Tag Archives: genetics

The Obesity Gene

Is there really an obesity gene? I think the answer is yes and no.  First the yes.

There are likely genes that predispose someone to being overweight or obese.  It is not just one gene but perhaps 10 or 50, or maybe 1,000.  I don’t think we will ever be able to say for certain what specific genes are the “obesity genes.” Certainly it is more difficult with something like this because metabolism is so complex.

The answer to our question might also be no.  While our genes are responsible for many things, the environment plays a huge role.  Diet and exercise are potent modifiers of our genes.  Someone who is genetically predisposed to being overweight may not be overweight with proper diet and exercise.  And if that’s true then, in a sense, being overweight is not genetic.

For more information watch the video below.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Diet

FrankenSalmon – Genetically modified for whom?

It’s a good question.  Who benefits from genetically modified salmon?  Well for one, the company producing it does.

This fish in the back is genetically modified. The one in the front is a non-genetically engineered salmon of the same kind.

Financially, this would reduce the cost of farmed salmon.  And two, I suppose it would reduce the cost of farmed salmon in the supermarket.  That, however, is not a viable reason to genetically modify salmon because I never recommend people buy farmed salmon in the first place.

There has been a debate recently about the safety and use of genetically farmed salmon.  These salmon have been genetically modified to grow bigger and faster yet require 10% less food.  It’s called the AquAdvantage salmon.  It has genes inserted in it from its close cousin the Chinook salmon and from something called the pout fish.  The combination of this genetically engineered animal allows it to grow faster, larger and year round instead of just the warmer months.

This debate has made its way to the FDA who has yet to make a decision on whether to allow its sale.  So far all they have concluded is that “it is safe for human consumption.” I wouldn’t put a lot of stock in that because they also deem things like aspartame, artificial food dyes and high fructose corn syrup “safe for human consumption.”

There are several problems I see with genetically engineered salmon:

1. Environmental Impact

This is a biggie.  These salmon are not natural but they are farmed in natural environments.  They are farmed in the open ocean in huge nets that allow them to swim freely, more or less.  What happens when one escapes?  Millions of fish that are farmed in this manner escape every year.  They are sure to escape and because they are bigger and faster they will out compete the truly wild fish for everything from mates to food.  Then we will have genetically modified fish and non-genetically modified fish mixed together.  Why is this a problem?  Because the native salmon populations are already in danger and anything that could possibly eliminate them is a serious threat.  This qualifies.  It’s also problematic because our salmon population will no longer be pure.  No one can predict how nature will react and this is walking a dangerous line.

2. Is it safe to eat?

At this point, this is a question that remains unanswered.  I can say this though – an animal is born with a natural genetic code.  It has evolved over millions of years to operate best with that genetic code.  Changing that genetic code is potentially dangerous and could possibly have unknown consequences.  Genetic codes do change, that we know.  However, they do not change overnight as is the case with this new salmon.  They change over thousands of years and generation after generation is allowed to adapt.  We cannot possibly know what kind of impact allowing a fish to grow twice as fast will have on the quality of the meat or how it will affect it on a molecular level.  What if this rapid growth causes the production of an unwanted chemical within the muscle of these new fish?  What if that chemical, unknown to us, is dangerous the human health?  The possibility is there and it is dangerous.

3. Will you know you are eating this FrankenSalmon?

Should it be allowed for sale in the US, you will not be able to tell what kind of salmon you are eating.  Because the FDA says the genetically engineered salmon is not substantially different from regular salmon, AquaBounty wouldn’t be required to label it as genetically engineered.  This leaves us with basically no choice.  You could of course only consume wild salmon and you would be safe.  I always recommend this, but I am also a realist and know that it’s not always possible to get wild salmon everywhere you go.  This salmon will be farmed in Panama and currently it would be the only salmon farmed in Panama so under current labeling laws it would have to state that.  This may be another way to tell if it is genetically modified.  Unless something is done to make sure that genetically modified salmon are labeled as so, I fear people will be consuming them without knowing it and without a real choice in the matter.

These fish are actually siblings. The one in the front is not genetically modified, but the one in the back is.

Genetically engineering food is a slippery slope.  It opens up the proverbial can of worms.  Putting these fish into our food supply is a dangerous act and could lead to problems down the road in the environment and in human health.  At this point we simply do not know enough to safely put this into our diets.  Much more research and time needs to be dedicated to finding out whether this is safe for long term human consumption.

7 Comments

Filed under Diet, Environmental Health, Public Health

4 Substances That Slow The Aging Process

Animation of the structure of a section of DNA...

Image via Wikipedia

Anti-aging is a large field in medicine.  Most of the diseases that human beings suffer from significantly increase as we age.  The theory is that if we can slow down the aging process we can live longer, more disease free lives.

Individual cells can live forever in the laboratory.  It’s been done.  This is a fascinating fact .  However, human beings are multicellular organisms and each cell does not live in isolation.  Further, cells that live forever in the laboratory live in ideal conditions.  They are not exposed to chemicals, hormones or undergo the same physical stresses that we do on a day to day basis.  But, the fact remains – a biological system, given the best possible scenario, can live forever.  So what if there were things we could do to slow the aging process?  We may not be able to live forever, but could we significantly increase our life spans?  The answer is yes.  There are several known substances that have a positive effect on the aging process that are available to everyone in supplement form.

Aging

Aging is a genetic process and a free radical induced process.  First, our genes are important.  It is helpful if Mom and Dad lived to be 100, but it is not essential.  Our DNA is stored in each cell in the nucleus.  Within this nucleus are the chromosomes that contain all of the DNA we were born with.  We get 23 chromosomes from each of our parents for a total of 46.  Every single cell in the body has an identical copy of these genes.  Each chromosome is shaped roughly like an X.  The ends of these chromosomes are called telomeres.  These telomeres are interesting in that they shrink as we age.  There are known substances that slow the shortening of these telomeres and therefore slow the aging process.

Free radical damage is also another way that people age.  Free radicals are potent molecules that bounce around in our bodies and break down our cells.  The theory is that the human body can only repair so much and this damage begins to accumulate over time causing us to age.  Now, it would make sense if we just avoided these free radicals wouldn’t it?  It would if we could.  Some of the most potent free radicals are nitrogen and oxygen which happen to make up 78% and 21% of the air we breath respectively.  Our diets are designed to help us fight this battle because we can consume antioxidants.  This class of nutrients fights free radical damage but it cannot win the war.  There are, however, compounds that are known to be powerful free radical scavengers and should be consumed on a more regular basis to slow the aging process.

Supplements That Slow Aging

Resveratrol

Resveratrol is a magnificent substance.  It is found in many things, but mainly in the skins of grapes.  It is also why red wine (in moderation) seems to have such great health benefits.  Resveratrol activates something called sirtuins.  Sirtuins are genes (known as SIRT1 though SIRT8) that function to repair breaks in our DNA strands that occur as we age.  These sirtuins also play a key role in maintaining the length of the telomeres discussed earlier.  Sirtuins also act to regulate inflammation in the body by inhibiting something called NF-KappaB.  This is a potent inflammatory enzyme that is responsible for many disease processes in human beings.  Resveratrol also decreases the production of adhesion molecules that attract inflammatory cells to our vessel walls and therefore inhibits atherosclerosis.  These adhesion molecules also promote the spread of cancer.  Taking resveratrol is easy but be sure when you buy a supplement it is of high quality and contains trans-resveratrol.  All other forms are useless to take.

Pterostilbene

This substance is very similar to resveratrol but it is found in blueberries.  It works with resveratrol in multiple complimentary mechanisms to limit NF-KappaB.  This is not available in supplement form, but you can certainly get it from eating as many blueberries as you’d like!

Quercetin

This magnificent substance protects against such diseases as asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and arthritis.  It has also been shown to help modulate blood sugar levels in diabetics and non-diabetics.  Blood sugar control is extremely important for longevity.  Quercetin acts by also inhibiting NF-KappaB.  This is also available in supplement form and is sometimes paired into one supplement with resveratrol.

Grape Seed Extract

This helps to regulate pro-inflammatory cytokine activity in fat cells.  It helps combat obesity and type II diabetes.  It also triggers genes for glucose uptake.  This assists cells in the absorption and removal of glucose from circulation.  This substance is very readily available in supplement form.

The research into longevity is quite interesting and there are many substances that can slow the aging process, not just the ones above.  Of course, you must also watch your diet and exercise to get all of the wonderful benefits that the above provide.  If you do those things and take these life lengthening substances you will live and longer and happier life.

1 Comment

Filed under Diet, Public Health

Take Our Quiz – 10 questions to find out what you know about the latest health news!

Take our quiz and let us know how many you were able to answer correctly.  If you don’t know the answer, search our blog for it!

1. Q: Discount brands of fish oil were recently found to contain what carcinogenic chemical?

2. Q: A recent study confirmed what treatment was beneficial for depression relief?

A. Massage
B. Chiropractic Adjustments
C. Acupuncture
D. Yoga

3. Q: What genetic disease was recently demonstrated to cause infertility in women?

A. Rheumatoid Arthritis
B. Celiac Disease
C. Cystic Fibrosis
D. Diabetes

4. Q: If you want to improve your brain function, what activity should you participate in?

5. Q: Drinking more than two sodas per week increases the risk of cancer of the…?

A. Pancreas
B. Colon
C. Breast
D. Skin

6. Q: Low levels of what neurotransmitter were found in babies who died of SIDS?

A. Dopamine
B. Glutamate
C. GABA
D. Serotonin

7. Q: Which nutrient was recently shown to be linked to Autism?

A. Vitamin C
B. Vitamin E
C. Vitamin D
D. Vitamin A

8. Q: A new field of study has showed that our genetic make up does not necessarily control our entire health picture.  What is the name of this field of study?

A. Genetics
B. Epigenetics
C. Hypogenetics
D. Engineered genetics

9. Q: Recent epidemiological studies show that the US currently ranks ____ in terms of obesity rates in the world.

A. 1st
B. 2nd
C. 3rd
D. 4th

10. Q: What type of diet is most favorable for reducing inflammation and losing weight?

A. Low fat
B. Low carb
C. Combo of low fat and low carb
D. Low protein

The answers to all of these questions are listed below.  You can find the articles from which they came here on our blog.  Search our tag cloud on our home page for the key words if you want!

ANSWERS: 1. PCBs, 2. C, 3. B, 4. Napping, 5. A, 6. D, 7. C, 8. B, 9. C, 10. B

Leave a comment

Filed under Public Health

Vital Signs – Study Finds Sharp Increase in Chronic Health Problems in Children – NYTimes.com

Childhood rates of chronic health problems, including obesity, asthma and learning disabilities, have doubled in just 12 years, a new study reports — to 1 in 4 children in 2006, up from 1 in 8 in 1994.

But the findings, which appeared in the Feb. 17 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, held a welcome surprise, the researchers said: many chronic conditions resolve themselves during childhood.

While half of the children followed from 2000 through 2006 had a chronic condition at some point during the period, only one-quarter did at the study’s end.

“There is much to be hopeful about,” said the paper’s lead author, Dr. Jeanne Van Cleave, a pediatrician at the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Boston. “We’re now wondering what’s going on with those kids, and why a chronic condition resolves in one child while another child may not experience the same thing.”

The study analyzed data from the government’s National Longitudinal Surveys that included three nationally representative groups of children ages 2 through 8. Besides obesity and asthma, the scientists looked at allergies, heart trouble, impaired vision and hearing, and behavior and learning problems like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Though the researchers did not study the reasons for the increases, they suggested several possible factors: improvements in screening and diagnosis that led to more reporting of the chronic conditions; the rise in childhood obesity, which can lead to other problems; and the increasing survival of premature babies and children with cancer and other diseases, who are more likely to have chronic health problems.

via Vital Signs – Study Finds Sharp Increase in Chronic Health Problems in Children – NYTimes.com.

Dr. Court’s Comments:

To me, it is not a surprise that these chronic health conditions are on the rise.  Steadily over the last twenty years children have become more sedentary and diets have become poorer.

This study did not hypothesize why these conditions might be on the rise, but the dangerous combination I mentioned above is as good as any.

The link between diet and obesity is an easy one.  Children are eating more and more processed and refined foods which are loaded with bad carbohydrates and contain very little actual nutrition.  The asthma/diet link is also an easy connection.  Many children consume copious amounts of foods they are allergic to.  Routinely, I place children on elimination diets to rid them of any possible allergies.  The likely culprits are dairy and wheat, but others may exist.

The link between diet and learning disabilities is also there.  Elimination of offending foods often results in better behavior and increased concentration at school.  Also, there must be more activity for these children.  Active children are much less likely to suffer from ADHD and other similar problems.  When I treat children with ADHD I always recommend that they child get into some kind of organized activity.  If they don’t, they end up with too much “screen time.”  That is, they spend too much time in front of the TV or computer.  This is very detrimental to their brain development.

If we want to change this disturbing trend we have to get our children better nutrition and get them active.  Parents must understand that these conditions don’t develop because they are “unlucky” or have “bad” genes.  These are controllable and need to be addressed with corrective measures and not covered up with drugs that only relieve symptoms.

Leave a comment

Filed under Brain Health, Public Health

SIDS babies have low serotonin levels, study finds

Babies who died from sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, show lower amounts of the brain chemical serotonin, says a study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Levels of serotonin, which regulate a baby’s sleep, heart rate and breathing, were 26 percent lower in the brainstems of babies who died of SIDS than in those of babies who died of other causes, the study says.

Researchers believe a low level of serotonin may be the “fundamental abnormality” in babies who die from SIDS. In the brainstem, serotonin acts as an alarm system, waking up a baby when breathing is disrupted. Babies without it can be unaware that they are not breathing enough oxygen, causing them to die in their sleep, according to the study.

The study also found that infants with insufficient serotonin also had low levels of the enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase, which is needed to make serotonin. Levels of that were 22 percent lower in SIDS babies.

The next phase of the study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, will focus on why some babies lack enough tryptophan hydroxylase to produce serotonin, said the study’s author, Dr. Hannah Kinney, who is affiliated with Children’s Hospital Boston in Massachusetts.

There is no test to determine which infants may be at risk for SIDS. Kinney told CNN that researchers believe they are decades away from discovering a physical marker of a brainstem problem that could be identified in the blood.

To avoid the risk of SIDS, she and other doctors recommend that parents make sure that babies can breathe uninhibited during sleep: Place babies on their backs to avoid their rolling over, don’t over-bundle the baby, and don’t leave loose bedding or stuffed toys in the crib.

Via: cnn.com

Dr. Court’s Comments

This information is truly intriguing.  We routinely check the levels of serotonin of adults in our clinic.  We have not, until this point, checked the levels of babies.  I could be done because it is a simple urine and saliva test.  I also wonder what the implications of the mother’s diet will be when this is studied further.  I don’t think it is a large leap to assume that mother’s deficient in serotonin might also have babies that are deficient in serotonin.  Serotonin is made in the body from the amino acid tryptophan.  This is then converted into 5-hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP, which is directly converted into serotonin.  This 5-HTP is a supplement that is very easily taken.  There is no research thus far into how low levels of available 5-HTP in the mother may correlate into SIDS in a child, but I will be interested to see how it plays out.  It stands to reason that low levels in the mother may translate into low levels in the baby.  This, in turn, may increase the likelihood of SIDS.

2 Comments

Filed under Brain Health, Diet, Public Health

Why Your DNA Isn’t Your Destiny

Generally speaking, most people believe that what is encoded in your DNA is unchangeable.  If Mom or Dad had a certain condition, high cholesterol for example, that sons and daughters were most likely going to have high cholesterol.  Just watch any commercial for a cholesterol lowering drug and you’ll hear how these conditions are genetic suggesting that it “isn’t your fault” and there’s “nothing you can do about it,” except take their drug of course.  What they don’t want you to think is that, yes, there is something you can do about it, other than take their statin.

A new field of genetics has emerged.  It is called epigenetics.  This field of study has to do with the switches on the genes rather than the genes themselves.  This switches tell the genes to turn on or turn off and how loudly to express their information.  So, although you may have a gene for high cholesterol, it does not mean it has to be expressed.  Perhaps if you ate healthy and did not fill your body with DNA altering chemicals that are so common in our food supply then maybe you could avoid high cholesterol.  Genetics loads the gun but the environment pulls the trigger. This statement is a perfect example of epigenetics.  While we are all born with a certain code, we are also born with switches that tell that code what to do.  It is the environmental input (food, diet, exercise, etc.) that tells the epigenes to turn on or off the bad genes in our system.

Dr. Mercola has some great commentary on this.  Read below for his take on this:

Epigenetics is probably the most important biological discovery since DNA. And it is turning the biological sciences upside down.

Now that we realize our fate is not sealed at the twining of our double helix, we avail ourselves to a whole new world of possibilities. There are things we can do to change our genetics, and therefore our health.

But beware — these changes can be good or bad. It works both ways.

You can improve your genetics or you can damage it.

In fact, you ARE changing your genetics daily and perhaps even hourly from the foods you eat, the air you breathe, and even by the thoughts you think.

You are the “caretaker” of your genetic roadmap.

The problem is, once you understand that there’s something controlling your genes — that they don’t control themselves but are controlled by epigenetic coding that tells them to be expressed or not expressed — which is completely controlled by your environment and lifestyle — it just blows everything out of the water!

For many years we were secure in our beliefs that, no matter what we did to damage ourselves in terms of poor lifestyle choices, it only affected us. Our children would be born with a genetic clean slate.

But now we are learning that this is not true, and epigenetic changes can be passed down for many generations. Each of us has far greater responsibility than we ever imagined!

In the words of Dawson Church, author of The Genie in Your Genes: Epigenetic Medicine and the New Biology of Intention:

“It’s not what we don’t know that hurts us–it’s what we think we know that isn’t true that hurts us.”

“The code imprinted in our DNA, the one thing we thought was for certain, is just waiting for direction by us to change, creating a civilization that brings health, happiness, and vibrancy in ways in which the current medical establishment only dreams of.

Your Genetics Are Malleable — Like Clay

Epigenetic “malleability” helps to explain why identical twins become distinct as they age.

Why does one identical twin develop cancer and the other remain healthy when they have identical DNA? Why does one twin become obese and another remain lean?

As you age, your genome does not change but your epigenome changes dramatically, especially during critical periods of life, such as adolescence. It is influenced by physical and emotional stresses — how you respond to everything that happens in your environment, from climate change to childhood abuse.

The secret is in the methyl groups that overlie the DNA molecule, which is the realm of the epigenome.

When a gene is turned off epigenetically, the DNA has usually been “methylated.” When methyl groups adhere to a segment of DNA, they inhibit the gene’s response. Methylation-gone-wrong is now suspected in autism, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

You do not manifest disease merely by a defective gene, but by your epigenome. In other words, whether or not you develop disease is determined by how your genome is being directed to express itself. There are also “master genes” that can switch on and off clusters of other genes.

Scientists have discovered it is easier to make epigenetic changes than to fix damaged genes. Your epigenome is easier to mess up — but it’s also easier to fix.

That’s good news — you aren’t doomed by bad genes!

Epigenetic therapy, which is essentially the curing of disease by epigenetic manipulation, involves changing the instructions to your cells — reactivating desirable genes and deactivating undesirable ones. This emerging field, now in its infancy, may represent the future of medicine.

Mind Over Matter

Just as your epigenome controls the expression of disease — your mind controls your epigenome.

Therefore, your mind controls your healing.

The science of epigenetics is now beginning to explain things like placebo effect and spontaneous healing, which lacked a scientific basis until now.

Epigenetics literally means “above the genes.” And what is above the genes?

Your mind!

One of the scientists on the forefront of mind-body biology is Bruce Lipton. Thanks to Dr. Lipton and other leading voices, the power of your mind is finally gaining the attention it deserves.

Your mind has the power to create or cure disease because your thoughts affect the expression of your genes. Today’s “New Biology” is overlapping with consciousness science and quantum physics, and it’s showing us that we have masterful control over our own lives.

Energy Medicine and Genetics Converge

You are a being of energy, and as such, you have an electromagnetic component to every biological process. Every thought or feeling produces a complex shift in the biochemical make-up of your organs.

According to Blair Justice, PhD, author of Who Gets Sick, genes account for only 35 percent of longevity while diet, exercise, stress and other environmental factors are the major reasons people live longer.

Dawson Church cites the following impressive statistics in his book, The Genie in Your Genes: Epigenetic Medicine and the New Biology of Intention:

  • Heart surgery patients who have a strong social support network and spiritual practice have a mortality rate 1/7th of those who do not.
  • Studies show that meditating for just 30 minutes per day can boost your mood as much as antidepressants.

Older people with positive attitudes have a 23        percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and a 55 percent lower risk from all other causes.

Clearly, your beliefs, thoughts, and intentions have a much stronger affect on your life than your genes do.

Mysteries of Meridian Tapping Technique Finally Revealed?

Energy psychology techniques such as Meridian Tapping Technique (MTT) and acupuncture are powerful therapies that work with your body’s own electromagnetic system to produce healing. I have been a huge fan of MTT for many years.

Epigenetics helps explain why MTT works so well.

MTT has a direct affect on your genes through your body’s energy field, on a cellular level. By altering the signals to your energy meridians, you can directly influence your cells by affecting their genetic expression. In his book, The Genie in Your Genes, Church provides a very compelling and convincing model for how energy medicine works.

Would you be interested in a technique that allows you to positively impact your genes all by yourself, in 40 seconds or less?

That would be MTT.

If your genes are so mutable that they can change from moment to moment in response to your thoughts and feelings, then anything you can do to create a positive feeling state can profoundly, and immediately, improve your health.

Has science finally discovered the link between your body’s energy field (aka, prana or qi) and disease?

Perhaps!

In order to answer that question, more research is certainly needed into the connections between thought, quantum physics, energy, consciousness theory, and healing.

This area is one of the hottest topics in science today.

Last year, the National Institutes of Health announced it would invest $190 million to accelerate epigenetic research. The list of illnesses to be studied in the resulting grants reveals the scope of this emerging field: cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, asthma, kidney disease, glaucoma, muscular dystrophy and more.

Mind Your Thoughts

Since genetics is now intimately linked to mind and consciousness, the key to healing ultimately lies in controlling your beliefs and emotions.

Bottom line: mind your thoughts!

We’ve always taught our children the importance of controlling their behavior. But maybe it’s time to focus more on teaching them how to control what they think and feel, since beliefs and emotions are what trigger the expression of specific DNA.

Behavior will naturally follow.

Even more importantly, what you think and feel may affect the DNA of your children, your grandchildren, and their children.

I can’t say it better than Dawson Church:

“The code imprinted in our DNA, the one thing we thought was for certain, is just waiting for direction by us to change, creating a civilization that brings health, happiness, and vibrancy in ways in which the current medical establishment only dreams of.
Link to Dr. Mercola’s Site

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Pharma, Diet, Environmental Health, Public Health