The impact of diet on genes, or why you are what you eat


The impact of diet on health can not be overestimated.The functioning of the body, its good condition and the risk of disease are very much dependent on the diet.It turns out that the diet affects the epigenom – a set of substances specific to each organism, which have the ability to join genes and influence their activity.Moreover, recent scientific reports indicate that the diet directly affects the DNA sequence.With the development of science, it turns out that the saying You are what you eat takes on more and more literal meaning.


With the development of medicine and nutrition sciences, more and more is being said about the impact of diet on health.The quality and nutritional value of the food eaten affects metabolic processes, hormone secretion, blood composition, membrane structure and other cell elements, and bone density.In fact, the comprehensive state of the body is very much dependent on the way of eating.This is due tofrom the cyclical process of dying the cells that build the body and the continuous formation of new ones, for which the necessary nutrients are necessary.More and more scientific experience shows that through the diet you can reduce the risk of many diseases, even if someone is affected by genetic burden.This raises the question of how deeply the structure of the human body can interfere with the diet used.The relationship between food and genes can be very tight.

Dependence of the epigenome on the diet

What we eat translates into changes in the reading of genetic material and the sequence of genes.

Genetic material and products produced on the basis of its reading are not constant and unchanging throughout life.It is influenced by many factors, and one of the most important is the diet that modifies epigenom.Epigenom consists of various chemical substances and proteins that have the ability to attach to DNA and modulate its activity by turning genes on and off.Thus, they influence the production or inhibition of the production of particular proteins in cells.Epigenomic compounds are called markers.They do not change the DNA sequence, but they affect how the information contained in the gene is read.Markers can be passed from cell to cell, duplicated and inherited by subsequent generations.Epigenans can be strongly influenced by diet.Almost all cell genes are dependent on nutrients supplied with food, as confirmed in studies on yeast – very simple organisms, but with similar cellular mechanisms.An experiment conducted by Markus Ralser, a biochemist at the University of Cambridge, showed that the nutrients released from food led to a change in gene function and protein production.In the classic sense, genes control how nutrients supplied with the diet are used to build larger particles.It turns out that it can be the opposite – cellular metabolism, the availability of nutrients and the way they are distributed, affect the activity of genes.


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The effect of diet on the health of the DNA sequence

Recent scientific reports show that the impact of the diet is even stronger.It not only changes the epigenom and affects how the genetic material will be read but can permanently change the DNA sequence.Dr Steven Kelly and his PhD student Emily A. Seward of the Oxford’s Department of Plant Sciences have conducted experiments on two types of parasitic microorganisms – Mollicutes and Kinetoplastida eukaryotes, which infect various plant and animal species, and thus feed on completely different ingredients.At the same time they have a common ancestor, so their genetic material is similar.


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How is genetic material coded?


The DNA chain is made of various elements, and the most important in the discussed experiment are nitrogenous bases – adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine.Depending on the order of nitrogen bases, various amino acids are synthesized in the DNA chain.One amino acid is created using three adjacent nitrogen bases (triplet).It is essential that there are 64 different triplets in human DNA that code for 20 amino acids.This means that one amino acid can be coded by different triplets.

The study, the results of which were published in Genome Biology, showed that depending on the availability of nitrogen in the diet, the DNA sequence of experimental micro-organisms changes.The higher the nitrogen-rich (high-protein) diet, the more high-nitrogen bases are found in the genetic material.On the other hand, a diet low in nitrogen (with a high share of carbohydrates) causes that the principles with a lower nitrogen content are preferred.Despite these differences, the same genes are still encoded in the DNA chain, because sequence changes of nitrogen bases occur only within triplets that code for the same amino acids.

The results of the experiment have shown the hitherto undiscovered relation between cellular metabolism and evolutionary changes, which are a consequence of changes taking place in the DNA chain.They give preliminary information about how the genetic material can change due to the adaptation of the body to different diets.It also explains why closely related organisms have such a different DNA.What’s more, it turns out that based on the analysis of genetic material you can determine the type of diet closely related organisms.Dietary metabolism, changed under the influence of diet, is only one of the elements affecting the sequence of genes, however, this relationship is very strong and confirms the popular statement that we are actually what we eat.


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Posted on: January 7, 2019

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