Can the food we eat affect our genes?

Yes it can, and that is great news since it shows we are not simply a result of our genes! Instead, genes are flexible entities that can be switched on and off – a mechanism called Epigenetics.

Certain dietary compounds are known to control these ‘switches’, affecting many health conditions such as cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases, reproductive and neurological disorders and even cancer.

Foods rich in the polyphenols curcumin (found in turmeric), epigallocatechin gallate (present in green tea), resveratrol (present in grapes and berries) and isothiocyanates (found in broccoli and kale) are the key to keeping our genes happy. These antioxidant compounds share the ability to reduce cancer growth and promote longevity. On the other hand, a diet high in sugar and processed foods negatively affects genes linked to cardiovascular health and memory.

Also, a diet rich in bad fats (mainly man-made trans fats) can switch off the gene for leptin, a hormone that regulates our appetite, making us feel hungrier so we consequently eat more. Our dietary choices do matter, and good choices equal happy genes. That’s what I call ‘happygenetics’.”

By Vera Martins

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