Friday, March 4, 2016

"You Are What You Eat": Phytonutrients, Healthy Fats and Fiber

"The foods you eat shape the health of your microbiome, which in turn shapes your health, including influencing your risk of heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity and even bone diseases like osteoporosis. Your body houses some 100 trillion bacteria, and about 1 quadrillion viruses (bacteriophages). Your diet is one of the easiest, fastest, and most effective ways to improve and optimize your microbiome. Poor dietary choices can become encoded into the gene expression patterns (epigenome) of your DNA and your gut microbiome, leading to permanent changes in the balance of bacteria in your body — changes that may be passed onto your children. So the good news is that you have a great degree of control over your health destiny."

Phytonutrients

The organisms in soil have an impact on the health of our food. Part of what makes fruits and vegetables good for us is the phytonutrients in them – the things that make cranberries red or coffee bitter. Phytonutrients are part of the plant’s immune systems. Organisms in the soil that we might think of as pests actually stimulate plants to make more phytonutrients. So these small stressors actually in a sense enhance our health. Being exposed to different organisms improves the health of the plant and it improves our health as well.

“Our new findings corroborate those of previous animal studies and preliminary human studies, adding further support to the notion that blueberries can have a real benefit in improving memory and cognitive function in some older adults,” says Robert Krikorian, Ph.D., leader of the research team. He adds that blueberries’ beneficial effects could be due to flavonoids called anthocyanins, which have been shown to improve animals’ cognition.

The genes in virtually all of your cells may be influenced by the nutrients available to them, according to a new study conducted in yeast cells. Yeast cells are simpler to study than animal models, but they display similar genes and cellular mechanisms to humans.

The study revealed that nutrients released from food led to changes in the way the genes function. The behavior of genes and the protein molecules produced were influenced by the availability of nutrients to the cell:
Cellular metabolism plays a far more dynamic role in the cells than we previously thought … Nearly all of a cell's genes are influenced by changes to the nutrients they have access to.

In fact, in many cases the effects were so strong, that changing a cell's metabolic profile could make some of its genes behave in a completely different manner … The classical view is that genes control how nutrients are broken down into important molecules …

We've shown that the opposite is true, too — how the nutrients break down affects how our genes behave.”
 

It’s not the first time diet has been shown to alter your genes. For instance, certain foods, such as broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, garlic, and onions contain substances that act as histone inhibitors, which essentially block the histone protein.

This allows your tumor-suppressor genes to activate and fight cancer. By regularly consuming these foods, you are naturally supporting your body's ability to fight tumors.

Curcumin, the active ingredient in the spice turmeric, is also known for its ability to modulate genetic activity and expression — both by destroying cancer cells, and by promoting healthy cell function.

For instance, research published in Biochemical Pharmacology found that curcumin inhibits the activation of NF-kB, a regulatory molecule that signals genes to produce a slew of inflammatory molecules (including TNF, COX-2 and IL-6) that promote cancer cell growth.

Further, research using identical twins has shown that diet trumps genes in terms of the level of health you achieve. Eating excessive quantities of sugar and grains may be especially damaging, as research shows carbohydrates directly affect two key genes in your body that govern longevity and youthfulness.


Healthy Fats

Many studies have confirmed the disadvantage of low-fat diets. As just one example, a 2013 Spanish trial, which included nearly 7,450 volunteers between the ages of 55 and 80, was halted for ethical reasons after eight years, as the control group was deemed to be at a dangerous disadvantage.

The two intervention groups ate a Mediterranean-style diet — low in red meat, sugar, processed carbs, and junk food; and high in most everything else, including healthy fats, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and seafood, supplemented with either 30 grams of nuts per day (15 grams walnuts, 7.5 grams almonds, and 7.5 grams hazelnuts), or 50 ml of virgin olive oil per day instead of nuts. The control group ate a low-fat diet.

There were no calorie restrictions for any of the groups, nor was physical activity promoted or required. Compliance with olive oil and nut consumption was tested via blood and urine analysis. The primary end point was a composite of myocardial infarction, stroke, and death from cardiovascular causes. Secondary end points were stroke, myocardial infarction, death from cardiovascular causes, and death from any cause.

Remarkably, in less than five years, the two intervention groups achieved a 30 percent relative risk reduction for cardiovascular disease, and stroke reduction was an impressive 49 percent. According to conventional wisdom, such benefits have been seen in the low-fat group, but the converse turned out to be true, and the study was stopped early to protect the health of the control group.

Other foods, such as olives, avocados, coconut oil, butter from raw milk, and beef, are high in fats, and that's a good thing. Your body needs fat for energy, the production of hormones, nerve and brain function, vitamin conversion, mineral absorption, and a host of other biological processes. As a general rule, if the fat comes from real food, it's "good."


Fiber

For starters, fiber fuels beneficial bacteria to produce short chain fatty acids that help regulate your immune function. These fats and ketones help increase T regulatory cells, specialized immune cells that help prevent autoimmune responses and more. Via a process called hematopoiesis, they're also involved in the formation of other types of blood cells in your body.

Few Americans get the recommended 30 to 32 grams of fiber per day, and when fiber is lacking, it starves these beneficial bacteria, thereby setting your health into a downward spiral. Not only does it have an adverse effect on your immune system, allowing autoimmune diseases to set in, lack of fiber in your diet can also lead to the breakdown of your gut barrier, resulting in leaky gut and related health problems.

Fermented foods are important for gut health, but so is fiber. Soluble fibers, such as psyllium, are probiotics that help nourish beneficial bacteria. These beneficial bacteria assist with digestion and absorption of your food, and play a significant role in your immune function.

When it comes to fiber, the food industry and nutritional sciences have again done more harm than good by promoting grains as an ideal source. While this may have been true 100 years ago, agricultural practices and modern food processing techniques have made most grains less than beneficial.

For starters, many modern grains, including non-organic wheat, are contaminated with glyphosate, which is now recognized as a probable human carcinogen. Glyphosate has also been linked to celiac disease and other gut dysfunction, which is the exact converse of what you're trying to achieve by adding fiber to your diet. Secondly, most grain products on the market are highly processed, which further deteriorates their value. Instead, focus on eating more vegetables, nuts, and seeds.

When it comes to fiber, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends getting 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed. A more general recommendation is to make sure you get 20 to 30 grams of fiber per day. I believe about 25 to 50 grams per 1,000 calories consumed is probably a better goal. Healthy sources of soluble and insoluble fiber include:

Psyllium seed husk, flax hemp, and chia seeds Berries Vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts
Root vegetables and tubers, including onions, sweet potatoes, and jicamaAlmondsPeas
Green beansCauliflower Beans



Low-Fiber Diet Hurts Gut Microbiome Diversity

The study in question found that low-fiber diets cause "waves of extinction" in the gut of mice, and that this altered gut flora gets passed on to offspring. As much as 60 percent of the microbe species suffered severe decline in the low-fiber group.

In some cases their numbers remained low even after the mice were again given high-fiber meals, suggesting it can be quite difficult to repopulate certain gut bacteria once they've been severely diminished.

Each successive generation of offspring in the low-fiber group also ended up with less diversity than their parents, suggesting the problem compounds over generations. According to the authors:
"[O]ver several generations, a low-MAC diet [microbiota-accessible carbohydrate diet] results in a progressive loss of diversity, which is not recoverable after the reintroduction of dietary MACs.

To restore the microbiota to its original state requires the administration of missing taxa [editor's note: i.e. fecal transplant] in combination with dietary MAC consumption."

Previous studies have already confirmed that the human microbiome has undergone significant changes over the course of history, along with changes in diet. As a general rule, people who eat a more plant-based diet tend to have a more diverse gut microbiome than those who skimp on fresh veggies and fruits and eat more processed foods.


More information:
» IGF/DAF16: Can cutting carbohydrates from your diet make you live longer?

1 comment:

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