What is our genetic potential?
Often I here people finding excuses for lacking athletic or academic (or even professional) achievements in genetic predisposition. He/She claims it’s just a matter of good/bad genes. I am here to tell you that we can overcome a lot of these so called genetic traits. Not by working twice as hard, but by manipulating gene expression. So turning genes on/off in order to help us reach our goals.
Our genotype is our genetic makeup. How these genes are expressed gives us our phenotype. So the phenotype are our observable characteristics or traits, such morphology, development and behaviour. From one genotype our body can make millions of phenotypes. So millions of different versions of you can be made with your genetic material. This is nature’s way of allowing you to adapt to your environment.
genotype + environment → phenotype
One of these major environmental regulators of gene expression is food. Nutrigenomics is the study of the effects of foods and food constituents on gene expression. So nutrigenomics is focusing on identifying and understanding molecular-level interaction between nutrients and other dietary bioactive compounds with the genome.
Let’s give some examples
A basic example is omega 3 and omega 6 – polyunsaturated fatty acids- which affect gene expression related to inflammation (PTGS2, PTGES and AKR1B1), and therefore for athletes very closely linked to recuperation and recovery of a training. But equally important for people with a burn-out or depression, where inflammation is an underlying driver of the illness.
Another example with the effect of a bazooka is sulforaphane. This sulforaphane is a molecule that can be formed when eating cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and kale, but unfortunately not much is formed in the way most people are eating their cruciferous vegetables and it also depends a bit on your gut flora.
Sulforaphane alters the expression of so different many genes (NRF2, CYP1A, CYP1B, NQ01, DNMT, HDAC, TERT, PTGES,…), that it is able to exert the following effects on a human body:
- Reduces inflammation (important in almost any chronical disease)
- Promotes detoxification (all detox pathways, but also specifically from air pollution and cigarette smoke)
- Prevents and combats cancer
- Induces several neuroprotective proteins (beneficial in Alzheimer, Parkinson, Autism, Schizophrenia,…)
- and oh so many more…
The list of diseases and situation where people can benefit from the effects of this compound are so large, that I would characterize as being close to a panacea- in that it can help in almost any circumstance and for every chronic disease- hence the bazooka status.
These are just two examples of nutrients that can turn good genes on and silence bad genes. But there are many more nutrients studied and identified in this new Nutrigenomic science.
Do more with your genetic potential!
Now you know that you can do so much more with your genetic material. Nutritional science and genetics have evolved so rapidly the last years, in a way that tailored nutrition is here. It can be a powerful tool in many diseases, but also a new path to better performance for many athletes.
Maybe the take-away message is to be very aware of what foods you are putting in your mouth every day, as it might do more to you than what you expect, and that is alter gene expression in a (non-) favourable way…
Stay tuned for more…