Your mother was right…you should eat your vegetables. And now nutrigenomics has provided us with an explanation.
Nutrigenomics is a new field that studies how nutrition affects genes in order to prevent or manage disease. A recent study of mice that had genes for obesity, diabetes and heart disease were fed kale and other leafy greens. The first-generation mice whose mothers were fed green vegetables came out lean and brown. When they continued to be fed greens, the mice lived longer than the mice fed with the normal diet.
This incredible finding shows that despite what your genes predestine, you do have some control over your fate. These cute little fur balls taught us that eating your veggies can help your body do what it needs to do—methylate. What does methylate mean?
Let’s go back to science class. Methylate is the term for how genes (DNA) control their expression. Every cell and tissue in your body methylates. Methyl has a chemical structure of 1 carbon and 3 hydrogen atoms (CH3). When methyl is added to a protein, the protein reacts differently. For instance, high homocysteine levels are linked to early heart disease. When a methyl group is added to the harmful homocysteine molecule, it turns into methionine, a helpful one that is believed to prevent certain cancers, reduce tremors in people with Parkinson’s disease and build bone strength. In this way, methylation helps the body “detox.”
Veggies and other healthy foods help your body methylate more effectively. Foods with a lot of folate, including kale, spinach, and mustard and turnip greens provide your body with numerous methyl chains. Foods with a lot of sugar, fat and salt result in cells that do not process the food as well. Good DNA methylation is vital for growth and development, and it can also stop harmful gene expressions, such as tumor-causing genes.
So it turns out your mother was right…you do need to eat your greens for good expression of your genes.
Written by: Allison Thummel, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern
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