like spina bifida (as with the Chinese babies), more cases of Down’s syndrome, and more miscarriage.
A breakdown in methylation also puts you at higher risk for conditions like osteoporosis, diabetes, cervical dysplasia and cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, depression, pediatric cognitive dysfunction ( mood and other behavioral disorders), dementia, and stroke.
To avoid all of these problems, the key is to maximize methylation. That means avoiding the things that cause your methylation to break down, testing to find out how well your methylation is working, and including the things that support proper methylation.
A variety of genetic Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNP’s) exist, which can alter the methylation cycle function. One important SNP is the Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase (MTHFR) which is a gene mutation, which when present in both copies of a person’s genes, indicates the need for a special form of folic acid. This gene acts by reducing the function of the methylation cycle-specifically reducing the conversion of 5,10 MTHFR to 5. This reduces the synthesis of methionine resulting in increased homocysteine and altered (decreased or increased) DNA methylation, leaving certain genes turned on or off, when they should not be. For instance, the odds of having depression is 36% greater if a person has two copies of the MTHFR SNP which means low levels of available folic acid, in this case for genetic reasons, but in other cases due to medications or diet, increases one’s risk for depression by 36%.
8 Factors that Affect Your Methylation Process
- Genetics – Like an estimated 20 percent of us, you could be genetically predisposed to high homocysteine.
- Poor diet – The word “folate” comes from “foliage.” You need to eat plenty of leafy greens, beans, fruit, and whole grains to get adequate levels of vitamins B6 and B12, betaine, and folate. Egg yolks, meat, liver, and oily fish are the main dietary sources of vitamin B12 — so long-term vegan diets can be a problem. Plus, certain compounds can raise levels of homocysteine and deplete the B vitamins. These include excess animal protein, sugar, saturated fat, coffee, and alcohol. Irradiation of food depletes nutrients, so foods treated this way may be lower in B vitamins, too
- Smoking – The carbon monoxide from cigarette smoke inactivates vitamin B6
- Malabsorption – Conditions like digestive diseases, food allergies, and even aging can reduce absorption of nutrients
- Decreased stomach acid – Aging and other conditions can reduce stomach acid — and therefore absorption of vitamin B12
- Medications – Drugs like acid blockers, methotrexate (for cancer and arthritis and other autoimmune diseases), oral contraceptives, HCTZ (for high blood pressure), and Dilantin (for seizures) can all affect levels of B vitamins
- Other conditions – These include hypothyroidism, kidney failure or having only one kidney, cancer, and pregnancy
- Toxic exposures – Some toxins can interfere with vitamin production
Steps to find to optimize your health
- Book a consultation with a Functional Medicine Practitioner. It has to be a qualified practitioner in FM and Methylation & Clinical Nutrigenomics.
- Complete a blood count test – Large red blood cells or anemia can be a sign of poor methylation. Red blood cells with a mean corpuscular volume (MCV) greater than 95 can signal a methylation problem.
- Complete a specific urinary amino acids – These can be used to look for unusual metabolism disorders involving vitamins B6 or B12 or folate, which may not show up just by checking methylmalonic acid or homocysteine.
- Complete a genetic testing and Nutrigenomics test– they should test:
- The Folate, Transcobalamin, Methionine, Transulfuration and the Biopterin Cycles
- Genetic predispositions concerning such as tongue and lip ties & cleft palate, food allergy and food intolerance and mould infections, gluten intolerance and celiac disease, blood clotting disorders, mitochondrial function and thyroid & eye health.
- Homocysteine – This is one of the most important tests you can ask for. The normal level is less than 13, but the ideal level is likely between 6 and 8
- Serum or urinary methylmalonic acid – This is a more specific test for vitamin B12 insufficiency. Your levels may be elevated even if you have a normal serum vitamin B12 or homocysteine level.
I predict it all will cost in a region of 700 in order for you to identify your current health status and how to best optimize your preventative healthcare based upon your own unique DNA. I do expect my health insurance to cover this or neither that it is available through NHS system… have you ever seen a health insurance or NHS promoting preventative healthcare? I am usually v careful what I wish for 🙂
I am in a middle of getting this arranged for myself; I will share details with you.
References (unfortunately I didn’t have time to format in Harvard recommended way ). So here it goes:
Healthy living xx