Study Finds Common
Supplements and Diet can Help Prevent Disease
November 20th 2005
The old saying “you are what you eat” may have more evidence to bolster
its claims. Rats were injected with a specific amino acid which changed
the way their genes were expressed. It may be possible that dietary
supplements or drugs could permanently halt the genetic effects that
predispose people to mental and physical illnesses.
The research was conducted at the McGill University in Montreal Canada
by Moshe Szyf, Michael Meaney and their colleagues. They found that
certain nutrients and supplements changed genetics by switching off
certain genes in rodents, as reported in EureAlert.
Two years ago (New Scientist, 9 August 2003, p 14) a similar study was
conducted where researchers found that the activity of a mouse's genes
could be influenced by food supplements eaten by its mother just prior
to or during the early stages of pregnancy. This research was conducted
at Duke University.
In Canada the researchers injected the L-methionine directly into the
brains of “well-reared” rats. L-methionine is a common amino acid and
food supplement. They found that the amino acid methylated the
glucocorticoid gene, and changed the rat’s behavior. Diet may reverse
some diseases such as schizophrenia and Huntington ’s disease.
The researchers caution that the supplements can work both ways. They
have found that Methionine made healthy rats stressed.
Last year the researchers in Canada found that baby rats there were not
licked enough by their mother had methyl group chemical tags added to
their DNA of a particular gene. This affected the genetic codes for the
glucocorticoid receptor gene.
This gene is expressed in the hippocampus of the brain and helps mediate
the animal’s response to stress. In poorly raised rats, this
methylation damped down the gene’s activity. These young rats produced
less stress hormones and were less confident exploring new environments
as reported in Nature Neuroscience Vol. 7, page 847.
Methionine is available at online health food stores and the molecules
are small enough to get into the brain via the bloodstream. They
believe that this supplement can “cause DNA changes”, as reported by
Newindpress.com. They believe diet “may have a role to play as a
regulator in genes”.
Scientists are trying to determine if colon cancer in humans might be
triggered by diet through DNA methylation. The BBC reports that
Professor Ian Johnson at the Institute for Food Research is studying
healthy people before the cancer starts.
If diet can regulate genes then there may be other illnesses that may be
treated with a dietary strategy. Folic acid (folate) might influence
methylation. A difficiency in folate has been linked to an increased
risk of colon and breast cancer.
By Dan Wilson
Best Syndication Staff Writer
Books on Dieting
Keywords and misspellings:
Methionine methionene glucocorticoid glucocordicoid suplements