You have probably heard the saying, “you are what you eat?” It’s not just a phrase that doctors and dietitians use to scare you into eating healthier. It’s a true statement! Think about it this way: there are certain foods that, after eating them, make some people feel sluggish throughout their day. For many, it’s sugary foods that tend to give us momentary satisfaction before taking us on an afternoon excursion to slump-ville.
While it’s no secret that food can affect how we feel, were you aware that what you eat can actually change your DNA? What types of foods you put in your body can change your genes and DNA — the phrase ‘you are what you eat’ has never felt so real. Scientists are continuing to learn more and more about the effects nutrition can have on your genes, but it’s been pretty widely known among holistic health gurus for years.
In one of our recent blog posts, we briefly discussed epigenetics and how it is related to exercise. To summarize, scientists have revealed that our genes play a significant role in affecting how healthy and fit our muscles and bodies become. In this blog, we’re going to further expand upon the epigenetics phenomena, but this time discuss how it is related to nutrition.
Epigenetics: A Brief Refresher
If you didn’t have a chance to catch our last blog, we highly suggest you do! While epigenetics may sound like a chemical mutation that gave a superhero villain the powers they use for evil, epigenetics is a branch of study that explores genes and how we can alter their expression. In the simplest terms, it is a study of what flips some genes on and off, and nutrition is something that can alter the epigenetic state of the genome leading to dramatic deprogramming or reprogramming of large numbers of genes in metabolic pathways and physiological systems.
How Can You Change Your DNA With Nutrition
Our diets can alter the epigenetic state of our genomes, which can turn large numbers of genes on or off. This has a great effect on the incidence of late-stage, long-latency, health diseases such as type two diabetes, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, and some cancers. Nutritional intervention is a possible way to reprogram your DNA to promote health and prevent disease. It gives new life to the saying, ‘you are what you eat’.
There are many studies underway connecting specific compounds in food to genetic changes in our bodies. One particular matter that is being studied is the role of nutrients on brain health. Just like exercise, nutrients can also revamp various aspects of brain plasticity, which in turn influences our behavior. This expands further than just feeling “hungry”. It is a real connection between our diet and our mental health. Recent animal studies have revealed that certain nutrients like polyunsaturated fatty acids and polyphenols can stimulate brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) production and the birth of new neurons, a necessary factor for learning and memory. So your smart diet choices can, in effect, make you smarter!
How Diet and Exercise Are Connected
As discussed in our previous blog about epigenetics, exercise modulates genes involved in energy metabolism, insulin response, and inflammation. The same genes are modulated by dietary nutrients and both are stimulators of BDNF. Together, the two bring energy procurement to the brain, improving both neuronal function and brain plasticity. Keep in mind, these two don’t work separately, but in tandem! For example, combining regular exercise with a DHA-enriched diet can help enhance cognitive function and can protect the brain inflammation and cell death. Even when following a diet that is rich in saturated fats, physical activity can help mitigate the decline in brain plasticity caused by a poor diet.
Following a poor nutrition regimen and exercise lifestyle has a significant effect on our genes, which get passed down from generation to generation. So that old saying “you are what you eat” may need a bit of a revamp. Perhaps, “you are what your parents ate” is a more fitting saying. With all of this in mind, remember that the better we are about the food we eat, the better we can preserve not only your health, but that of the generations to come in the future.
We know that epigenetics, diet, and exercise make up a sophisticated science that’s not easily understandable. But it is important to know that what you eat and the amount of exercise you do can change your genes. That’s why at QuickHit Fitness Labs, it is our goal to ensure you are on the right track when it comes to fitness and nutrition. By providing science-backed training method and expert-formulated nutritional guidelines we have helped many people become stronger and healthier. If you are interested in learning more, contact us or schedule a free consultation!