Some nutrients may also act to protect the genome from damage. DNA is constantly replicating itself, and thousands of mistakes are made each day as a result. If the mistakes were not fixed, the genome eventually would be irreparably damaged, and we would develop diseases or die. Genes, nutrients, and lifestyle (exercise, smoking, environmental pollutants) determine how well repair takes place and how much damage occurs. Nutrigenomic scientists suspect that cell damage that is not effectively repaired is the cause of many diseases, such as cancer.
For example, in a 2007 experiment, special mice with genes that predisposed them to skin cancer were exposed to UVB radiation, similar to radiation from the sun. Half the mice were given a component of B vitamins called inositol in their drinking water. These mice developed far fewer skin tumors than those who received no inositol—23% versus 51%. The researcher, A.M. Shamsuddin, suggested that this result could have meaning for people who are airline pilots or frequent fliers. They might need more inositol in their diets to protect them from skin cancer. The experiment seemed to demonstrate one way that nutrients can protect DNA when the environment is harmful.
Studies such as Shamsuddin’s, however, never yield results of 100% certainty. All the mice receiving inositol did not avoid tumors. All the mice eating a regular diet did not develop cancer. Whether with mice or human cells or people, scientists do not discover “magic bullets” or simple answers that explain how to prevent disease. Part of the reason is that individuals respond differently to the same diet. The trick for scientists is identifying both the specific genes and the nutrients that determine health and disease. For the most part, Dr. Kaput explains, nutrigenomic principles of disease prevention are most easily applied to groups of people who share similar metabolic genetic profiles and lifestyles. These similar profiles may be due to having the same ancestry or belonging to the same ethnic group. Some gene variants occur more frequently in one ethnic group than another. However, there are no genes exclusive to one race or ethnic group. All groups of humans are susceptible to the same gene variations.
Similar Ancestry, Similar Genetic Problems
One well-established gene variant, for example, occurs on the angiotensin gene, called ANG. One variation in ANG increases a person’s risk for high blood pressure. This gene variant occurs most commonly in African Americans. People with this gene variant can control high blood pressure with a low-salt diet. About 73% of African Americans are salt sensitive and will be helped by such a diet. Many people of European ancestry have the same variation in the same gene. Those people, too, will be helped by a low-salt diet. But the same diet will not help people with high blood pressure due to another cause. Some people, for instance, need a diet rich in calcium to lower blood pressure. If a physician knows a person has the ANG variant, he or she can better treat high blood pressure.
The thrifty genes that may lead to metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease also seem to vary among populations. Although these gene variations affect many people of European ancestry, they are even more common among certain indigenous populations, such as Native Americans, Polynesians, and aboriginal peoples in Australia and Canada. Among many of these peoples, the high-fat, high-sugar diets of wealthy Europeans have had devastating health effects. For example, the Pima Indians of Arizona have the highest incidence of type 2 diabetes of any group of people in the world. Out of 11,000 Pima Indians living along the Gila River, half have diabetes and 95% are overweight. Nutrigenomics researchers are trying to identify the genes that cause this reaction to specific diets. If they succeed, they will be able to warn vulnerable people and recommend appropriate diets to prevent the chronic diseases caused by the interaction of thrifty genes and diet. This would help to reduce some of the health disparities between ethnic groups.
Note: Feel free to republish this article on your own blog or website but please copy paste the below ‘Author Credits’ and include it at the bottom of your post or page. Thank you.
About The Author
Dr. Leroy Rebello is a well established and internationally qualified anti-aging consultant and cosmetologist from Mumbai and a director in Eternesse – the best hair removal clinics in Mumbai. He lectures in reputed Institutions such as AIIMS, JIPMER and other Medical Colleges around India. With over 10 Research Papers published in Indexed Journals, Dr. Rebello is continuously researching and developing new treatments and cures.