In 1930, Dr. Pottenger conducted a study to find out more about the effects of raw versus cooked meat, as well as raw versus pasteurized milk on cats, and whether they had any impact on growth and development.
Nine hundred cats were studied in ten years in order to not only see the short term effects of the food, but also the influence the cats’ diet would have on their kittens over three generations. The results of this study were stunning: a simple modification in diet – raw vs cooked meat and milk – impacted cats’ health over four generations!
The conclusions of his study were:
Physical degeneration caused by a poor diet in the mother is inherited in the offspring and passed on through the third generation. But when a mother’s diet is nutritious, not only does she benefit with good health, so do her offsprings.
Pottenger went further to see whether poor health could be reversed. The third generation of cats, that developed health problems, was fed well. What emerged was that each kitten of their children, and the three successive generations of kittens they produced, was healthier than the prior one.
What Pottenger discovered 85 years ago is that the food we eat each day influences illness or wellness, not only in ourselves, but in our children, grandchildren, even our great-grandchildren.
The cell is the basic structure of the body, and the human body is built of trillions of cells. Each cell has a nucleus that houses DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid.
Genes are small sections of DNA that contain the instructions for our individual characteristics – like eye and hair colour. The purpose of genes is to store information. The Human Genome Project has estimated that humans have between 20,000 and 25,000 genes. Every person has two copies of each gene; one inherited from each parent. The total number is called the genome.
The DNA code contains instructions needed to make the proteins and molecules essential for our growth, development and health. Examples of proteins include keratin, the protein in your hair, and haemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in your blood.
Essentially, the deoxyribonucleic acid / DNA in our bodies contains the blueprints for who we are and instructions for who we will become. For example, it can tell our eyes to turn from blue at birth to brown later on, our length to grow from 20 inches to 70 etc.
Do genes mutate according to how we live?
Epigenetics is the science that studies what forces influence our genes to change.
Can the DNA be changed with diet and exercise? This is what Dr. Claudia Aguirre, neuroscientist says:
During the winter of 1944-1945, a terrible famine swept through the Netherlands. The Dutch population’s nutritional intake dropped to fewer than 1,000 calories per day. Women who conceived during this time gave birth to children who survived — but with higher rates of conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity compared to siblings born before. How could something that happened before birth have such a powerful effect on health some 50 years later? The answer is that the foetuses adapted their genes to their environment (a lack of food + high maternal stress), and these early changes set up these descendants for future health complications. Today, we understand a great deal more how the food we consume changes our bodies and brains right down to the genetic level.
There are many studies correlating specific compounds in food to genetic changes in our bodies. Animal studies show that certain foods and exercise can stimulate a protein, called BDNF, in the genes which creates new neurons and improves the functions of the old ones, a necessary factor for learning and memory. So, smart diet choices can actually make you smarter!
Poor diet affects us to our core. And this “core” gets passed down from generation to generation. So that old saying “you are what you eat” should be “You are what your mother ate.”
A number of foods and environmental factors can damage the DNA. Here are some of DNA’s enemies:
The radiation from mobile phones affects the human DNA. Several studies have recommended that we use hands-free technology.
Pesticides and fertilizers which are consumed with all food.
Food wrapped in plastic absorbs it, and studies show that an average person consumes about 210 micrograms of plastic per day.
In a study, researchers at the University of Oxford's Department of Plant Sciences, and the studies published in the journal Genome Biology, demonstrated that the diets of organisms can affect the DNA sequences of their genes. Researchers took two groups of parasites which had common ancestors but had evolved to eat very different kinds of food. The team detected differences in DNA sequences that could be attributed to the composition of their food, providing new insights into how DNA sequences can be influenced by adaptation to different diets.
In a laboratory study pairing food chemistry and cancer biology, scientists at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, tested the effect of foods on the DNA of cells. They found that liquid smoke flavouring, black and green teas and coffee activated the highest levels of a well-known cancer-linked gene called p53. The p53 gene becomes activated when DNA is damaged. The higher the level of DNA damage, the more p53. Two chemicals in these foods were held responsible for the damage: Pyrogallol and gallic acid. Pyrogallol, commonly found in smoked foods, is also found in cigarette smoke, hair dye, tea, coffee, bread crust, roasted malt and cocoa powder. Gallic acid is found in teas and coffees. Liquid smoke is often used to add smoky flavour to sausages and other meats.
Here are just a very few of the most dangerous processed “foods” and their impact on our DNA:
Genetically Modified Foods (GMO): Every time a corporate scientist inserts a novel gene into a plant cell, the gene ends up in a random location in the plant’s genome. All that the scientists can do is to pray that the new gene will not destabilize a safe food and make it toxic. When researchers Pryme and Rolf Lembcke conducted studies about the possible health consequences of genetically modified food, they concluded that genetic engineering creates widespread genetic mutations in thousands of locations throughout the genome! Food that’s made in the lab, and was not meant to be recognized by your cells, will eventually build up as toxic material in your body, causing digestive problems, lowered immunity, tumours and cancer.
Processed Omega 6 Fatty Acids and Trans Fatty Acids: With the processing of omega 6-rich vegetable oils - such as corn, soybean, canola and safflower oils that are so abundant in our diet today – the balanced ratio of omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids, on which our human genome thrived for thousands of years, changed drastically. We now eat one-tenth of the amount of omega 3 fatty acids required for normal functioning. This is why a high percentage of our modern population is susceptible to food-related health conditions like heart disease, cancer, insulin resistance and diabetes, obesity, arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.
The elimination of toxic trans fatty acids alone could avert tens of thousands of heart attacks each year. A team of molecular biologists, at the National Institute of Nutrition in India, performed a study on rats to see how genes are affected by trans fatty acids. They discovered that rats fed higher levels of trans fatty acids modified their genes to become insulin resistant, increasing the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Sugar: Epidemiologist Lisa Giovanelli’s findings revealed that the more simple sugar (from soft drinks, desserts and other processed sweets) a person consumed, the more oxidative DNA damage occurred in blood cells.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): This is added to thousands of fast foods and soft drinks. It damages genes by producing the chemical hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) while heating. When the effects of HMF on individual human cells were studied, it was found that the more exposure to HMF, the more DNA damage.
Meat: Research at the Medical Research Council's Dunn human nutrition unit in Cambridge, published in the journal Cancer Research, has shown that eating red meat can increase your risk of bowel cancer by producing substances in the gut that damage DNA. A comparison of cells from the lining of the colon shows that people who eat a diet high in red meat have a "consistent and significant" increase in levels of DNA damage compared with vegetarians. Substances called N-nitrosocompounds increase in the large bowel of red meat eaters, destabilizing the DNA, making it more likely to undergo harmful changes that increase the risk of cancer.
But can these genetic changes be passed on to your children? Independent studies show that this happens:
A group, led by Randy Jirtle of Duke University, demonstrated how mouse clones, implanted as embryos in separate mothers, will have radical differences in fur colour, weight, and risk for chronic diseases, depending on what that mother was fed during pregnancy.
In 2010, Jiménez-Chillarón and his colleagues found that overfed male mouse pups developed insulin resistance, obesity and glucose intolerance, and passed these traits to their offspring, who developed these diseases without overeating.
A study led by Ram B. Singh of the TsimTsoum Institute in Krakow, Poland, published in the Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, examined nutrients that affect chromatin, the chemical soup in which DNA operates. "It is possible that eating more omega-3 fatty acids, choline, betaine, folic acid and vitamin B12, by mothers and fathers, possibly can alter chromatin states leading to the birth of a 'super baby' with long life and lower risk of diabetes and obesity."
More and more evidence suggests that what you eat may have a genetic impact on your children and grandchildren. Is bad health the legacy you want to leave them?
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