Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Epigenetics: how foods work to prevent disease

The Experimental Biology 2010 meeting has a lot of interesting research being presented this week. An important area of study is understanding a person's risks from his or her genetic code. Now scientists are predicting with testing what risks are there and what prevention measures could be taken.

Today researchers from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University talked about cancer, heart disease, neurological disorders and other degenerative conditions and say some scientists are moving away from the “nature-versus-nurture” debate and are finding you’re not a creature of either genetics or environment, but both – with enormous implications for a new approach to health.

The scientists say, "The new field of epigenetics is rapidly revealing how people, plants and animals do start with a certain genetic code at conception. But the choice of which genes are expressed, or activated, is strongly affected by environmental influences. The expression of genes can change rapidly over time, they can be influenced by external factors, those changes can be passed along to offspring, and they can literally hold the key to life and death."

In the case of cancer, tumor suppressor genes can cause cancer cells to die by acting as a brake on unrestrained cell growth. But too much of the histone deacetylases (HDAC) enzyme can switch off tumor suppressor genes, even though the underlying DNA sequence of the cell – its genetic structure – has not been changed or mutated.

“We already know some of the things people can do to help prevent cancer with certain dietary or lifestyle approaches,” says researcher Rod Dashwood. “Now we’re hoping to more fully understand the molecular processes going on, including at the epigenetic level. This should open the door for new approaches to disease prevention or treatment through diet, as well as in complementing conventional drug therapies.”

Read the whole story on the OSU web site. To learn more about "predictive health" visit this web site.