BY SARAH LOBISCO, ND
HAS SPRING SPRUNG? Well, if Monday was any sign of when the sun will reign over snow, we may have a few more weeks to wait. Still, the next few months are an exciting time for all health conscious consumers. It’s during this time of the earth’s revitalization that fresh, healthy, wallet –friendly, local & organic foods become increasingly accessible. As the earth warms, Farmer’s markets, CSA’s, Co-ops, and Harvest festivals abound, bringing with them their liver-loving green leafy vegetables, antioxidant rich fruits, and humanely treated omega 3 fatty acid poultry. Many-a-smiling naturopathic patients can be observed meandering these green grounds, engaging in a happy exchange of pennies for produce.
(If you are new to this scene, visiting the resource section on my newly re-vamped home page may be helpful. On the right hand side, you can follow the links to “find a local CSA”, gain information on “Greenfield NY’s farmer’s market”, search the “NRDC “site for tips to eating locally, and access other sites to learn more about retrieving these earth friendly and healthy foods).
It is no doubt a case of synchronicity that this concept of food as medicine prevailed as I was reading through my daily newsletters, journals, and blogs. In my March Top Reads posts, the old Hippocratic quote, “let food be thy medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food,” echoed in my head. This led me to thinking of the misperception of the use of natural medicine as unscientific.
Although it may seem too simple to use diet and lifestyle as a form of medicine, it is the oldest prescription around, dating back to the father of medicine. Now, science is catching up with sage wisdom. In July, research was released in a 24 page summary from the Agricultural Research Department of the USDA. This report provided scientific documentation of how isolated active constituents from foods and phytonutrients positively affect health outcomes.
In previous blogs, I discussed the power of nutrigenomics. Specifically, in one blog I explored the connection between how foods affected breast cancer outcomes. The Vitalchoice newsletter recently clarified this science of using food to change genetic expression with the example of magnesium intake on blood sugar:
One of the hottest fields in biomedical research is “nutrigenomics” – the science of how nutrients and other food factors influence our genes in their roles as active, second-to-second directors of key bodily processes. For example, while the polyphenols in fruits, vegetables, cocoa, tea, coffee, whole grains, nuts, and other plant foods act as antioxidants in the test tube, they exert only very minor direct antioxidant effects in the body.
Instead, polyphenols seem to bring us health benefits by influencing the “expression” (activation) of genes in our cells. Gene expression is a process in which a gene is “switched on” at a certain time and commands a cell to take certain actions, such as assembly of proteins or RNA that initiates or influences bodily processes.
Thus, gene expression is the most fundamental level at which a person’s genetic profile or “genotype” gives rise to their unique set of physical and mental characteristics, or “phenotype”. (In contrast, “nutrigenetics” is the study of how a person’s genetic makeup influences their body’s responses to specific nutrients and food factors.)
Now a new study from the University of California at Los Angeles suggests that magnesium brings many of its benefits through its nutrigenomic effects.
Furthermore, not only are the effects of foods on genes being utilized with diet, but constituents of these foods and nutrients are being used as a mechanism of biochemical manipulation, aka pharmaceuticals. Phys.org reported the use of a constituent in turmeric to protect brain cells and regenerate neurons after a stroke. This hybrid-drug may become available alongside prescription blood thinners in the future.
Another highlight from TOP READS includes the use of fish oil as a protector in retinopathy. Specifically, fish oil effects the expression of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), inhibiting the formation of detrimental blood vessels in vascular diseases.
Also, be sure to check out the article on the use of Seasame oil with diabetic medication. It provides an example of the integration of food with pharmaceuticals. If you are interested in more biochemistry of how foods affect genotype, Dr. Redmond from Metametrix provides more examples in the “Health” portion of TOP READS.
Read the rest of the blog here.