By Sarah A LoBisco, ND

Can you believe it!??? It’s time to make our way forward into a new year. Wouldn’t it be great if 2012 became the year that society united in setting positive intentions and moved into their goals of healthier life decisions? New Year cycles are humanities ways of refocusing our goals on the positive and releasing what no longer serves us. Although we’d all like to change to a diet of Brussels sprouts and broccoli over milkshakes and lollipops, the caveat is that change is hard. We’re up against a lot of momentum of habitual programming in our brain. This is why most New Year’s resolutions fall short of long term commitments.

I explained this phenomenon in the blog I wrote at the beginning of 2011. It’s called cybernetics (brain set points) and trying to make huge lifestyle shifts all at once, rather than changing a little bit at the time leads to literal brain overload. A broad resolution will most likely fail in the long term; because the brain goes into overwhelm by too many changes way too quickly. Our pre-frontal cortex loses its safety reference point amongst all the new life style shifts implemented and the result is that our brain reverts back to our diet of ho-hos, dingle dos, and too many “adult beverages”. Therefore, the solution is to stop the overload and calm the brain and stress response, hence my belief in the power of Baby Steps!

Therefore, for 2012, I want us to look at the first important foundation of health, food, and I want to give you some gentle tips to start your growth from a little junkie foodie  into a full out nutritional expert.  Why? Well beyond nutrition and weight, food is medicine. It is not just calories; it’s information for our genes.

This is called the science of NUTRIGENOMICS– the study of how a specific food modulates how our genes express themselves. Literally, certain foods can turn off and on cancer promoting signals. This means, no more excuses for a bad gene pool and no more pointing fingers at your mom for your health woos. Although it is true that some may have to be more careful with their food choices depending on the cards their parents dealt, especially relating to their own detoxification power. (This relates to finding out which single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are present, and modulating this with foods and supplements, but I’ll stop on this point here.)

So, for the next few blogs, I’m going to highlight specific nutrigenomic effects of certain categories of foods. Now, I promised to share with you more information in what I learned in Arizona, and I’ll tie that in with specific examples. Let’s start with a group of compounds that are antioxidants called polyphenols. They are found in various fruits and vegetables. Here’s a summary on their powerful effects from a few articles in VitalChoice:

We should note that humans absorb only very small amounts of polyphenol “antioxidants” from foods or supplements, and that is true. But it’s recently become clear that – instead of exerting direct, substantial antioxidant effects in the body – polyphenols from plant foods serve as friendly “nutrigenomic” factors … ones that exert significant effects at very low levels (Graf et al. 2005; Hollman PC et al. 2010).

They’re considered nutrigenomic agents because polyphenols affect genetic switches (transcription factors) in ways that tend to moderate inflammation and stimulate the body’s own antioxidant network. The new study in mice supports the hypothesis that foods high in a class of polyphenols called flavanols (e.g., catechins, procyanidins, and OPCs) – which also abound in cocoa, grapes, and tea – may help curb cancer growth.

Recently, researchers from Germany’s Federal Research Institute of Nutrition and Food explained why polyphenols should act as preventive-health allies (Watzl B 2008):

  • “Inflammation is a pathological condition underlying a number of diseases including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and chronic inflammatory diseases.
  • Epidemiological data suggest that dietary patterns strongly affect inflammatory processes. Primarily the intake of fruit and vegetables as well as of whole wheat is inversely associated with the risk of inflammation.”
  • “At the level of bioactive compounds occurring in plant foods, primarily carotenoids and flavonoids [part of the polyphenol family] seem to modulate inflammatory as well as immunological processes.”
  • “In conclusion, there is convincing evidence that plant foods and non-nutritive constituents associated with these foods modulate immunological and inflammatory processes. By means of anti-inflammatory activities a plant-based diet may contribute to the lower risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer.”

This is great news, these “non-nutritive constituents” serve as the nutrigenomic mediators of health vs. just calories leading to weight gain or loss!  The way to health is really is  through our mouth and there are lots of yummy, healthy options to modulate these pathways! Below, I give examples of  how these foods  promote healthy detox pathways, protect our body from free radical damage, enhance and modulate our immune system and inflammatory response, prevent cancer, inactivate metals, and more! At my training, Dr. Mayfield gave us some examples:

  1. Flavonoids are anti-estrogenic, inhibit several cancer cells, terminator of free radicals, and can inactivate metal chelates, such as lead. There are different types (Flavonols, flavones, flavan-3-ols, anthocyanidines, flavanoens, isoflavones). (see above for food examples.)
  1. Proanthyocyanidins, found in grape seeds and mulberries, have been found to be beneficial for their properities of being anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-diabetic, and cardioprotective. Blueberry has nutrigenomic effects on metabolic syndrome in obesity-prone rats via the PPAR gene transcripts in adipose and muscle tissue involved in fat and glucose metabolism.

Now, it’s time for some promised, easy, action steps for the New Year. Here are your baby steps for a healthy food foundation for this week.

  1. Include flavonoids in your diet. One example of a common flavonoid food is onions. Onions contain the flavonal querectin, According to Dr. Brown’s blog onions may also help bone health:

For example, we’ve seen that white women 50 years or older who ate onions every day had a 5% greater overall bone density than those who ate onions once a month or less. And — older women who consume onions most frequently may decrease their risk of hip fracture by more than 20% versus those who never consume onions.

  1. Eat an extra cup full of berries or veggies every day this week. Dr. Hyman further commented on adding “Organic berries and all fruits and vegetables because they contain various photochemicals like antioxidants (vitamins C, E, beta-carotene and various minerals), bioflavonoids (like quercitin, limonene, hesperidin), and fiber which is needed for daily elimination of waste and support the healthy balance of the micro flora of the digestive tract. Grown women should aim for at least 7 servings a day and men should get 9. A serving is between ½ – 1 cup. The more COLORS the better!”


Rountree, B. Ensure a Safe Detox. Detox Advanced Module. IFM. (presented by Kristi Hughs)December 10, 2011. Phoenix, AZ

Mayfield, R. Phytochemicals and Nutrients to Improve Detoxification. Detox Advanced Practice Module. December 10, 2011. Phoenix, AZ

Brown, S. Onions, Nothing to Cry For in Bone Health. Better Bones Blog. December 12, 2011.

E. Mitchell Seymour, Ignasia I. Tanone, Daniel E. Urcuyo-Llanes, Sarah K. Lewis, Ara Kirakosyan, Michael G. Kondoleon, Peter B. Kaufman, and Steven F. Bolling. Blueberry Intake Alters Skeletal Muscle and Adipose Tissue Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor Activity and Reduces Insulin Resistance in Obese Rats (abstract). Journal of Medicinal Food. December 2011, 14(12): 1511-1518. doi:10.1089/jmf.2010.0292.

Mayfield, R. Key Nutrientional Modulators in Detoxification. IFM Detox Advanced Practice Module. Phoenix, AZ. December 9, 2011.

Wetherby, C. Antioxidant Foods Cut Stroke Risk. Vitalchoice Newsletter. December 16, 2011.,b1h0JlRD

Wetherby, C. Blueberry Slowed Breast Cancer in Mice. Vitalchoice Newsletter. December 20, 2011.,b1h0JlRD

Be sure to check out my informational blog on which includes:

1. Naturopathic Philosophy Highlight Fun Facts:

  • Yoga and Low Back Pain
  • Exercise Boosts Brain Power
  • Mindfulness Decreases Fatigue in RA

2. Happenings:

  • Upcoming Essential Oils Workshops with Terry Quigley at the Healing Garden. Contact Terry at 518-831-9469
  • Integrative Forum to begin again on February 9th! Look for more information in my newsletters and on my website.
  • PATIENTS: Please review follow ups and cancellation policy on my website.
    • Note: Appointments open as people reschedule. In order to avoid being charged the full consultation, we need notice 24 hours (counted as business days) prior to the appointment. My office is keeping tight with our cancellation policy and rescheduling because of our commitment to continued progress and monitoring therapeutic supplements responsibly. As a Naturopathic and Functional Medicine doctor, I feel it’s essential that my patients have a mutual commitment to wellness by making their health a priority every 3-8 weeks.
    • Time for a symptom re-evaluation?
      • All patients can now download the symptom survey online. If you haven’t re-evaluated your symptoms in a year or more, it may be a good time to fill out the form again and bring it in to your next visit. (Please add the numbers in every section for comparison when you return it to our office.)
    • NEWSFLASH: My book manuscript is almost finished…be on the lookout within the next months for pre-ordering availability! J

3. Radio For Your Body-Mind-Soul:

Flourish! with Dr. Christiane Northrup: January 4, 2012 The New Wisdom of Menopause
Midlife is a time of rebirth and renewal. The midlife transition is replete with weight gain, mood swings, and hot flashes. Tune in and learn how to negotiate this transition comfortably and joyfully.

4. Book of the week:

It’s so packed full of what all women need to know, I’m making this week’s book a repeat celebrating its release today: The Wisdom of Menopause by Dr. Christian Northrup

Now completely revised, this groundbreaking classic draws on the current research and medical advances in women’s health, and includes:

  • All you need to know about perimenopause, and why it is critical to your well-being
  • Updated mammogram guidelines
  • Nurturing your brain: sleep, mood, memory
  • Hormone therapy and the options available
  • Midlife weight control
  • Sex and menopause: myths and reality

5. Don’t miss out:

  • The Rest of Fun Facts on my blog.
  • Listen to my colleagues and other experts as they discuss solutions to menopausal issues on a show dedicated just for women in mid-life! Here is a link from my interview on 360menopause Radio Show on Panic Attacks and Menopause and a list of archived shows.
  • Check out my latest answer on Dr. Oz’s Sharecare: Avoiding Emotional Binges.

    • Here’s an excerpt: If you are addicted to certain foods, abstaining is the only true way to avoid a binge. That being said, with any slippage, it’s best to be gentle with yourself and plan so that you have safer alternatives for the future. Planning your meals and initiating a social support system around triggering emotional events, gatherings, and a crazy work schedule can prevent grabbing an unhealthy sugar/caffeine binge. This kind of planning allows your prefrontal cortex to respond verses react to situations. Whereas, social support aids in dopamine release, a feel good chemical that can be obtained without through friendship verses cookies.  You also want to make sure the following biological factors are in order to support your biochemistry and keep your mood in check… Read more at the link above….