Tag Archives: nutrition

Why all of the Variability? Genetic Expression and Individual Response

IMG_4197For the most part, you are everything you are because your DNA says so.  Your DNA is like a soft piece of clay that continually is moulded into something different based on what it is told to do.  We are all human but our DNA is not all the same.  Our eyes, hair and skin are different colour, we are different shapes, sizes and personalities; some have diabetes, heart disease, chronic pain, different basal metabolic rates, high blood pressure, and thyroid problems.  Some have arthritis, cancer, lupus, methylation issues, depression, anxiety, ADHD, food sensitivities, and gall bladder problems.  In short we have disease and discomfort.  Everyone has issues.


Are these problems due to chance?  To some it would appear so.  When you take a step back and look at the bigger picture of all influencers affecting your DNA, it becomes a much clearer picture.  With genetic research we have an entire universe open to our eyes that we knew was there all along, we just didn’t know what it did and still don’t know to what extent.  We are now getting a clearer picture of what genes are responsible for what processes.


Just what are genes, chromosomes and DNA?  Simply put DNA is what carries your genetic information in each of your body’s cells.  It is made up of continuing pairs of just four different bases.  A gene is a section of DNA.  Genes are the hotspots we zero in on that code for all of your body’s processes, from diseases like Huntington’s and cancer to cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia.  Genes “express” themselves in various ways, from hair and eye colour, to instructions on how to construct proteins from the 20 different amino acids in your body.  These proteins go on to include themselves in various tasks in the body, like a receptor in a membrane to taking part in a biochemical reaction for a cellular process like making energy.  There are an estimated 20,000-25,000 genes that code for protein synthesis alone.  Genes are packaged in bundles called chromosomes, of which humans have 23 pairs.


Now, about the word “expressed”.   Gene expression is the process whereby that gene’s information is used in the synthesis of a functional gene product.

Our genes get expressed in various ways.  Some are obvious like curly hair or how tall you are.  Genes can also express themselves in other ways based on what is presented to them from our diet or your environment.  We are now finding that some genes are able to recognize omega 3 fatty acids and correspondingly have a favorable effect on heart disease whereas some people are missing this gene response.  Fat, protein and carbohydrates all influence genes to respond in various ways.  Vitamins and minerals have the same effect on genes.  A deficiency in a mineral can cause a gene to respond and sometimes the level of that mineral in one person’s body needs to be higher than the next person because of a difference in their genetic makeup.  Heavy metal exposure and other environmental exposures can also have an effect on how your genes respond.


The problem is that our DNA isn’t 100% the same.  When our cells duplicate the chromosomes in preparation for cell division, there may be errors in exactly duplicating all of the DNA.  These SNIPS or single nucleotide polymorphisms are minor errors in the new DNA strand that may prevent the gene from working properly.  Some genes therefore do not respond the same in all people.  Some genes remain off until triggered to turn on for some reason.  These SNIPs can partly explain the difference in response between two people when taking the same drug,  or needing different doses of the same drug.  It can explain why one person takes a sleeping pill and feels nothing and someone else takes ¼ of the same tablet and sleeps all day.  This leads to obvious arguments as to how badly designed one of the studies was or an issue with the randomization procedure being incorrect.  Perhaps more correctly would be the observation that two different geographical areas were used in each study. Maybe these two areas have inherent differences in their DNA.  It also leads to almost anyone basically being able to hunt down some sort of study to back up what they are saying.  The assumption that a one size fits all medical model may cover everyone begins to fall apart when we look at the way our genes look at the world. It also explains how different systems in the body interact together rather than individual independent systems.

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Here’s How You Should Eat & Live

Another Blog, Another “Here’s How You Should Eat & Live” Sermon

photo credit: notyourstandard via photopin cc

photo credit: notyourstandard via photopin cc

It’s hard to go a day without getting a lecture from someone on what you should or shouldn’t eat; if you should take this supplement or not or how much of it and how often you should have it. Continue reading

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Nutraceuticals: What You Need To Know

photo credit: katerha via photopin cc

photo credit: katerha via photopin cc

What is a nutraceutical? This term that sparks so much debate? A term that is used by some practitioners and scorned by others. Directly translated, it is a combination of nutrition and pharmaceutical. For some it means herbal products, supplements, minerals and nutrients. It’s a mish mash of something more than just vitamins. It is often a blend of synergistic components that strictly speaking, can help you live longer.

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Why is it becoming easier to gain weight?


There is no point giving statistics anymore on the incidence of obesity, the effects of obesity, the millions of dollars spent to eliminate obesity, or the cost obesity has on everyone.  These statistics are merely valuable for trivia at best and really don’t result in anyone becoming fearful for their lives and going off to lose weight.  The fact is that each generation finds it easier to put on weight than the last.  It is common to tell someone they are overweight simply because they eat more than they burn off;  that someone is overweight because they are lazy.  Hmmmm….logic would lead us to believe then that laziness is a relatively new human trait that progressively becomes worse with each generation, leading to more overweight people.

Of course this type of thinking only results in people incorrectly thinking that their weight problem happened 100% because of their fault.  True, weight loss occurs in humans when we change what and how much we eat and increase our activity level – it is pretty difficult to disprove that.  If you live a healthier lifestyle you should lose weight and keep a healthy weight.  But why is it easier now to put pounds back on when we lose our focus for just a few days?  Is this what happened say, 2000 years ago? 10,000 years ago?  Were we all sitting around the TV watching weight loss programs back then scratching our heads as to how we got so big?  Obesity is not new to us, but the prevalence of it has never been higher.  It becomes clear that it is nothing short of cruel to make a person believe that all of us would be the same weight if we all ate the same and exercised the same and that the reason they are overweight is negligence on their behalf.

So what is the difference today compared to back then?

ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS  One thing that we are constantly exposed to from conception onward in this part of the world  are insults in the environment that have adverse effects on our hormones.  Thyroid, estrogens and androgens.  One of the biggest increases in this category is from bisphenol A (BPA).  This chemical is found everywhere in our daily lives.  From the lining of metal cans, to your plastic containers containing your drinking water, the plastic tea bag holding your healthy dose of herbal tea, food storage containers (that you microwave), even the air you are breathing – all contain this chemical.  It has been proven that exposure to BPA causes obesity.  It is a potent imitator of estrogen in the body and alters glucose and lipid metabolism.

FOOD SENSITIVITIES  Certainly one thing around today that wasn’t around thousands of years ago is the type of food available.  It was postulated in the first half of the last century that food sensitivity was responsible for obesity.  We now know the exact mechanism that happens when we eat an inflammatory food and how it results in fat cells increasing in both size and number.  Genetically modified food that the body was not evolved to recognize is one source.  The reliance we have in this part of the world on this type of food is staggering.  Because of the dominance in the market with this type of thinking from a handful of companies, we consume more and more of this kind of food.  To ad insult to injury, the same foods we are allergic to cause an addiction to the same food and cravings occur for the food that increases  weight.  Not many of us have an addiction to say kale, or carrots.  We do though often have addictions to carbs, which when ingested create substances in the body that are related to opiods.  This includes wheat gluten and milk protein (also a relatively new introduction to humans) as well as refined sugar.

REFINED SUGAR  Another new addition to our diets as humans is this much hated and loved set of molecules.  Consuming these causes a spike in insulin levels to deal with the sugar load in your blood.  Hopefully this spike will drop the blood sugar level quickly.  Unfortunately the resulting dive in blood sugar and the overcompensation of insulin dumped into the blood causes a low sugar level in the blood that you are chasing all day.  You eat more sugar, you get more insulin, your sugar drops… do you see a pattern.  This helps to contribute to insulin sensitivity.  It is like a wave on the ocean that you can’t stop.  Fructose is one of these sugars.  Although this sugar doesn’t result in the up and down levels in the blood just described, it does get metabolized into lipids and results in abdominal weight gain.

STRESS  Anyone out there with no stress in their lives, please stand up.  Now that we are all sitting down, you are at least comforted by the fact that you are not alone.  You have bills, you have relationships, you have deaths of loved ones, you have job issues, you have traffic, you have kids, you have stress.  True, stress has always been there with humans, it’s just the constant nature of stress we deal with that is different.  So is the type of stress.  Cavemen and women had stress when they left the cave to get food and not get eaten themselves.  They weren’t late for work, checking their visa bills on their iPhone at 2:00 AM, breaking down on the freeway taking their kids to soccer, or paying for their college education.  Stress increases cortisol, and constant stress keeps cortisol elevated more than it should, cortisol stores your fat.

Other things we have the ability to chose but are so prevalent in our world are trans fatty acids, lack of dietary fiber, artificial sweeteners, lack of breast feeding, high caloric diets, lack of frequent small meals, grazing, late bedtimes, lack of sleep, prevalence of acid lowering drugs that prevent digestion from fully occurring, lack of exercise, all contribute to weight gain.

It’s not totally your fault you crept up a few pounds year by year, it’s not your fault it takes more work to lose weight than your friend of the same age, but it is still up to you to decide if you want to remain overweight or not.  We know how to lose weight, it’s just harder for some more than others.  Your genes are different than your friend’s.  It means they have blonde hair and you have brown, is can also mean you lose weight with more effort than them.  But you can still do it.

Take Care









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