It is clear that this approach of the food plate and convention wisdom, where one diet fits all, is not working. It seems to create more controversy than conclusions. What if all the nutritional controversies could be solved with a better understanding of our DNA and ethnic variation?
What do I mean by this? An easy and relevant example to consider is the ability to digest dairy products between people of Northern European ancestry and Southeast Asian ancestry. In most mammals, the gene for lactose tolerance turns off once an animal matures beyond the weaning years. Human’s biology was the same as well… until a mutation in the DNA of an isolated population in Northern Europe around 10,000 years ago created an adaptive tolerance for milk. Southeast Asians did not develop this tolerance. Scientists have found that the ability to digest milk depends on the degree to which you have Northern European blood.
Nutrition research and knowledge is being taken to new levels through the study of Nutrigenomics. Nutrigenomics is the study of the effects of foods and food constituents on gene expression. It has been associated with the idea of personalised nutrition based on our DNA. Where one person may find a food medicinal, to another the same food may be toxic.
Dr John Beradi discusses the topic with a common and popular nutrient — caffeine. Current nutrigenomic research has discovered that caffeinated coffee can either be a medicine or a poison in relation to heart disease. This is all down to a gene called CYP1A2. This gene signals the liver to make one of two enzymes — a slow or a fast version. If your body possesses the gene that makes the fast version, scientists have found that when you consume caffeine your body processes and eliminates the caffeine from your blood stream very quickly. This results in a decreased risk of heart disease when you drink a moderate amount of caffeine per day. However, if your body possesses the slow version of the enzyme, your body processes and eliminates the caffeine from your bloodstream very slowly, which increases your risk of heart disease when drinking the same amount of caffeine per day.
Where health is concerned our genetics really do establish if food is one person’s poison and another’s medicine.
One Person’s Poison…
This concept of nutritional genetics is also true if we consider that a high carb, low fat diet is suitable for one genetic type of person and ‘poison’ for another. How food affects us on a cellular level is the real key to health and achieving great body composition. Genes and hormones play a much more important role than calories ever will.
The main hormones that play crucial roles in achieving fat loss, and health are insulin, glucagon, human growth hormone (HGH), cortisol, leptin and ghrelin. Insulin and glucagon control sugar usage and whether fat is stored or ‘burnt off’. Ghrelin and leptin are hunger hormones that send messages to the brain controlling how much you eat. If you’re eating or lifestyle habits stimulate increased or decreased levels, or are resistant to these hormones, you will experience food cravings or reduced satiety levels no matter how much you eat. Hormones like cortisol and estrogen can even determine where in the body fat will be stored or burned. In addition, human growth hormone (HGH) is very important, as there is no better fat burner than our muscles. HGH stimulates your body to burn fat rather than store it. With even a better understanding of your genetic code you could devise a much more individualised nutritional plan to optimise your health and function.
Good nutrition does not need to be complicated. However, we all have bodies that are built in different ways, react differently, look different… we are all unique. We are as chemically different on the inside as we are physically on the outside. There can never be any one diet that works for everyone. These are key considerations when devising a nutritional plan.
Phil is founder and master trainer at Body Expert Systems. Contact him on 0934 782763 or at his website bodyexpertsystems.com or through Star Fitness on starfitnesssaigon.com