What are you going to eat today?
You probably woke this morning thinking about all the important things you have to do today. Some of you will be thinking about decisions involving your work, and others about family or friends. But the truth is, the most important decision you are going to make today is WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO EAT! There is no doubt that the food we consume on a daily basis has a profound effect on our health…..and our bones!
The food you eat along with lifestyle, stress and other environmental factors all have a significant effect on your genes, and therefore your health and longevity. Remembering back to Biology 101, a gene is a segment of your DNA that we acquire from our parents. These genes are responsible for our physical traits, our biochemistry and, to some extent, even our behaviors. Some genes may also carry the risk of certain diseases and disorders that are passed on from parents to children. Although it was once thought that your genes were hard wired, there is now growing evidence that your genes have some give. Epigenetics, a rising new field in the study of genetics focuses on how the activation of a gene can be influenced by diet or environment, yet the gene itself doesn’t change. Experts explain that genes can be switch on and off, like a light switch that can turn on and off a light. In very simplistic terms, your genes for disease and health can be switched on and off by the quality of the food you eat, stress, lifestyle and environmental toxins.
Several genes that have been identified for a wide variety of cancers, including bladder, breast, colorectal, endometrial, esophageal, head and neck, liver, lung, prostate, and thyroid. And guess what? Researchers have also located several genes associated with determining bone mineral density, bone strength, bone thickness as well as risk of fracture.
OK, so say you have a gene for osteoporosis, or any disease, what can you do about it?
The good news coming out of the field of epigenetics is that your genes don’t control your health, you do! You can influence the expression of your genes on a regular basis, depending on the foods you eat, the air you breathe, the lifestyle you live and the thoughts you think.
How? By preventing damage to your cells!
Anything that causes harm or stress to the body can damage a part of the cell called the mitochondria (Biology 101: the organelle which produces energy in the cell). Damage to the mitochondria can result in turning on the genes that have the potential to cause osteoporosis, disease or cancer. So it is the damage to the mitochondria, not the presence of a disease carrying gene that results in the development of that illness. Even if you inherited a gene for osteoporosis or any disease or cancer, a healthy mitochondria can keep those genes inactive.
So how do you keep your mitochondria healthy and disease in check?
Promote balanced Methylation
Methylation is a key biochemical process that is essential for the proper function of almost all of your body’s systems. It occurs billions of times every second and, in simple terms, it helps to repair and keep your DNA in good “working” condition. Proper methylation keeps our mitochondria and our DNA healthy and is one of the most common epigenetic signaling tool that cells use to lock genes in the “off” position. As we age the methylation processes in our bodies start to slow down leading to less control over gene function, damage to our cells and increased potential for disease. A breakdown in methylation puts you at higher risk for many diseases, including osteoporosis. Recent research indicates that DNA methylation plays an important role in bone metabolism as well as bone mineral density.
Luckily, there are several ways to balance your methylation and keep your cells healthy!
5 Ways you can Balance Methylation and Prevent Damage to your Cells
- Eat a diet rich in nutrients that support proper methylation.
- Dark leafy greens like spinach, kale and beet greens. Cruciferous vegetables like collard greens, bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. Sulfur containing foods like garlic and onions. All these food are among the most abundant sources of the nutrients needed for optimal methylation.
- Foods high in B vitamins are also important in the methylation process as well supporting healthy DNA. Healthy food sources of B vitamins include leafy greens, asparagus, lentils, beans, almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, fish, chicken, turkey and eggs.
- Take probiotics or eat foods that support a healthy gut like yogurt, kefir, or fermented foods to help absorb your B vitamins
Avoid/minimize alcohol, caffeine and foods high in sugar which can all deplete B vitamins
- Avoid processed and cans foods which are a poor source of nutrients
- Reduce stress and practice stress relaxation techniques
- Move your body through exercise every day
Even if you had a hard time understanding the biology behind this post, I hope you gained some understanding about how you actually DO have control over your genetic traits. The underlying message is that even if your mother, grandmother, sister or aunt has/had osteoporosis, or any disease, you are not destined to be crippled with it. You are in control of your health and have a tremendous amount of control over how your genes are turned on and off. Changing your diet and lifestyle is the first step to controlling your genes and keeping your bones and body healthy!
2. Liu, Y., Zhang, X., Chen, L., Lin, X., Xiong, D., Xu, F., . . . Liao, E. (2016). Epigenetic mechanisms of bone regeneration and homeostasis. Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology, 122(2), 85-92. doi:10.1016/j.pbiomolbio.2016.01.005
3. Reppe, S., Lien, T. G., Hsu, Y., Gautvik, V. T., Olstad, O. K., Yu, R., . . . Gautvik, K. M. (2017). Distinct DNA methylation profiles in bone and blood of osteoporotic and healthy postmenopausal women. Epigenetics,00-00. doi:10.1080/15592294.2017.1345832
4.. DNA methylation and its role in bone formation and resorption. (2012). BoneKEy Reports, 1(2). doi:10.1038/bonekey.2012.45