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Biotech China Science

What You Eat Affects Your Genes 249

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-are-what-you-eat dept.
purkinje writes "Tiny bits of genetic material, called microRNAs, can make their way from the food you eat into your blood stream, and change how your genes are expressed, according to a new study. A team of Chinese scientists found tiny bits of white rice microRNA floating around in people's blood after a meal. When they looked at what was happening on a cellular level, they found that the microRNAs were changing gene expression, decreasing levels of a receptor that filters out LDL (bad) cholesterol. When the scientists gave mice both rice and a chemical to block the microRNAs, their levels of that receptor returned to normal — showing that the microRNAs weren't just swimming through the blood stream, but acting on genes in the animals' cells."
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What You Eat Affects Your Genes

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  • by jimpop (27817) * on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @07:22PM (#37474680) Homepage Journal

    ... Jeans

  • no problem (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I eat lot of junk food, so only my junk dna is affected. And my sweatpants don't fit anymore. But that's ok; my virtual girlfriend still says I look good.

  • Truly Remarkable (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sackvillian (1476885) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @07:35PM (#37474780)

    This is amazing and one more nail in the coffin of our long-held dogma of genes being passed down from two parents, expressed but otherwise unaltered, then passed down to our children, all with just a little bit of mixing and mutation. From epigenetic modifications, to massive variances of stomach flora even between relatives, now to food's ability to affect our very gene expression... we've got some serious reconsidering to do about what makes us who we are.

    Very cool.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @08:06PM (#37474984) Journal
      How long has it been since that was actually dogma outside of intro-level stuff(I ask by way of honest inquiry, in case somebody is familiar with the recent history of the field, not rhetorical attack)?

      I am given to understand that it was at one point; but friends-of-friends in the university lab scene tell me that, while still considered to be largely ill-understood, the study of epigenetics and other subtle environment/genome interactions was a very hot area, with lots of exploratory work being done.
    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @08:11PM (#37475034) Homepage

      It might be your long held dogma, but people in the field have long known about epigenetic changes to DNA and it's implications. We've known about mitochondrial DNA for decades, same with DNA methylation. The microRNAs are fairly new and an open field but it has been realized that the "Central Dogma" (DNA -> RNA -> Protein) has been barking up the wrong tree for some time.

      TFA is interesting and rather unexpected. Small, unprotected RNA molecules aren't "supposed" to survive long outside. If this is true, if it can be repeated it might explain some of the more confusing relationships between diet, growth, cancer and other diseases. The nice thing is that this experiment should be 'relatively' easy to replicate (at least from the detail one gets in TFA - they're not using anything all that unique, weird or expensive).

      Since it is such a potentially high profile experiment, the cynic in me wonders why it didn't get published in a higher profile journal. Of course, not every important discovery is published in Nature or Science, but one wonders.

      • by prograde (1425683)

        Since it is such a potentially high profile experiment, the cynic in me wonders why it didn't get published in a higher profile journal. Of course, not every important discovery is published in Nature or Science, but one wonders.

        I hate to nit-pick, but it was published in Nature [nature.com]

    • by he-sk (103163)

      But the title is wrong/hyperbole though, isn't it?

      It's not genes which are affected, but the function they regulate in the body.

    • You're assuming the article is true. Chinese scientists have a reputation [thelancet.com] for making [rsc.org] stuff [nature.com] up [upiasia.com].
  • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @07:40PM (#37474812) Homepage Journal

    This is why we have the phrase 'You are what you eat," after all.

    • Re:Duh... (Score:5, Funny)

      by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@gmail. c o m> on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @08:21PM (#37475108) Journal

      I'm going to start eating cats, to make me faster and cuter. I will become the king of Quake 3, and girls.

      Sorry kittehs but I must consume you for your positive attributes.

    • Ah, that explains why most cultures frown on cannibalism so much - I guess it results in a stack overflow somewhere in the universe.

      • More a problem of the stack growing into code. Remember, kids, we're old, old, old designs, we don't have fancy stuff like endless ram.

    • by ignavus (213578)

      This is why we have the phrase 'You are what you eat," after all.

      Unless you are an autophage, in which case you eat what you are.

  • In ten years we could have scientifically proven "homeopathic" remedies.

    Gene-doping through diet manipulation. Lose weight, increase brain function, increase blood flow while reducing blood pressure, even creating or discovering new gene functions. Perhaps a mutation that gives blood plasma a lubricating effect that prevents arterial plaque.

    Or, for the vain men (and women) in the audience, truly reversing hair loss.

    • You're confusing homeopathy with naturopathy (and other "alternative medicines"). http://xkcd.com/765/ [xkcd.com]
    • by hedwards (940851)

      Except for a small portion of the populace, all of those things are better controlled via diet and exercise. Ultimately, if you're too lazy to take care of yourself, perhaps you shouldn't expect to live to be a hundred.

      • by syousef (465911)

        Except for a small portion of the populace, all of those things are better controlled via diet and exercise. Ultimately, if you're too lazy to take care of yourself, perhaps you shouldn't expect to live to be a hundred.

        Legitimate question: Do you really want that last 20 years? There are healthy prosperous people at 80+ but they are the exception not the rule. Is that time you spend in your youth keeping healthy going to be repaid at the end of your life with extended misery?

  • Just a side note, a common preservative Sodium(Natrium) Benzoate (NaC6H5CO2) used in most foodstuff is long known to cause alterations in human DNA. For example, almost all brands of ketchups use this preservative.

    Wikipedia: Sodium Benzoate: Safety & Health [wikipedia.org]

    Diet Coke to drop additive in DNA damage fear [dailymail.co.uk]
  • How long do these changes last?

    If this were a permanent change, one would wonder why all those Southeast Asian people who consume white rice regularly don't end up with high LDL counts counts and subsequently a high per-capita rate of heart attacks.

    Is this a short-lived change, like until the affected cells undergo Mitosis again (~30 mins.), or is there another food in tyhese people's diets that counteracts this genetic change?

    • by Dunbal (464142) *
      There's more to it than that because many other cultures also consume white rice (eg, latin americans) as a dietary staple and do not have the same MI rate as east asians.
    • by lkcl (517947)

      actually, there are people in China who are becoming allergic to rice.... which turns out to be the mono-crop mass-produced Genetically-Modified variety that is, thanks to its lower price, not only making it difficult to re-establish native varieties, but is also killing people in the process. well, i guess that solves several problems all at once, then, doesn't it.

      • by chooks (71012)
        The book "The Windup Girl" takes this idea of GM foods and their impact in the future to an extreme end. Its a great read (Sci Fi -- it won the Hugo and Nebula award). Definitely worth the read if you enjoy post-apocalyptic stories based on crop gene manipulation....
  • such a trite, annoying phrase... yet, even more annoyingly, it damn well turns out to be true! i remember seeing this mural, done by some ayurvedic indian guru thousands of years ago. it depicted a tiger mauling its prey violently, and eating it. underneath was an obese man, mouth open and wide-eyed in the same expression as the tiger. i thought at the time, "yes very interesting" and really didn't give it much more thought. yet here we are, in 2011, and "modern science" now backs up "ancient wisdom" y

  • so tell me... why is Genetic Modification of food allowed? what's a direct consequence of introducing or removing genes from food that we eat? (answer: RTA). so how are we to know that Genetic Modified food will not have unintended consequences, as a direct result of the removal or insertion of genes that would otherwise never have gotten there?

    it's been shown years ago that gut bacteria adopt the genetically-modified soya bean genes into their own RNA. what happens when someone decides to "leverage" foo

    • by ErikZ (55491) *

      Well then do it. Create a drug producing plant and get it to cross pollinate purely by chance.

      Put up or shut up.

    • by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @09:40PM (#37475620) Homepage Journal

      so tell me... why is Genetic Modification of food allowed?

      Selective breeding over generations is genetic modification, and it's been going on for the past four millennia. Did you mean " recombinant genetic modification"?

      what happens when someone decides to "leverage" food crops to produce drugs, and those accidentally cross-pollinate with the world's food supply?

      Patent lawsuits like Monsanto v. Schmeiser.

      • Selective breeding over generations is genetic modification, and it's been going on for the past four millennia. Did you mean " recombinant genetic modification"?

        The phrase "genetically modified" means genetically engineered. No one uses the term to mean selective breeding.

        • by Rich0 (548339)

          Selective breeding over generations is genetic modification, and it's been going on for the past four millennia. Did you mean " recombinant genetic modification"?

          The phrase "genetically modified" means genetically engineered. No one uses the term to mean selective breeding.

          Uh, selective breeding is engineering. :)

          However, everybody knows what you meant. The parent's point is that the only difference between modern and ancient techniques for food modification is the speed with which it happens. That in itself does have some level of impact I'll grant, but then again our ability to detect disease is also greatly increased - for all we know half the problems with eating modern foods is that ancient farmers selectively bred foods that kill you over time and had no way to tell t

    • so tell me... why is Genetic Modification of food allowed?

      Because corporations rule the world and they don't a fuck about anything other than the next few quarters' profits.

    • Well, those genes ain't some sort of "plastic" that our body can't use, they grow in a more or less normal organism, so you get some jellyfish with your corn or whatever.

      In a nutshell, I'm more scared of trans fats than genecrap. Though, given the choice, I could do without either.

  • Glagnar's Human Rinds [theinfosphere.org]. Now with flavor.
  • I wonder if this will have relevant effects on research into addiction to nicotine and other drugs? Such as the addiction to those drugs possibly being written into our genes?

  • by Sooner Boomer (96864) <sooner@boomr.gmail@com> on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @08:35PM (#37475214) Journal

    A Fat Man's Prayer:

    Lord, my soul is ripped with riot,
    Incited by my wicked diet.
    "We are what we eat!" said a wise old man;
    And Lord, if that's true, I'm a garbage can.
    I want to rise on Judgment Day, that's plain;
    But at my present weight, I'll need a crane.
    So grant me strength, that I may not fall,
    Into the clutches of cholesterol.
    May my flesh with carrot-curls be sated,
    That my soul may be poly-unsaturated.
    And show me the light, that I may bear witness,
    To the President's Council on Physical Fitness.
    And at oleomargarine I'll never mutter,
    For the road to Hell is spread with butter.
    And cream is cursed; and cake is awful;
    And Satan is hiding in every waffle.
    Mephistopheles lurks in provolone;
    The Devil is in each slice of baloney;
    Beelzebub is a chocolate drop;
    And Lucifer is a lollipop.
    Give me this day my daily slice,
    But cut it thin and toast it twice.
    I beg upon my dimpled knees;
    Deliver me from jujubes.
    And when my days of trial are done,
    And my war with malted milks is won,
    Let me stand with the heavenly throng
    In a shining robe - size 44 long.
    I can do it, Lord, if you'll show to me
    The virtues of lettuce and celery;
    If you'll teach me the evils of mayonnaise,
    The sinfulness of Hollandaise.
    Of Pasta a la Milannaise,
    Potatoes a la Lyonnaise.
    And crisp-fried chicken from the South,
    Lord, if you love me, shut my mouth.

  • Genes are made out of what you eat!

  • by Guppy (12314) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @09:02PM (#37475422)

    I'm going to have a hard time believing this, until we get a couple more labs to replicate the findings.

    Just about every animal on earth, including us, produces copious amounts of RNAse, an enzyme that shreds RNA molecules. And while most enzymes are rather fragile, RNAse is unusally robust -- you can boil some RNAses for hours, and they will retain their activity. They're everywhere, on your skin, in your body -- and it's a pain in the butt when you're working with RNA (you put RNAse inhibitors in everything to keep them from chewing up your material).

    It's almost as if it were being produced as some kind of defense mechanism against... hmm....

    • I can't find the reference, but there was a paper published that studied the stability of microRNAs with RNAses and found that they were more resistant than longer RNA species. There is a paper that was published earlier this year that reported an estimated miRNA average half-live of 119 hours, with some over 200 hours, inside cells (Gantier, M.P. et al. Analysis of microRNA turnover in mammalian cells following Dicer1 ablation. Nucleic Acids Research (2011). It is possible that the study could've underes
    • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

      I'm still waiting for confirmation that the sun is the center of the universe. So far, that seems not to be the case. Earth is not conclusively the center of anything, either. So until I have a few more labs saying the sun is the center of the universe, I'll plug my ears.

      • Given the amount [upiasia.com] of fraud [thelancet.com] in Chinese [rsc.org] science [nature.com] it makes a lot of sense to wait for confirmation from a more credible source.

        And even if Chinese science were whiter than white, your blind-acceptance is decidedly un-scientific.

  • Gene expression is controlled by the environment, we've known that for decades. See Bruce Lipton.

    I guess it's good to see it mainstreamed. I just wonder what people with complete faith in genes believed activated genes.

  • 1. Do populations that eat significantly more rice have significantly different LDL levels?
    2. If not, are those populations less sensitive to the effects?

    And just to mention here, why call it "white" rice in the summary? Same genes, whole grain or not. TDA doesn't suggest that white rice puts more microRNA into the bloodstream. It doesn't make a distinction anywhere.

  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @10:05PM (#37475798) Journal
    GMO's are harmless and good for you.
  • This is fucked up if true.

    Antibodies from women with a rare condition known as immune infertility are used in the creation of GMO food
    http://www.salem-news.com/articles/may282011/gmo-not-food-cs.php [salem-news.com]

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]

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