Our Genes May be Influenced by the Food We Eat

First Posted: Feb 12, 2016 06:44 PM EST

Could our genes be influenced by the food we eat? Scientists have found that while the activity of our genes influences our metabolism, the opposite is also true and the nutrients available to cells influence our genes.

The behavior of our cells is determined by a combination of the activity of its genes and the chemical reactions needed to maintain the cells, known as metabolism. Metabolism works in two directions: the breakdown of molecules to provide energy for the body and the production of all compounds needed by the cells.

Knowing the genome of an organism can provide a substantial amount of information about how a particular organism will look. However, this doesn't give the complete picture; genes can be regulated by other genes or regions of DNA, or by 'epigenetic' modifiers, which are small molecules attached to the DNA that act like switches to turn genes on and off.

Previous studies have suggested that another player in gene regulation may exist: the metabolic network. To see the scale at which this may happen, the scientists used yeast cells to look at the role of metabolism in the functionality of the cell.

"Cellular metabolism plays a far more dynamic role in the cells than we previously thought," said Markus Ralser, one of the researchers, in a news release. "Nearly all of a cell's genes are influenced by changes to the nutrients they have access to. In fact, in many cases the effects were so strong, that changing a cell's metabolic profile could make some of its genes behave in a completely different manner."

The findings have wide-ranging implications for what we eat and how that may cause our bodies to react.

The findings are published in the journal Nature Microbiology.

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