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Plant-Based Diets and Cellular Stress Defenses

Measuring the effects of a plant-based diet on the expression of hundreds of different genes at a time, a research group found that an antioxidant rich portfolio of plant foods such as berries, pomegranates, purple grapes, red cabbage, oregano, and walnuts was able to significantly modify the regulation of genes in the blood of volunteers.

July 19, 2012 |
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Acknowledgements

Image thanks to Biomedical Beat.

Transcript

The traditional model of how fruits and vegetables protect against cancer is that their antioxidants prevent the buildup of free radicals (also known as reactive oxygen species) which would otherwise go on to damage our cellular DNA, membranes, etc, which can lead to the transformation of healthy cells into damaged, diseased, or dying cells. But in that landmark 2003 kiwifruit study, we learned that there’s a second pathway as well. Phytonutrients actually modulate gene expression and can increase our cellular defenses such that even if there is some damage to our DNA our cells may recover instead of being irreparably lost.
The kiwi study look at one of those defenses, one DNA repair enzyme, but there are many. Many ways our cells repair our DNA—we don’t mess around when it comes to protecting our genes. So question number 1, what affect does kiwifruit consumption have on all these other defences, and question number 2, what if we branch out and test multiple fruits and vegetables at the same time?
 You’ll remember that there did not seem to be a dose response with the kiwis. As far as this DNA repair enzyme was concerned, you were either eating kiwis or not, it didn’t really matter how many. But man cannot live on kiwis alone. What if you did a mix of fruits and veggies? Could you break through that ceiling?
Now studies are expensive, particularly if the kiwi people withhold funding because you have the audacity to test other fruit. So they wanted to make this study count. So when they designed their plant portfolio they went all out. Check it out. Green tea. Rosehip juice, Berries, berries, berries, berries, berries, berries, berries, berries, pomegranate, dark blue grapes, brussel sproinds, broccoli, red cabbage, kale, blue potatoes, dark chocolate walnuts rosemary oregano. This study, is making me hungry.
I don’t know if anyone noticed but this is that same amazing research group that blessed the world with that study of thousands of different foods. So they knew what they were doing.
OK long story short: “Plant-based diets can prevent development of several chronic age-related diseases,” blah blah blah we know that. This is what they did: three groups, the antioxidants-to-the-teeth group, compared to a 3 kiwi a day group, compared to control. Tool blood from everyone, and for then for the first time ever reported did this microarray analysis where you can measure the effects of a plant-based diet on expression of hundreds of different genes at a time. The first to investigate the influences of healthy diets on gene expression in whole blood.
The kiwi group was able to significant regulate not just one gene as I showed in the 2003 study but a total of 5. Meanwhile the very berry group significantly regulated 5 times more, 25 genes. Conclusion: The observed changes in the blood cell gene expression profiles suggest that the beneficial effects of a plant-based diet on human health may be mediated through optimization of defence processes.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Serena

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

This is the final video of a three-part series about the latest discoveries on kiwi fruit. See also yesterday's NutritionFacts.org video-of-the-day Kiwifruit and DNA Repair and Kiwifruit for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The results of this follow-up study support the previous work on the importance of dietary diversity that I profiled in Apples and Oranges and Garden Variety Anti-Inflammation. The study of thousands of foods I mention is referring to Antioxidant Content of 3,139 Foods, and Antioxidant Power of Plant Foods Versus Animal Foods. Note this study is measuring so-called "epigenetic" changes, meaning differential gene expression. Just because we have a certain set of genes doesn't mean you can't turn them on and off with changes in your diet. See Mitochondrial Theory of Aging and Convergence of Evidence and the other thousand plus nutrition and health topics I address.

For some context, please check out my associated blog posts: Kiwi Fruit for Irritable Bowel Syndrome and How Tumors Use Meat to Grow

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    This is the final video of a three-part series about the latest discoveries on kiwi fruit. See also yesterday’s NutritionFacts.org video-of-the-day Kiwifruit and DNA Repair and Kiwifruit for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The results of this follow-up study support the previous work on the importance of dietary diversity that I profiled in Apples and Oranges and Garden Variety Anti-Inflammation. The study of thousands of foods I mention is referring to Antioxidant Content of 3,139 Foods, and Antioxidant Power of Plant Foods Versus Animal Foods. Note this study is measuring so-called “epigenetic” changes, meaning differential gene expression. Just because we have a certain set of genes doesn’t mean you can’t turn them on and off with changes in your diet. See Mitochondrial Theory of Aging and Convergence of Evidence and the other thousand plus nutrition and health topics I address.

    • HemoDynamic, M.D.

      No wonder I feel so good ;-}

      I’m Berry happy about this!   (See Breakfast Pic Below)

      Since you like to exploit plants so much–If you can’t beat ‘em ‘Berry’ ‘em. ;-}

      • Spottyman5

        haha your the second person i see that puts oats in their smoothies :P

        • LynnCS

          Love oats. Wonder why I get heart palpitations when I eat them? I’ve had to eliminate them from my diet. :(

  • ShalinJShahMD

    Mike, I am loving your videos!  Small request…could you please provide the pubmed ID of the article you talk about in the notes section? – Shalin Shah MD

    • ShalinJShahMD

      nevermind..I see the sources cited links…you are one step ahead of me..

  • Steve

    Great work.  I’m just never disappointed.  This series on the value of variety is terrific.  It gives added strength to what we’ve been preaching. 

  • Thea

    I want to know what happened with the chocolate! ;-)

    • Thea

       Never mind.  I just looked at the study (thanks Dr. Greger).  From the video above, I had thought (mistakenly) that all those foods were tested individually.  After briefly looking at the study (and please remember I am an extreme lay person), I think that they really just had three groups: 1) control, 2) kiwi only 3) people who ate a bunch of high-antioxidant foods, including all the ones shown in the video/including chocolate. 

      Assuming I understood what I was looking at in the papter, I think my bit of funny isn’t that relevant…

  • Valnaples

    “berries, berries, berries, berries…” haha! glad I had my dark berry concoction this morning consisting of org blueberries, org cranberries and org strawberries (and 2 TBSP ground org. flaxseed)…thanks for yet another amAZing video, Doc!

  • SJ M.D.

    I would like to see the same study-design as above – and the the same study-design as with the kiwifruits – done with meat, fish and dairy – to see if there is any protective effect – my guess is absolutely none…….

    • HemoDynamic, M.D.

      Comon’ SJ:
       Meat–it’s what’s for Dinner, and ‘Milk, does a body good!”, and “I want to jump rope with the cheese on that pizza.”

      That’s what the TV tells me so it must be true.

      • SJ M.D.

        Of course – how silly of me………..;-)

      • Coacervate

        But if people start eating more fruits and veg in place of meat/diary/eggs, then it follows that more farmland will be devoted to growing fruits and veg instead of meat/dairy/eggs.  Gee, then the FruitVeg Board would become so powerful they would take over the TV and tell us we should eat more fruits and veg…We’re playing with forces we understand completely.

         ”…Oh carrots are devine, they come a dozen for a dime, its magic.” – B. Bunny

        “Messiahs pointed to the door, but no one had the guts to leave the temple” - The Who

    • Steve

      I agree.  But my guess is that there will still be a large effect; turning on cancer promoter genes, downregulating DNA repair activity and all together making a mess of things.

      • SJ M.D.

        Good point.

  • wchiwink

    WOW – everything i love to eat! (my only problem for years though, due most certainly to eating so well, my energy level is so high that it prevents me from getting the rest i need for my broken back!)
    also, would be interesting to know about which foods to avoid that may aggravate for example,  osteophytosis? – i’ve read that the nightshade family is not recommended if you have arthritis – is this so?
     

    • Toxins

      There is no solid evidence or research showing that you should stay away from nightshade vegetables with osteophytosis.

      What is known…

      * Omega–6 fatty acids have been linked to increased joint inflammation
      and obesity. These fats are found in corn, sunflower, safflower, soybean and cottonseed oils and are prevalent in many snack foods, fried foods, margarine’s and other spreads.

      * Saturated fats can also increase the inflammatory response, thereby contributing to joint and tissue inflammation. The majority of saturated fats come from animal sources including meat and dairy products, though certain plant foods such as palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil also primarily contain saturated fats. Many baked goods and fried foods can contain high levels of saturated fats as well. Eliminating animal foods, especially dairy is important.

      * A small number of people with arthritis might be sensitive to certain foods that can trigger symptoms or cause them to worsen. Such foods include wheat, dairy, corn, eggs, nuts, chocolate and coffee.

      * Conversely, many plant–based foods — especially fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants and phytochemicals which may be effective in reducing joint inflammation. These foods are also rich in fiber; diets that are rich in fiber have been shown to reduce inflammation.

      • LynnCS

        Interesting. There is some evidence that these issues can be reversed on a raw vegan diet with a lot of juicing. I do best maintaining the fiber. No oil. So far, so good!

  • SteveBillig

    More support for the importance of variety!

  • goyomiller

    Should we be concerned about oxalates in raw kale? Is a kale shake every day too much raw kale?

  • Darryl

    There are hundreds of Nrf2-ARE inducing compounds, from food plants, medicinal plants, as well as synthetic compounds. The most potent inducers of the endogenous antioxidant response found in foods appear to be purpurogallin derivatives, carnosic acid, 3H-1,2-dithiole-3-thione, quercetin, curcumin, sulforaphane, fisetin, kahweol, and genistein.

    Some foods offering high amounts of endogenous antioxidant response inducing phytochemicals include:

    broccoli (sulforaphane, indole-3-carbinol, α-lipoic acid)
    kale (allyl isothiocyanate, indole-3-carbinol, isorhamnetin, kaempferol, zeaxanthin)
    red cabbage (cyanidin, sulforaphane, 3h-1,2-dithiole-3-thione (D3T), allyl isothiocyanate, indole-3-carbinol)
    red onions (quercetin, dipropenyl sulfide, myricetin)
    garlic (diallyl trisulfide, diallyl disulfide, s-allylcysteine)
    tomatoes (lycopene, trans-2-hexenal)
    soybeans (genistein)
    coffee (kahweol, cafestol, caffeic acid, catechol, ferrulic acid)
    green tea (epigallocatechin-3-gallate, epicatechin-3-gallate, epicatechin
    red wine (malvidin, gallic acid, gentisic acid, resveratrol, pterostilbene)
    strawberries (fisetin, morin, catechin)
    blueberries (malvidin, peonidin, pterostilbene)
    dark chocolate (catechin, epicatechin, epigallocatechin)
    rosemary & sage (carnosic acid & carnosol)
    tumeric (curcumin)
    oregano (naringenin, eriodictyol, galangin, luteolin, p-coumaric acid, apigenin)
    capers (quercetin, kaempferol, rutin)
    black pepper (piperine)
    chili peppers (capsaicin)

    It should be a familiar list to regulars.

  • http://www.exfuzelife.com Jennifer Cunningham

    This is why I LOVE my Exfuze!!!! Been telling folks for years how powerful phytonutrients are! http://www.exfuzelife.com

    • Steve

      This is why I like my fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains.