Tag: Gene Expression
It’s the heart of the Primal Blueprint: understanding that our lifestyle factors direct influence the expression of our genetic code. While the DNA itself is set, the structure fixed, that’s hardly the end of the story – our story. How we live – even where we live – holds significant sway over the final picture. And by picture I mean, of course, the picture of our genes’ activity: when proteins are produced (and how much), when or whether certain genes are turned on or off. This activity, researchers are increasingly finding, is key in the development – or avoidance – of any number of conditions like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and cancer. Rather than a predetermined formula simply set in motion in the womb, our genes demonstrate a much more complex, nuanced interplay. The sum of all our daily choices and exposures direct our epigenetic signaling and the course laid out by that ongoing sequence of gene activity. As I’ve said many a time, our original genetic heritage doesn’t design our physiological fate. How we live determines how our genes play out their hand. No doubt a powerful concept, the comprehension can take us by surprise. The quickly expanding field of epigenetics has, indeed, rewritten old school genetics. It’s even ruffled a few feathers here and there, but isn’t that always the case with new breakthroughs?
A number of readers have sent me links (thanks, readers) to a new study coming out of the UK that raised some eyebrows all across the Internet earlier this week. The headlines seemed to scream from everywhere “Do High Fat Diets Make Us Stupid and Lazy?” That, in turn, made me scream, so I took a look at this paper in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology: Deterioration of physical performance and cognitive function in rats with short-term high-fat feeding
What I found was a less-than-impressive short-term study on rat performance that told me what I already knew: that it takes a while for new gene expression to really kick in when you radically shift diets. Just like some of you are seeing in the 30-day challenge. So what?
Reboot, renew, repair, revitalize? What goals went into your decision to join the Primal Challenge this month? (If you’re on the fence, what vision or particular aspirations pull you toward giving it a shot?) What are you looking to change? How do you hope to feel? What would you like to achieve?
Whether you’re ramping up an already Primal style or beginning to “baby-step” it (more on that tomorrow), rest assured that you’re undertaking powerful stuff. As we’ve mentioned in the past, the Primal Blueprint isn’t about quick, temporary fixes or surface level makeovers. (Although you will find yourself feeling slimmer and looking good…) By its very nature, the PB’s reach extends far beyond the number on a bathroom scale, the arch of a flexed muscle, or the fleeting drama of a bikini reveal. For our part, we have bigger things in mind.
As you may know, at the core of the Primal Blueprint is gene expression – the idea that our genes can be “switched” on or off, or influenced into producing varying amounts of proteins based on environmental factors (like diet, exercise, and exposure to toxins). In fact, the Primal Blueprint is designed around maximizing positive expression and minimizing deleterious gene expression, the idea being that the best way to express our genes is by living like our Primal ancestors. Eating clean, whole foods, getting plenty of exercise, mental stimulation, and sleep – these are the ways Grok lived (if he was lucky), and these are the methods by which our genes are best influenced. And it’s not just conjecture. Time and time again, science (read: unbiased, unaffiliated observations on the human condition) has suggested precisely the same thing about environmental effects on the way our genes work.
I’d love to see your take on the validity of the metabolic type diet. I have found that a primal-style eating plan similar to yours works wonders for me, but I have seen some people comment that they maintain lean bodies with a very different approach than you. One commenter even stated that he gains weight when he increased fat calories. It seems like people can react differently to certain foods.
Metabolic typing periodically gets a boost in press every once in a while. The premise of typing suggests that people have distinctive metabolisms that are best served by a corresponding nutrition profile. Presumably, these metabolic distinctions are genetic differences based on your ancestors’ geographic origin. For example, if your ancestors are from the South Pacific islands, your nutritional needs differ significantly from those of the Lapps in Scandinavia, etc.
In the last few months we’ve been highlighting new research that illustrates the power of individuals to influence their genetic expression through basic lifestyle choices, whether through diet, exercise, or avoidance of pollution. The message, as always, is that we aren’t passive victims to aging or any propensities in our genetic heritage. How we live determines when and to what extent certain genes will be activated or turned off, genes that control our immune function and inflammatory response, genes that influence our aging process as well as our chances of developing or avoiding disease.
This groundbreaking area of research now includes evidence that invoking the body’s natural relaxation response can substantially direct the expression of genes related to physiological stress response. It’s a premise that’s been at the heart of many traditional medicine philosophies for thousands of years, now illuminated by collaborative research at the Genomics Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. As Herbert Benson, M.D. and one of the primary co-authors of the study explains, “For hundreds of years Western medicine has looked at mind and body as totally separate entities, to the point where saying something ‘is all in your head’ implied that it was imaginary. Now we’ve found how changing the activity of the mind can alter the way basic genetic instructions are implemented.”
Results of a dramatic study highlighting (guess what) gene expression were published last week by the National Academy of Sciences, and suddenly the popular media is suddenly paying very close attention. The study, which followed 30 men with low risk, early prostate cancer, demonstrates the dramatic role of lifestyle intervention in gene expression and corresponding disease regression. The study was a collaborative research effort at the Preventive Medicine Research Institute and the University of California, San Francisco.
One of the researchers, Dr. Dean Ornish offered his personal observations on the study in an article for Newsweek magazine. He began his commentary with the phrase: “Here’s some very good news: your genes are not your destiny.” Hmmm… Where have we heard that before? (Couldn’t resist.)
We just can’t help it. This epigenetics stuff really floats our boat. The last few weeks we’ve brought you a Dear Mark primer on gene expression as well as news on recent studies examining the role of lifestyle/environment on genetic expression. Diabetes, heart disease, even lung function are impacted by external factors like nutrition, exercise, and pollution exposure. But mental health is part of the epigenetic picture as well: chronic stress and even early emotional experiences, it turns out, may be significant enough to alter our genes’ expression.
Yes, it’s oh-so-middle-school, but we called it! Following the first ever metabolome-wide association study conducted across four countries, researchers are affirming the promise of metabolic fingerprinting in studying the links diet and other lifestyle factors have with specific disease risk. Once again, the focus is on gene expression, the resulting phenotype rather than our initial genetic “text.” Researchers compared levels of several metabolites (particles produced by the metabolic process) that were present in 4,630 subjects, who hailed from the U.S., the United Kingdom, China and Japan.
For the study, researchers took urine samples from volunteers aged between 40 and 59 and analysed these for over several thousand metabolite signals, using NMR spectroscopy and advanced statistics. The volunteers were participating in the INTERMAP study, an epidemiological study investigating the links between diet and blood pressure.
via Science Daily
I received tons of emails from last week’s Gene Expression: Location, Location, Location post. Thanks to everybody for their feedback and questions. In the comment section of last week’s post, Ed was interested in other concrete examples of gene expression (the ability of a gene to produce a biologically active protein). In personal emails, others asked for more explanation of the difference between genes and gene expression. Still others wanted to hear more about the interaction between their gene expression and lifestyle choices. Given the range of reader questions this week, I thought I’d reframe this week’s Dear Mark to include more of an overview of this recurring MDA theme. There’s a lot to be said on the subject, and I promise this post won’t be the last word on it. Nonetheless, there’s no time like the present to give a proper introduction and dive right in.
Let me just say that gene expression is one of my favorite areas of interest, and it’s truly at the heart of the Primal Blueprint. In fact, it’s the real beauty of it as well. It confirms that the day-to-day choices we make have incredible impact. And we can influence gene expression to a far greater degree than anyone ever thought possible.