The foods we eat turn some genes on and off, thereby influencing the normal growth of cells as well as protecting against inflammation, cancer, heart disease and weight gain. In addition, the nutrients, including antioxidants, function as cofactors in myriad biochemical reactions and sometimes provide structural roles in cells. Vitamins and minerals are important in the body for structural integrity and as cofactors in many enzyme reactions. Without lots of these we cannot burn the fuels (sugar) and we have low energy no matter how much of the fuels (sugar) we eat. Antioxidants, along with vitamins and minerals, are abundant in plant foods and protect the body—especially the DNA—from wear and tear. Low levels of antioxidants are linked with low energy and early ageing. Lately we have found that antioxidants are also able to “talk to” our genes including the ones for hunger and metabolism. Antioxidants and free radicals, for example, turn many important good genes on and damaging genes off. Both are necessary, but they generally have opposing effects. Unfortunately now we have more of the free radicals, which leads to increased DNA damage and altering our DNA expression, and less of the antioxidants on a daily basis. During inflammation, which is the core of all chronic illness and a significant contributing factor to weight gain, the body’s reserve of antioxidants, which should help to protect and turn off these genes, can become depleted. A study of 57 healthy men for 12 weeks taking relatively modest amounts of vitamin E, vitamin C, beta-carotene, and selenium found a significant reduction of around 50% in the amount of genetic damage in the cells.
Eating foods based on nutrition will contribute to weight loss, increased energy levels and personal productivity and better health. It will also dramatically reduce the risk of many illnesses including heart attack, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer’s and arthritis, just to name a few. Nature packaged most of its food in the slow release nutrient-dense form that provided a gradual release of sugars into the blood and a rich source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, essential fatty acids and more. However, through processing we have changed what were potentially great foods into time bombs that give big surges of sugar and little, if any, nutritional quality. As a result, overweight people have lower nutrient intakes, which compounds the weight gain and health conditions. One recent study found not just that a substantial proportion of the adult population (over 40%) had inadequate intakes of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, calcium, and magnesium, but also, compared to normal weight adults, obese adults had about five percent to 12% lower intakes of micronutrients and a higher prevalence of nutrient inadequacy.
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