Health is an ONOFF Issue

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

D3 Epigenetic Master Switch

A survivor of the vitamin D pandemic tried to comment to my July 14, 2009 post on Genetics, Epigenetics, and Vitamin D.  In my earlier post I had the comments turned off because I did not want to take the time to respond.  I now know that this was a mistake.  Sorry about that Rich.  I have now turned on the comments.  Here is what Rich Blumenthal had to say in an email:

Hi Mark –

I see you responded to my comment on your recent blog about the IOM. I wish I could be a fly on the wall while they deliberate.

I was reading your blog of July 14, 2009 on Genetics, Epigenetics, and Vitmain D. I was trying to respond. For some reason it didn’t allow me to do that. Here’s what I wanted to say.

You wrote: “I propose that vitamin D3 is the ‘master switch’ of epigenetics from nutrients. It acts like a shepherd in allowing the body’s various hormones to act for your health. Genes that need to be on get turned on and genes that need to be off get turned off.”

This statement is profound, life-altering, and so stunning that if people truly could grasp the message it would change the world. We have 23,000 genes and the active form of vitamin D is known to switch about 10% of them to a better, healthier state. In the world of steroid hormones, how many genes they affect determines how effective they are, and 1,25(OH)2D is believed to be the hormone with the most impact. This statement is supported by hundreds of cohort studies, ecological studies, and randomized clinical trials that provide irrefutable evidence of vitamin D’s therapeutic and strong preventive effects.

I’d like to recommend all your readers take two hours of their busy lives to watch a Nova episide that will help them understand how “switches” can turn on or off sections of DNA. The name of the episode is “What Darwin Never Knew” and it can be seen in its entirety for free here:

“What Darwin Never Knew”

The video basically shows how altered DNA becomes the underlying cause for visible evolutionary changes. They don’t mention vitamin D specifically but they do imply that the switches are more significant than the genes themselves, and that steroid hormones are the agents that flip those switches. I really do believe that epigenetics needs to be included with a serious study of vitamin D to understand its profound impact on health and longevity. Nova has made it relatively easy to understand, but be forewarned: If you are often stumped on the science questions in the TV show “Are you smarter than a fifth grader?” some of the chemistry and biology will be a little intimidating. But even if you don’t grasp everything, you will still get a good overview of how the switches work. Add the knowledge contained in your excellent July 14, 2009 blog, along with some of John Cannell’s writing on the subject, and I think you will experience the same “aha moment” that I did.

Let me make this claim: Anyone watching the Nova segment in its entirety along with reading many articles on vitamin D, thinks about it, truly learns it and understands the subtleties, details and nuances, will become privy to one of the greatest secrets of all time. Your life will never be the same. In making this discovery you are bringing the world one step closer to enlightenment. I know this is a big claim but I strongly feel that the world desperately needs to move in the direction where people know how to prevent serious disease.

Thank You Rich      – Pandemic Survivor

Genetic, Epigenetic, and Vitamin D3

Researchers clear your minds as this is the opportunity for new novel designs for preventing and healing disease.

Note 1.

Dr. John Cannell of the Vitamin D Council says that Vitamin D3 targets over 2000 genes or about 10% of the genome.  We have long thought that we are predisposed to get this disease or that disease because our genes were pre-programmed.  We have thought that the genes were responsible and this is correct.  But in the human body it is not only that the genes exist, it is whether it is turned off or on.

Not being hampered by an education in the biological sciences I can freely speculate about how this happens.  We too often are so tied into how a certain thing works.  Our models that we have created in our minds become permanent fixtures. This may or may not be how a process actually presents itself.  Science has had a long history of confirming a certain theory only to find out later that there is more or worse it is not even close to being accurate.  However, the theories that we have developed allow for many wonderful outcomes.

This is the case with genetics.  It is my belief that everybody has a reasonably reliable gene map.  That is; it is capable of given you a healthy life.  Something in our environment has allowed this gene map to be turned off/on.  Genes are almost ‘digital’ in this matter.  Only on occasion do we have a part on gene and part off gene.  Or some cells may be turning on a gene and others may be turning off the same gene or a ‘fuzzy logic’ sort of action.  This happens in tumors where the immature cells continue to grow and their program to stop growth does not act for apoptosis or programmed cellular death.

The genes are present so you cannot really say that we are genetically predisposed.  What has happened is that either because of the stress of the environment or the diet that we consume has had a significant impact on our genes.  Yes there is imprinting from parent to child, but can that be affected by our present environment and our diet.  Evidently this is how the vitamin D3 works.

Here we introduce epigenetics as a way to turn off and on genes.  Epigenetics time line can be seen at this google page where a history of our understanding of this science is displayed.  We see that most of the work in this science did not start to happen until the twenty first century.  We mapped the genome and found that we could not with certainty say that this gene caused a certain happening.  The gene existed, but it was whether it was turned off/on.  This control ‘above genes’ is known as epigenetics.

This idea about how our environments stressed us and our diets affected us in this manner was promoted in a book by Bruce H. Lipton, Phd ( you may find his work here: http://www.brucelipton.com/) called ‘The Biology of Belief’.  Now this was too far out for most doing research in the biological sciences because they had always believed that if the gene existed it would give you a certain result.  It is like saying that because you have a light bulb with power attached that you will have light without consideration for whether the switch is turned off/on.

Some years ago Dr. Randy Jirtle at Duke University starting doing work with twins to try to make some sense of biology versus nurture.  His discovery was that it is both.  You can find out more about his work at this PBS Nova Science Now website.  There is a short video describing his findings.  Be sure to watch one of his researcher’s ‘Tale of Two Mice’ in the middle of the page.  In brief what they found was that by feeding the mother certain nutrients that they could make the offspring either thin with a brown coat or fat with a gray coat.  I am like the fat mouse with the gray coat.

This lead to the discovery that bisphenyl-a or BPA could give an undesirable effect.  Many recent news articles have been published about how BPA would affect your baby.  Here is a recent article form the Chicago Sun-Times. If the bottles that you were using had this form of plasticizers then you could expect a not so good effect on you child.  I believe that by now all of the baby bottle manufacturers have voluntarily removed BPA as they were most likely concerned over the liability.

If you would like to read more about Dr. Randy Jirtle’s work you can find it at his geneimprint website. Also here is his Duke web page for the researchers. It has a brief description of the current work on carcinogenesis.

It seems that methylation or the binding on the surface of genes by methyl groups (free radicals) keeps the genes from expressing themselves for your health.  There are some great images from ‘A Tale of Two Mice’ above that clearly show how this works.  Now some genes we want turned on and some we want off.  In the case of the mice it was a ‘fat gene’ that was staying on constantly.  By feeding the mice methyl donors, the gene was forced off. This seems like a very precarious balance that we need to negotiate.  After all in the press we read about how ‘free radicals’ are really bad for us but in some cases it appears that they are a necessity.  I would suspect that when you are eating the right things this ‘fat gene’ gets turned off and tells the body to not eat any more food.  I also suspect that the mounds of junk food that we eat do not have the right kind of methyl donors.

Now Dr. Cedric Garland and Dr. John Cannell (Newsletter on Vitamin A) have both expressed concern over too much Vitamin A as they believe that it somehow ‘blinds’ the receptors for vitamin D or VDR’s. Dr. Cannell thinks that taking any preformed vitamin A may give you a problem.  He thinks that people should only get their vitamin A from carotene and let the body make whatever retinol and retinoic acid that it needs.  I do not believe this is the case.  This gives me a real disconnect when you read articles about how too much beta-carotene is not good if you have prostate cancer and lung cancer.  This most likely is because vitamin A and vitamin D are antagonist and they deplete each other as the body is using them for health.  Without enough vitamin D to balance the A the cancer gets worse.

During the healing of my vertebral disc, I found that by taking vitamin A from fish liver oil that the cartilage healed quicker.  I had my major increase in height where I actually grew an inch and one half (a sign of healing vertebral disc) in three months when I started taking this form of vitamin A.

I had found from the Oregon State Micro Nutrient center; and from this article from Japan;  that vitamin A and vitamin D worked together for cellular differentiation of chrondrocytes or the cells that form cartilage.  There were many more articles but these two will get you started.

It seems that dimers are formed from the large family of retinol receptors or RXR and vitamin D receptors or VDR.  Also I found that retinoic acid receptors, RAR, and thyroid receptors, TR, work in synergy for cellular differentiation as well. I also started a seaweed supplement for iodine for a healthier thyroid.  If you chose to read more then you may find a paper on this understanding at the Journal of Biological Science, Nuclear Import of the retinoid X receptor, the vitamin D receptor, and their mutual hetrodimer.

So where does this lead us.  Given the body of work by the many scientists on how vitamin D prevents so many different diseases, I propose that vitamin D3 is the ‘master switch’ of epigenetics from nutrients.  It acts like a shepherd in allowing the body’s various hormones to act for your health.  Genes that need to be on get turned on and genes that need to be off get turned off.

The new body of research and drug development for treating various diseases should be pointed toward the combination of nutrients for healing.  I know that the work will most likely be pointed toward drugs and we will just have to read the research to find out what combination of foods will give us health.  After all, our system of medicine is about treatment, the money that results, and not prevention.  However, now that we know the ‘master switch’ or vitamin D3, we can start down the road to health.

I have not lost the weight even though vitamin D3 has a significant effect on blood sugar and insulin which are some of the controls for appetite.  I am that fat gray mouse.  What are those methyl donors -give me some of that!  Somehow I need to overcome the ingrained statement in our family at dinner; ‘Now I need just a little something sweet.’  I suspect that this saying is gene imprinting from my mother-in-law.  Don’t worry; she does not have a computer.  Our environment and how we perceive ourselves and our needs definitely affect our genes.

Get rid of all the bad carbs, eat more good fats, be sure to get enough protein, eliminate the artificial sweeteners because we do not have a clue, and GO INTO THE SUN. 

– Pandemic Survivor

1. Okay researchers, how are you going to make some sense of the combination of nutrients?  I do not think our present statistical method for evaluation of combination of factors will get the job done.  I know that we have forever been using analysis by the variance.  This type of model requires way too much data to determine what is happening with certainty and really does not point to which factor and their interactions that gives you the result.  In manufacturing, I learned a method of analysis of the means which allows you to use small data sets of 3 to 10.  It will plainly show which factor causes what result and more importantly the interaction of the factors and results.  This interaction is what is extremely important in epigenetics. ANOM has been shown by many scholarly papers to be as precise as AOV.  Ellis R. Ott, (ASQ bio) developed ANOM for his work in military and industrial applications which require much accuracy before making a process change.  You can learn the method from his book: ‘Process Quality Control’.  This graphical method will point you to the correct solution without headache.  I am sure that it is available from Amazon as well.