What if drinking three cups of green tea each day could not only help a person live cancer-free but could also enable him to pass this trait on to his children? On the other hand, what if that same person chose foods that would not only shorten his life and bring on disease, but also pass these diseases onto his offspring?
Welcome to the study of epigenetics, the concept that characteristics that are acquired during one’s lifetime and not inherited through DNA can be passed on to future generations.
But how does this relate to what one eats? Picture a switch on a radio that turns the device on and off, or turns the volume up and down. The current idea is that, in a like fashion, nutrients in food can affect the way genes work by turning genes off and on or by increasing or decreasing their roles in disease.
And current research suggests that a vegetable-based diet may be the best approach to influencing our genes in a positive manner.
Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) have been studying such effects of nutrients on the risk of cancer and other diseases. Studies by Syed Meeran, Ph.D., and Trygve Tollefsbol, Ph.D., D.O., suggest that a healthy epigenetic diet include foods such as broccoli, cabbage, green tea, grapes, spinach, soy, fava beans, and the spice turmeric. These foods may protect cells and even reverse cellular changes that can lead to cancer and other diseases.
Truly this is exciting research with far-reaching implications. Remember that the environment not only includes the food we eat but also sun exposure, air and water quality, soil modifications (e.g. fertilizers, etc.), medications and supplements, and even human behaviors. What will future research uncover in relation to effects from the total environment?
A plant-based diet may be one way to keep people healthy and cancer-free throughout life. In addition, by engaging in exercise, not smoking, limiting alcohol, maintain a healthy weight, wearing sunscreen, and scheduling appropriate cancer screenings, we will all enjoy a healthier and more productive future.
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The articles written by Andrea Wenger, Birmingham Diets Examiner, are for informational purposes only and are not to be used in the place of medical advice. Please contact a licensed physician or other medical professional before changing any health care routine or before starting any diet, fitness, or exercise program. Although every effort has been made to include the most current information, new information is released daily and may cause some recommendations to change.