At one point in my career, I had responsibility for many engineers, forty mechanics, and associated support staff in a large industrial plant. When a major maintenance issue would arrive and there was difficulty in trying to find a solution, I would try to release the tension by saying it was an ONOFF problem. Of course I would spell out the letters very quickly. There would be moments of silence as the mechanic raced through his mind trying figure out which control or mechanical part I was referring. Then a slow smile would cross the face as the knowing became realization. Every situation with equipment is whether the equipment or some component is on or off – ONOFF – especially true with computers. This is the case with human biology as medicine turns to gene switches for disease cures. This has become commonly referred to as epigenetic.
Foods that are available for consumption routinely turn off and on genetic switches. This is because there are many “parallel” systems in the body for the major biological processes to occur depending on what the environment presents. This type of robustness in our physiology has allowed us to survive in many different environmental conditions. Stress, temperature, food, and even how you think, all act to turn on and off our genes. Modern science is now using this understanding to make drugs to cure disease. Unfortunately, the focus has been on drugs and not on optimizing nutrients for gene switching to prevent disease. I guess the old saying, ‘you are what you eat,’ has now been given more significance.
Just in the last decade, the gene map was completed. It was much smaller than originally thought with less than about 30,000 genes for the human body. Interestingly enough the rest of the genetic material, about eighty percent, are switches that are use to either express the gene or make it go silent. The largest question for health professionals at this point should be; what turns the switches on or off?
Methyl groups seem to be the primary players in this epigenetic switching maze. How simple that a carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms grouped together can determine your health and well being. Of course many methyl groups combined with other compounds is an organic molecule. What controls the use and availability of the methyl groups is another matter. We have long known that certain materials are essential to health. These items have been reduced to the following: water, air, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.
First it was the major groups of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates we considered for health. Think of the 1910 Antarctic expedition by Captain Scott where the food was too low in fat. The members of the group started to get sick and starved to death because they did not have fat to consume. The Inuit people know that whale blubber and seal fat are the staples of life in the cold for its energy and nutrients. The recent emphasis on fats (omega-3 good, trans-fat bad) is critical to health. I suspect we have made the similar errors in protein and carbohydrates (too many carbs –especially wheat, not enough protein) that are yet to be discovered. Then throw in genetically modified foods – ouch!
We are now in the trial and error stage of understanding where to use micronutrients versus the use of drugs to heal disease. The money of course is in the drugs and this is where the focus will continue to be for our large research organizations. However, all government research funded projects for genetic switching should solve the problem of optimum nutrition (GMO foods, nutrient switching) before any money is spent on drugs for healing, curing, diagnosing, and preventing disease. After all, it is our money. Sustaining large organizations without empathy for the individuals it serves is just plain evil. If the money is first spent on researching micronutrients for epigenetic healing, the need for research of drugs will be significantly diminished because of less disease. Of course we are where we are; a nation ailing with large amounts of chronic disease. How ironic that our economy is suffering from so much chronic disease when the major motto of Health and Human Services is ‘markets before mandates’ with the belief of a strong medical economy is more important that the health of the individual.
We know that the sun through the production of vitamin D3 is very significant. Close to ten percent of the genome is controlled by vitamin D and its co-factors. I don’t know how large the percentage of the genes is controlled by methyl groups, but I am sure that it is significant and most likely larger than the group for vitamin D. Since all organic molecules are a combination of methyl groups, then all genes have some switches controlled by methyl groups in combination with cofactors (I never was much for logic, I am more of a links and connections kind of guy). The complete control of genetic switching is made by all the proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, environment (light, temperature, air, and water), and yes your state of mind. Could it be that methyl folate from spinach and betaine from beets is all we need for the methyl donors for health? Life in all its complexities is really just a matter of ONOFF.
Don’t worry, be happy, eat your beets and spinach, and spend lots of time in the sun. – Pandemic Survivor