You are what you eat…

It is encouraging to see some of the main stream scientists talking about things as they really are, without promoting anything or trying to deceive the public for personal gain. You probably won’t find it in your daily paper, therefore I translated the text to English for you.

An interview with Prof. Mark Naruszewicz PhD, one of the  leading Polish scientists, about a recent study on the effects of our diet on the body.

– What are the scientists from the Institute of Food and Nutrition working on ?
We work in the field of nutrigenomics. It is a knowledge which is very rapidly developing, dealing with the impact of nutrition on gene expression. Today we know that what we eat directly affects our genetic material.

immune-system– Can you explain that a bit more?
Each gene is a single protein. Human physiology is based on the metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. It turns out that the fatty acids regulate gene expression. In other words, the type of fatty acid consumed determines human growth, the development of the central nervous system and other defence mechanisms, including immunological functions. A factor that best stimulates our genetic material to develop properly are unsaturated fatty acids, derived from plants and fish. Hence a lot of pressure from all medical societies, to change our diet and started eating what is compatible with our physiology.

 – Are we talking about a breakthrough in the study?
Indeed, it is the first time we are able to track the direct impact of food on genetic changes in humans. Every human is born with the syndrome genes, among them those which determine susceptibility to the disease and those that protect against diseases. The trick is to encourage the latter. And this is an issue dealt with by epigenetics: building a genetic response in early childhood. Whatever a mother eats during a pregnancy and what the newborn is being fed, is associated with diseases that may be revealed in the adult, 30-40 years later. Most cases of high blood pressure (especially insulin-dependent) has its origins in childhood. Salting baby’s soup – it’s harmful for the baby. This will trigger a mechanism that develops in the following years and results in hypertension in adulthood: this person’s sodium threshold is getting higher (each time he/she will need to put more to taste salt).

– The food market is full of products with a high salt content.
Crisps, for instance. Damaging effects of the food industry show that today we have approximately 8 million people with hypertension Polish population (for example). Potential candidates for heart attacks and strokes. Gene expression and that’s what we call genetic predisposition, is being built over many years. And a huge role in this whole process – both good and bad – plays the environment. Health-promoting activities based on the fact that children can, for example, be given fish oil and fish. Or – instead of the traditional soup made with meat stock – we can cook the Italian minestrone with the addition of olive oil. Many mothers and grandmothers are not aware of their errors committed in recipes.

– And which populations are the healthiest?
The healthiest nations in the world are islands and peoples living in the Mediterranean and Japanese population. Eaten there a lot of fish that contain omega-3, which preferably regulate the transcription of genetic, do not use animal fat, only olive oil, having a protective effect, and finally – an integral component of the local cuisine are fruits and vegetables.

– Could fruits and vegetables also affect our genes?
Colorful fresh group of vegetables and fruitsThe genetic material is made of DNA strands, and these nucleotides, the correct nucleotide methylation depends on folic acid, present in large quantities in fruits and green vegetables such as spinach, brussel sprouts and broccoli. Thus, the consequence of the low consumption of fruit and vegetables is the weakening of genes, which manifests itself in susceptibility to certain diseases. For example, it was found that women who give birth to children with Down’s syndrome have significantly elevated levels of homocysteine, which is a result of folic acid deficiency throughout pregnancy – according to a Japanese study. So it is clear that folic acid determine not only the birth of a child with neural tube, but also – in the case of women classed as higher risk – the deficiency leads to Down’s syndrome. By controlling the level of homocysteine in the blood and adequate protection of pregnant women could potentially prevent the development of flaws, however it needs to be examined further.

– Where else can folic acid be found?
Some time ago one of the sources of folic acid was milk. Because cows feed on plants, fresh milk used to contain both vitamin A, derived from beta-carotene, as well as folic acid, derived from the leaves. Unfortunately, the milk that we drink nowadays is largely stripped of these components, and manufacturers are not required to provide any information about any losses resulting from the technology used by them. The same goes for vegetables and fruits in cans. Even cabbage and cucumbers today are not pickled using bacteria but enzymes. The idea is not to over-pickle cabbage and cucumbers remained crisp and free of white coating – and these are probiotics, Lactobacillus plantarum. To food will look better and therefore will sell better, but is deprived of what was valuable. When setting up for a pound of fruits and vegetables a day, we must remember that as a result of the actions of producers, they have lost their original value. Today it is necessary to either use food fortification – Americans are already doing it (the enrichment of certain minerals and vitamins), or significantly increase the consumption of vegetables and fruit, which is not consistent with our eating habits.

– Polish mothers and grandmothers have tendency to overfeeding children.
The genes can hide a susceptibility to obesity. If they begin to be stimulated by excess calories and salt consumption, in hamburgers, hard cheese, meats and similar – after a while obesity reveal itself, and its victims will forever depend on health professionals. Therefore, the gene responsible for metabolic diseases, once it becomes active, never disappears.

– What other dangers associated with poor nutrition of children?
The issue of early menstruation in girls. Why are we still telling mothers to breastfeed a baby for as long as possible? Because the artificial milk is a soy(a) protein, which contains phytoestrogens and accelerate menstruation. A rapid menstruation in girls increases the risk of cancer in women. Estrogen receptors are located in the cell nucleus, the genetic material directly. Their stimulation in childhood affects gene expression.

– But how do you explain the low incidence of cancer in the Japanese population, where soy(a) is one of the basic components of food?
Just the fact that soy(a) is a natural part of the daily diet of every Japanese. However, we serve phytoestrogens artificially, and in the period of growth (development of genetic) the girl receives 10 times more than an average Japanese woman eats. This is due to the content of phytoestrogens in the artificial milk formulas. Then – the second time – we use them when we are approaching the menopause, to alleviate its symptoms. Japanese woman provides the body with phytoestrogenson more or less equal level throughout her life, . Of course, the increased risk of cancer, would only affect people with genetic susceptibility. Therefore, the development of nutrigenomicsit is so important, as it explains how the various elements of nutrition affect our genes.

 – From what I know, your study checks the effect of short-chain fatty acids in the genes.
We are one of the first teams in the world that is doing it. Short chain fatty acids – such as propionic acid or butyl cellulose are produced during the fermentation by the probiotic bacteria – Lactobacillus plantarum. These fatty acids have a huge anti-inflammatory properties – similar to Ibuprofen, which is the derivative of butyl. And our body can produce them: by the fermentation of dietary fiber in the gut. The problem is that if we have an infection, antibiotics are prescribed for us in most of the cases. These would kill the bacteria, fiber is not degraded, and our anti-inflammatory activity (associated with the genetic material) is impaired. Therefore, it is important to use the probiotics present in our diet : the fiber supplied with food will be able to transform to  short chain fatty acids and stimulate our genes to produce inflammatory molecules, and thus increase our immunity.

Salad Bowl– Dietary fiber needs probiotic bacteria. Is folic acid also in needs of a ‘partner’ to work well?
It takes two to tango. Folic acid works with the B vitamins, especially B6, B12, in turn, for example, vitamin C has a little meaning for immunity in the absence of vitamin E. Administration of a single item, and forgetting about the other is a mistake. For many people with hypertension, a salt increases the pressure, and potassium neutralises the effect salt. Good sources of potassium are fruits and vegetables – bananas, tomatoes etc.The French begin a meal from a large bowl of lettuce. We need to watch those nations that eat better and live healthier.

– Is your team involved in the implementation of EU-funded research?
We participate on a large scale in a major EU project. Because Europe does not want the U.S. soybean that is genetically modified, therefore is looking for a repalacment similar to soy protein, which would not have phytoestrogens. The source has been found. It is the white lupine. And Europe will slowly switch to growing the white lupine, but the research is still ongoing. Our team examines, in particular, the effect of this protein on cholesterol levels and metabolic parameters.

– I have also heard about the project sponsored by the Committee for Scientific Research. What is that project?
The impact of acrylamide on the body. Acrylamide is formed in food by heating, causing proinflammatory and cytotoxic reaction. It can lead to early atherosclerosis and damage the central nervous system. It is present for example in crisps, so it is especially dangerous for children and teenagers. Of course, everything is dependent of the amount: if someone eats once a week, some crisps, he should be safe. But if they are consumed everyday, becoming part of the main food source- it may lead to problems at school. Neurotoxic effects of acrylamide is then compounded by a lack of essential vitamins, fiber, etc.

– What food then would be best to satisfy hunger at school?
In a situation where there are such large differences in families’ incomes we should introduce school lunches for a penny. This is my old idea that every child in the school would get the same meal, consisting of foods that are good for him/her. This can be arranged for a penny. School paranoia are ‘kiosks’ that sell coca-cola, chocolate bars and crisps – we must fight with it. Today, when we have disposable packaging,  many local companies could be involved in such a project – a constant, controlled operation would increase the number of school jobs. And it would be a breakthrough in our diet.

Interviewed by Grazyna Kubisiak,  MD

* Source: Jestes tym co jesz *

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