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Will fruits and vegetables really prevent disease? April 28, 2010

Posted by zach in Genetics, Health, Medicine, Nutrition.
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Has you mother ever told you,” You are what you eat?”

With new discoveries being made daily, there is emerging research showing the interaction between environmental and dietary influences in the development of diseases such as cancer.

A new study published in the  Journal of the National Cancer Institute shows there is a weak relationship between high fruit and vegetable intake and your overall cancer risk.  During the 1990’s it was widely thought that fruits and vegetables could prevent cancer and other diseases.  To date there is a lack of studies that could conclusively prove the claim about fruits and vegetables preventing cancer on a large-scale.  But just because they can’t prove it on a large-scale isn’t to say that you should stop eating your fruits and vegetables and go on an all fast food diet.

On a smaller scale it has been found that a substance found in vegetables can combat cancer epigenetically.

Epigenetics is the study of how gene expression can be altered without changing the underlying DNA sequence, this can be done with methyl and acetyl groups. Enzymes have been found that can effect how the chromatin is condensed. When the chromatin is in an extremely condensed state transcription is limited because the polymerases struggle to attach to the DNA template.

Histones acetyltransferaes (HATs) and histone deacetylases (HDACs) are used to add and remove an acetyl groups, these acetyl groups regulate the biochemical structure of the DNA that regulates gene expression. Three key dietary components that have been shown to affect HDAC and HAT activity  1) butyrate, which is formed by fermentation of dietary fiber in the colon, 2) diallyl disulfide is found in garlic and allium (onion family) vegetables, and 3) sulforaphane, which is found in coniferous vegetables.  All three of these substances have been shown to prevent cancer in clinical and preclinical trails by inhibiting HDAC enzymes.  Even though fruits and vegetable have yet been linked to preventing cancer on a large-scale, certain substances found in vegetables have been found to prevent cancer. Maybe it is not enough just to eat the fruits and vegetables, researchers may have to isolate these cancer fighting compounds in order to use all of natures cancer fighting power.  Even though a strong positive correlation between cancer and fruits and vegetables is yet to be found, you may want to continue to eat healthy.  From researching how diet can affect epigenetics there is a clear relationship between cancer, epigenetics, fruits, and vegetables.  Researchers are just going to have to continue to look for ways to harness some of the anticancer properties of both fruits and vegetables.

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