Posts

Reprogram your genes
, ,

5 Steps to Reprogram Your Genes

There are fixed, heritable genes (such as skin and eye colour) and there are genes that can be influenced daily according to our lifestyle. These genes are continually directing the production of proteins that control how your body functions at every second of the day. Genes turn on or off (sometimes at a rapid rate) only in response to signals they receive from the surrounding environment – signals that you provide based on the food you eat, the exercise you do (or don’t do!), your quality of sleep, sun exposure and so on. Genes are like light switches that turn on and off and influence every element of body function. So, you are in the drivers seat to take control of your genes expression. Here are some tips for you:

  1. Awareness Start thinking about your everyday lifestyle and how your genes may be responding to it. Each day your genes will respond positively or negatively depending on how you are living your life.
  1. Exercise – The activity level of skeletal muscle modulates a range of genes that produce dramatic molecular changes, and keep us healthy (Neufer & Booth, 2005). Even one single vigorous workout can set off a chain reaction of health benefits through activation of key genes. Exercise can suppress the expression or genes that contribute to chronic diseases, whilst up-regulating healthy gene expression almost immediately. So, next time you’re sweating it out in a workout, know you are having a positive affect on your genes. It maybe the motivation you need to go that extra mile!
  1. Nutrition Studies have shown that different intakes of food can affect your gene expression through a process called methylation. Methylation reactions are critical for many bodily functions and need significant amounts of methyl groups from food to function optimally. We have known for many years that certain foods which are high in B vitamins help with methylation, such as cooked vegetables (especially green vegetables & beets), unprocessed meats and quinoa – but we also need other foods to make up a healthy, balanced diet.

CARBOHYDRATE AND GENE EXPRESSION

Recent research from the University of Science and Technology in Norway has shed light on the gene, expressing effects of certain types of diet. “We have found that a diet with 65% carbohydrates, which often is what the average Norwegian eats in some meals, causes a number of classes of genes to work overtime,” says Berit Johansen, a professor of biology at NTNU.

This has significant implications for people who follow recommended dietary guidelines and eat a diet that has 55-65% calories from carbohydrate.

“Genes that are involved in type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and some forms of cancer respond to diet, and are up-regulated, or activated, by a carbohydrate-rich diet,” says Johansen.

The researchers concluded that both high and very low carbohydrate diets were wrong, but carbs should be capped at 40% calories.  “A healthy diet shouldn’t be made up of more than one-third carbohydrates (up to 40 per cent of calories) in each meal, otherwise we stimulate our genes to initiate the activity that creates inflammation in the body.”

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

The Ritualize 80/20 food pyramid will give you a great balanced diet that is lower in carbohydrate and higher in fat and protein than traditional government guidelines. Eat plenty of fresh, locally grown vegetables and a moderate amount of fruit, as well as grass fed, free range meat and chicken, sustainable fish, legumes, nuts and seeds and drink plenty of water. Most of your fat should come from extra virgin olive oil and avocado, with moderate amounts of coconut oil, dairy and other animal fats as well as minimal amounts of processed fats and commercial vegetable oils. The big key is to avoid processed foods and eat mostly stuff that has been alive. Home cooking is always the best, but for the time poor, there are more and more healthier choices in supermarkets and grocery shops for a quick, easy meal.

  1. Stress – we have known for many years that chronic stress can have detrimental effects on your health, and we now know the biochemical pathways behind such negative effects. Even negative thoughts can stimulate the production of genes that increase our chances of chronic disease, but we need to understand the ‘Goldilocks effect’ of stress – we need a certain amount of stress to stimulate us and help us to adapt. This process is known as ‘hormesis’ and enables us to develop stress resistance. Just like an athlete can either under-train or over-train, we can get too little or too much stress. Athletes optimise their training by paying close attention to volume, intensity and duration, and so should we. During a period of prolonged and more intense stress, our recovery needs to be optimal – just like an athlete.
  1. Psychosocial – a number of other areas are emerging that can affect gene expression. We know that being socially isolated or rejected can up-regulate genes involved in dangerous metabolic inflammation, but being socially connected can have a positive effect on our wellbeing. Meditation has recently been found to suppress inflammatory genes and can even increase grey matter density and the practice of gratitude can enhance your mood and wellbeing. Doing a daily gratitude ritual, practicing a few 1-minute meditations throughout the day and taking time to connect socially will pay huge dividends over time.

The bottom line is that a range of interacting lifestyle behaviours affect our gene expression and our overall health. Eating well will give you the energy to exercise and exercising regularly will help you to manage stress and enhance your focus, as will regular 1-minute meditations and a daily gratitude ritual. This will put you in the right frame of mind to cultivate social relationships, which will make you more positive – a very positive lifestyle loop!

SaveSaveSaveSave

Benefits Good Fats in your Diet
, , ,

Let’s Chew the Fat

Most of us have had it drummed into us that fat is bad and we should only be eating food low in fat to prevent heart disease, obesity, diabetes and a host of other preventative diseases. However, does the evidence reflect the guidelines we have grown up on? To look at this properly, we need to go back in time and look at the story of saturated fat.

The thinking that saturated fat is bad for you originated from one man in the US – Ancel Keys. He had a hypothesis that high cholesterol caused heart disease, and that because fat (especially saturated fat) increases cholesterol, it must be the driver of heart disease. I will write much more about that story in another blog, but suffice it to say that he got a large amount of Cardiologists and Government agencies on board by publishing studies from 6 countries (and later a 7tth), showing a strong association between fat intake and heart disease.

However, there are 2 major flaws with this:

  1. Association does not mean causation – we now know that cholesterol does not cause heart disease per se, and that cholesterol is raised if you are chronically stressed or have systemic inflammation – both more direct contributors to heart disease.
  2. Most importantly, his research was fraudulent! He actually studied 22 countries, but because the data did not fit his theories, he cherry-picked the 6 countries whose data best fit his theory. This is the complete opposite of good science.

There are also a lot of flaws with subsequent studies that came out to show a link between saturated fat and heart disease, such as researcher bias, publication bias, poor study design, the possible inclusion of harmful trans fats under the saturated fat umbrella, and a poor understanding of the metabolic drivers of heart disease.

Now that we have a better understanding of the metabolic drivers behind heart disease, and having completed some better designed studies, lots of researchers are now saying that the current government guidelines on fat intake do not reflect the evidence. We now understand much better that total cholesterol does not cause heart disease and even LDL is not a good measure; and that HDL is even more protective than we once thought.

What is emerging are the dangers of oxidised LDL, small dense LDL particles, high triglycerides as well as low HDL and other factors like inflammation, high blood pressure, central obesity and diabetes. These are all independent risk factors, and when you get combinations of them it points towards metabolic dysregulation at a cellular level.

From a cholesterol perspective, what we now know is you should strive to have as high a level of HDL as possible and minimise your oxidised LDL and small, dense LDL – big fluffy LDL are not pathogenic and shouldn’t be of any concern. You should also keep your triglycerides and blood sugar under control.

Your diet has a big impact on all of these, so let’s discuss the interactions between fat, carbohydrate and these risk factors.

The Fat Story

When we’re talking about fats, we know that monosaturated fats are actually very good for heart and brain health. Recommended examples are extra virgin olive oil, avocado, avocado oil, any nut oils (except peanut) and unsalted, raw nuts.

Saturated (SFA) fats have been unfairly demonised. As I mentioned above, they increase your level of protective HDL and encourage big, fluffy LDL and do not induce damaging, small sense LDL . So, a moderate amount of saturated fats is perfectively fine. Don’t worry about the fat in dairy either – eat a moderate amount of full fat dairy, eat fat on meat (as long as it’s grass fed) and coconut. Avoid processed fats, trans fats and vegetables oils – stick to stuff low on the human interference factor and you’ll be ok.

With this in mind, here is a list of great cooking fats, which we cook with regularly in our family. If you’re going to fry foods, especially at high temperatures, you should be using saturated fats, as they don’t become oxidised. So this list is good, not just because they’re safe to cook with, but also because they taste so good!

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)

This should be your go to fat for sautéing and medium temperature cooking. Whilst normal olive oil has a smoke point of 140 degrees, extra virgin is 210 degrees – and it also maintains most of it’s polyphenol content after frying, so is the healthiest fat to use. As well as this, when you sautee vegetables in EVOO, there is a chemical reaction that creates a class of fatty acids known as nitric fats, which are protective for your heart and brain. Make sure it is cold-pressed, as heat-pressed oils can already be oxidised. But be aware some of the polyphenols will deteriorate at temperatures of around 150-160 degrees celsius, so for higher temperatures, you should use saturated fats.

Ghee

Ghee is clarified butter, and it’s popular in Indian cooking. Because the milk solids have been removed, it’s very low in lactose and is almost entirely fat – mostly saturated. Use ghee to brown meat, top a few teaspoons on a roast and add to roast pumpkin or sweet potato. A tablespoon of ghee contains 8g SFA, 3.7g MFA fat and 0.5g PUFA.

Coconut oil

Along with ghee, coconut oil is one of the best fats to cook with because it’s almost entirely saturated. In fact, coconut oil is more than 90% saturated fat. While this makes it the devil according to the government guidelines, this is not the case. Coconut oil has some unique properties. It is a special type of saturated fat called medium chain triglyceride (MCT). Unlike other fats, MCTs do not require bile acids for digestion. This means they are easily absorbed in the upper part of the small intestine. Coconut oil is also rich in lauric acid, a fatty acid found in breast milk that is anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral. We are known to eat it my the spoonful! Mix it with almond or macadamia nut butter for some added goodness. Coconut oil has 4g of SFA, 0.3g of MFA

Lard

Lard is very popular in cooking and baking because it has little flavour. It’s an incredibly versatile fat and can be used to brown meat and roast vegetables. Unlike olive oil, vegetables roasted in lard do not get soggy or greasy, but stay crisp with a wonderful flavour. A tablespoon of lard has about 6g MFA, 5g SFA and 1.6g PUFA.

Duck fat

Potatoes roasted or fried in duck fat…. divine! Before rancid, industrial oils appeared, the French cooked their fries in duck fat!. Roast your veggies or home made chips in duck fat and you’ll discover why the French love it so much. A tablespoon of duck fat has 6 g MFA, 4 g LCSFA and 1.6 g PUFA.

Butter

Good quality, grass fed butter has an amazing taste and despite it being demonised, it’s very good for you. It is full is vitamin A, E and K2 (the latter involved in calcium metabolism). It is a great fat to put on fish, low heat scramble eggs in or slow cooked stews. Butter has a lower smoke point than the other fats, which makes it less suitable for high temperature cooking and it burns easily. A tablespoon of butter contains 7.2g of SFA, 2.9g of MFA and 0.4g of PUFA.

A Word on Commercial Vegetable Oils

In our house we avoid these like the plague as they are high in Omega 6 fats. Whilst some Omega 6 fats are necessary for good health, at higher amounts they start to trigger dangerous inflammation at a cellular level. We get sufficient Omega 6 fats from eating vegetables, but using vegetable oil for cooking is, in my opinion, one of the worst health recommendations we have made. Commercial food processing destroys a significant amount of essential fatty acids, and polyunsaturated oils (Omega 3 and 6) are unstable and very quickly become rancid. Oxidized fatty acids are dangerous to our health, and unless you buy cold-pressed oils, the actual process of expelling the oils using heat (to get it out of the plant in the first place) will cause oxidisation.

The bottom line is to eat food that is real and cut right down on processed foods. This includes your fats. The best thing you can do today is throw away your margarine and your vegetable oils and replace with the fats listed above. You are doing this for your health and your tastebuds!