Sunday, November 20, 2016

Proving that You Are What You Eat

We often say, "you are what you eat," when it comes to a healthy diet. According to Samantha Heller, clinical nutritionist at NYU Medical Center, "everything you eat becomes a part of not only your inner being, but the outer fabric of your body as well." Healthier food promotes healthier skin and the opposite is true when you consume unhealthy foods. Eating junk food or unhealthy food can lead to sallow, dry and old skin overtime. In addition, other skin problems can occur such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis. However, scientists have found genetic evidence that proves "you are what you eat."

At the University of Oxford, researchers have proved that an organism's diet can affect the DNA sequences of their genes. By doing a study on two parasites, scientists have detected a difference in DNA sequences based on the organism's diet. Researchers hypothesized that the composition of an organism's diet can alter an organism's DNA.  The hypothesis was tested using two different groups of parasites: eukaryotic parasites (Kinetoplastida) and bacterial parasites (Mollicutes). According to Dr. Steven Kelly from Oxford's Department of Plant Sciences,  the parasites selected serves as an excellent model system because they share a common ancestor but have evolved to infect different hosts and eat very different foods.

Based on their results, researchers found that different levels of nitrogen in the parasites' diets contributed to the change in DNA sequences. Parasites that usually have a low nitrogen, high-sugar diet, had a different DNA comparison to parasites with nitrogen-rich, high-protein diets. Using mathematical models, researchers have been able to predict the diets of related organisms by analyzing the DNA sequence of the genes. 

While the hypothesis holds true for simple organisms, it is still unclear if the same will occur in complex organisms. While there are many factors that can affect the DNA structure of an organism, the study has proved that a high percentage of the differences in DNA sequences are due to diet composition. If results do end up proving to be true for complex organisms, it will be quite useful in encouraging public awareness for promoting a healthier lifestyle for everyone. It will serve essential in providing evidence how an individual's diet can certainly affect future generations and hopefully encourage everyone to maintain a healthy diet. 

1 comment:

  1. If eventually a similar study could be done in mammals and show similar results I think this would really push people to start learning about what is really in the food they eat. A study like this could potentially push major food companies to have to find healthier ways to produce their food. It would be incredibly interesting to see the gene differences in mammals based on diet.