Tag: Gene Expression
In Monday’s “Dear Mark” post, I briefly outlined a few of the benefits to having healthy, abundant mitochondria, and in the past, I’ve alluded to the damaging effects of statins on mitochondrial function. All good, yeah, but a couple brief paragraphs in the middle of a Monday post aren’t enough. Mitochondrial function and mitochondrial biogenesis – the growth of new mitochondria – deserve more than that. Like, their own post. Today, I’m going to dig a little deeper. I’m going to lay out why growing more and healthier mitochondria (mitochondrial biogenesis) is good for your health, your longevity (and compression of morbidity), and your energy levels. I’ll explain why becoming a fat-burning beast optimizes mitochondrial function, and I’ll go over why this is so important if you’re looking to transform your body.
Height has historically been regarded as a marker of health and robustness. We seem to implicitly accept that bigger is indeed better, even if we don’t want to admit it. On average, tall people attain more professional success and make more money, the taller presidential candidate almost always wins, and women are more attracted to tall men. On a very visceral level, the taller person is more physically imposing. After all, who would you rather fight – the dude with a long reach raining punches from up high or the shorter guy with stubby arms who has to work his way inside your guard (although Mike Tyson did pretty well for himself with such “limitations”)? And on that note, who would you prefer as a mate – the physically imposing specimen or the shorter, presumably weaker male?
We in the Primal health community are quick to point out that agriculture reduced physical stature. Generally speaking, bone records indicate that Paleolithic (and, to a lesser extent, Mesolithic) humans were taller than humans living immediately after the advent of agriculture. Multiple sources exist, so let’s take a look at a couple of them before moving on:
A new mice-with-an-engineered-human-genetic-deficiency study is out that promises to shed light on why humans are so darn diabetic and obese – and the cause is an evolutionary “mistake.” A deficiency that apparently slipped through the cracks without somehow leading to our species’ demise. You see, we’re missing a genetic component shared by pretty much all other mammals besides ourselves. While mammals generally produce two types of sialic acids, N-acetylneuraminic acid (Neu5Ac) and N-glycolylneuraminic acid (Neu5Gc), thanks to a mutation in a gene called CMAH, humans produce only the former. We don’t have the enzyme necessary to convert Neu5Ac to Neu5Gc. Why is this important? Sialic acids act as “contact points” for our cells to interact with the environment and other cells, and the latest research indicates that mice with the humanesque CMAH mutation are more prone to diabetes, especially when they’re overweight.
Diabetes is that rare brand of nasty disease that fails to strike real, visceral fear. It doesn’t carry the weight of a cancer or an AIDS or a heart disease. It’s something you get, like a gut, a long list of prescriptions, and a walker, as you grow older. People just live with it – millions upon millions across the world – and are rarely shocked or surprised to hear that others have it. Their ranks are ever growing, with, if a recent study on the effects of gestational diabetes on the fetus has anything to say about it, much of the conscription taking place in the womb. It’s called intergenerational diabetes, and it means that pregnant women with diabetes or even just poor maternal glucose tolerance could be turning their little ones into future type 2 diabetics. This is fetal diabetes without a genetic component; this is epigenetic owing to environmental (womb) input. The authors speculate that pregnant mothers with type 2 diabetes (diet and lifestyle induced, remember) could engender irreversible alterations to both the unborn kid’s hypothalamic neural network (where leptin, the satiety hormone, does its thing), pancreatic function, and muscle and liver insulin signaling. The idea is that they pop out with type 2 diabetes right off the bat. It’s diet-induced, sure, but not how we normally think of it. No baby bottle full of Coke required here. Of course, I still see this sort of condition as being reversible with diet and exercise…it’s just that it will require a LOT more adherence and starting at an earlier age. Moving on…
The following are both actual and paraphrased versions of questions I regularly get from readers:
If grains are so bad how can you explain the leanness and good health of Clarence Bass?
How is it that this guy can eat 30 bananas a day and not gain weight, or this guy can eat nothing but potatoes for 60 days and lose 20 pounds?
How do the Kitavans or Okinawans maintain good body composition despite a higher carb diet?
Mark, how were you able to maintain a low body fat percentage despite eating a half gallon of ice cream a day?
Why can my brother eat anything he wants and never gain a pound?
All of these examples seem contrary to what we say in the Primal Blueprint. How can they be explained? Are they anomalies? Tails of the bell curve? Is something else at work?
Stressed, anyone? Whether it’s the holidays, the weather, or just the same old tensions, you know that stress takes its toll on your well-being. Sure, you’d love to motivate yourself to take up a meditation practice, yoga class or some other endeavor that promises an effective retreat from the weight of daily pressures. (A vacation from your problems, anyone?) How about taking a deep breath? No, seriously. Experts are increasingly lining up to recommend simple breathing exercises for both immediate stress relief benefits – as well as deep, lasting physiological advantages.
And now for another round of Monday Musings…
Let’s Talk Sh**
Poop is the new probiotic. Doctors have been using fecal transplants as a “last resort,” mostly to treat the rising scourge of Clostridium difficile, a gut bug that affects about 250,000 Americans every year and proves extremely resistant to antibiotics. Shooting a fecal extract from healthy people into the C. diff-ridden colons of the affected has a 95% success rate. Some docs are pushing for the last resort to be the go-to move. I can’t argue with that.
But gut health isn’t just about acute infection. It’s also about basic metabolic health. A study showed that sterile mice receiving a fecal transplant from obese mice gained more weight than sterile mice who received transplants from lean mice. And most recently, a Dutch pilot study gave 18 obese males with pronounced metabolic syndrome fecal transplants from lean individuals. They did not lose weight, but they did experience improved insulin sensitivity and triglyceride numbers. These improvements reverted after about 12 weeks.
Life adapts when necessitated by changing conditions that impact survival. These are evolutionary pressures, with nutrition being probably the strongest. Flora bend toward the sun and plunge rooty tendrils deep into soil in search of moisture and minerals, while mobile organisms walk, run, fly, crawl, scrounge, or swim for food. Herbivores prefer to go where the vegetation is the densest and most nutritious, while predators follow close behind. Life is in constant flux, then, with food availability as the invisible hand directing traffic.
One of my favorite topics, as many of you know, is epigenetics. It’s the burgeoning area of science that has blown apart the traditional nature-nurture dichotomy by examining the lifestyle-induced activation or dampening of genes. Epigenetics is increasingly filling in the gaps for understanding and monitoring degenerative disease risk. If you’re relatively new to MDA, take a look-see at my past articles (Gene Expression, What I Mean By “Reprogramming Your Genes”, Gene Expression: Location, Location, Location, Environmental Toxins and Gene Expression, Epigenetics and Depression) for a good Primal introduction to the concept. That said, when it comes to science there’s always more to read and know. New discoveries. Bold initiatives. Elegant correlations. Confirmed expectations and unexpected wrinkles. It’s what gets me up and roaring in the morning. Gladly, I’m not the only one….
I’m fascinated by the idea that all the signals I send my body through diet and exercise and other environmental conditions can, as you say, literally reprogram my genes. I’m always on the lookout now for research that shows how lifestyle factors are related to gene expression. Have you seen anything new in your studies?
The following reader email brought to mind a NY Times article I read a few weeks ago. The article discusses a fairly new field of research that is uncovering the surprisingly fundamental and intricate ways our bodies influence our thinking and vice-versa. We’ve discussed the mind-body connection in the past, but embodied cognition puts the relationship in a new cast. Think motion-emotion, action-thought. It’s all integrated in ways you wouldn’t expect….
I’ve been a PBer for a couple years now and feel better than I ever have. I’m at this point interested in digging deeper into new areas of the PB. I’m intrigued by the mental-physical connection some of your posts and book refer to. Other than the relaxation and stress influence, what kind of sway does the mind-body thing really hold? How do you suggest harnessing it? Thanks and Grok on!