Everyone is stuck with the genes they’re born with, right? Researchers at McMaster and McGill universities in Montreal have discovered that have discovered that the strongest genetic marker for heart disease can actually be modified by eating a lot of fruit and raw vegetables. Their findings are the result of one of the largest studies on the interaction between genes, diet and cardiovascular disease ever conducted. The research was published in the latest issue of the journal “PLoS Medicine.”
Vegetables affect genetic risk in study
Scientists have long known that people who carry variants of a gene designated as 9p21 have an increased risk for heart disease. The McMaster and McGill researchers studied more than 27,000 people of European, South Asian, Chinese, Latin American and Arab descent. They analyzed the effect their diets had on the 9p21 gene. They were surprised to discover that individuals with the high risk gene who ate a lot of fruits and vegetables had a lower risk of heart disease, similar to those not carrying the 921p variant. They plan more research to try and find out exactly why.
How vegetables bolster the immune system
In another study, researchers at The Babraham Institute in Cambridge, England found scientific evidence that green vegetables deliver a chemical signal that promotes a healthy immune system. In experiments with mice, eating green vegetables ensured the proper function of a type of white cell in the gut and the skin known as intra-epithelial lymphocytes (IELs), part of the body’s front line defense against infections and a key factor in wound repair.
IELs form a microbial defense network beneath the epithelial cells, a barrier protecting the inner and outer surfaces of the gut. The amount of IELs present depends on levels of a protein in the epithelial cells called the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR). Earlier studies suggested that eating cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower) can yield a compound leading to the production of AhRs.
To further explore that link, researchers fed mice a synthetic diet with vitamins and minerals, but lacking that key cruciferous compound. As a result, the mice had reduced AhR activity and a significant loss of IELs. When the researchers intentionally damaged the intestinal surface in mice on the synthetic diet, the damage wasn’t repaired as quickly as in those animals with normal AhR activity.
How to eat your vegetables
Further study is needed, and it would be unscientific to extrapolate the data straight across to humans, but these two studies are unique in that they offer both a molecular and genetic basis for eating your vegetables. Don’t limit your consumption to cruciferous vegetables. Include red, green, orange, yellow and purple vegetables to maximize your sources of antioxidants.
For example, Carrots, peppers, pumpkins, summer squash and tomatoes are all full of beta carotene and potassium. Your body uses beta carotene to strengthen the immune system, resist colds and skin disorders, improve night blindness and day vision, and slow the aging process.
Onions, garlic, chives, leeks and scallions help decrease high cholesterol and atherosclerosis. Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, radicchio, chard and silverbeet are rich in Vitamin C, B Vitamins, calcium, iron and magnesium. B Vitamins improve your immune system, boost the metabolism, and help maintain healthy skin and muscles.