<<

. 3
( 9)



>>

N U T R I E N T S T H AT M A K E A N D R E PA I R D N A


became so annoying to the community that he was asked to leave
or to be committed to a mental hospital.
Robert and his wife, who was also schizophrenic, eventually
sought treatment from Hoffer. Both recovered and went on to
have satisfying careers. Three of their children excreted krypto-
pyrrole (see “Pyroluria” in chapter 10), indicating that they were
genetically at risk for one type of schizophrenia. The children
were also placed on a vitamin regimen, and they have remained
well for years.
Hoffer has pointed out that schizophrenics often end up being
welfare recipients. He judges successful treatment at least in part
based on whether people with schizophrenia are able to return to
work and pay income taxes. “The treatment for this family repre-
sents what nutritional therapy is all about,” he says.

Note: the niacin (but not niacinamide) form of vitamin B3 results in
a strong tingling and ¬‚ushing sensation that lasts for about an hour.


Methylation Reactions and
Molecule-Building Processes
Other types of methylation reactions, which similarly depend on folic
acid, vitamins B6 and B12 , and several other nutrients, affect many other
biochemical processes in the body. These methylation reactions con-
tribute groups of hydrogen and carbon atoms to myriad biochemical
reactions, influencing the body™s production of neurotransmitters
(affecting behavior), phospholipids (in¬‚uencing the nervous system
and levels of blood fats), and the synthesis of many other tissues (such
as cartilage in knee joints). When these methylation reactions are
faulty, they also increase the risk of DNA damage and the resultant
diseases.
When methylation reactions become sluggish, all of the subsequent
molecule- and cell-building reactions begin to stall. One sign of sluggish
or defective methylation is an elevation in the blood levels of homo-
cysteine. Homocysteine is highly toxic and damages blood-vessel walls,
leading to the subsequent deposition of cholesterol, the body™s attempt
to deal with this damage.
Elevated homocysteine levels were ¬rst proposed as a risk factor
for coronary heart disease by Dr. Kilmer McCully in 1969, at a time
when medicine was committed to the idea that excess cholesterol was
64 F E E D YO U R G E N E S R I G H T


a leading cause of heart disease. Since the early 1990s, hundreds of
studies have con¬rmed homocysteine as a leading risk factor for heart
disease, stroke, Alzheimer™s disease, and many other diseases.
Today many physicians routinely measure their patients™ levels of
homocysteine to assess their risk of heart disease. (Ideal homocysteine
levels are less than 6 micromoles per liter of blood, and levels above 13
micromoles per liter are a serious risk factor.) No drug will lower
homocysteine levels; only folic acid, vitamins B6 and B12, choline, and
betaine can. But despite considerable attention to homocysteine in the
medical journals, most physicians see it only as a risk factor for heart
disease, not as a sign of seriously impaired methylation and chemical
reactions throughout the body. Furthermore, excess homocysteine is
also toxic to the methylation process and to many different types of
cells in the body, likely damaging brain cells and creating mutations
that give rise to some cancer cells.
Some population groups, ranging from about 7 percent of Irish to
perhaps as much as 42 percent of French Canadians, carry a subtle
genetic defect (technically known as a polymorphism) that reduces
their bodies™ ability to use folic acid ef¬ciently. This genetic polymor-
phism produces an inefficient form of methylenetetrahydrofolate
reductase (MTHFR), a key enzyme involved in using folic acid. Either
a diet high in folic acid (found in dark leafy green vegetables) or folic
acid supplements can offset this polymorphism, improve methylation,
and lower homocysteine levels. The effect is comparable to “loading,”
or saturating, MTHFR™s cellular environment with folic acid to
improve its activity.
The many articles on homocysteine and folic acid in medical jour-
nals indicate that large numbers of people suffer from defective methy-
lation, the result of inadequate intake of B vitamins. Some skeptical
physicians have argued that while homocysteine is a risk factor for
heart disease, no research shows that folic acid (or any other methyl
nutrient) actually prevents heart disease. But over the past several
years, some striking clinical studies have indeed found that folic acid
supplements do lower the risk of heart disease, as well as the risk of
serious complications after heart surgery. The bene¬cial effects of folic
acid and other B vitamins on heart disease, birth defects, and so many
other conditions point to their fundamental roles in maintaining
healthy DNA and normal biochemistry.
Diseases associated with folic acid de¬ciency and poor methylation
include the following:
65
N U T R I E N T S T H AT M A K E A N D R E PA I R D N A


CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASES
congestive heart failure hypertension
coronary artery disease stroke
hardening of the arteries

NEUROLOGICAL DISORDERS
Alzheimer™s disease depression
cognitive dysfunction Parkinson™s disease
(perception, memory)

BIRTH DEFECTS
neural-tube defects (spina bi¬da)
cleft lip
spontaneous abortion
cleft palate
(miscarriage)
Down syndrome
infertility (male)

CANCERS
acute lymphocytic leukemia colon cancer
breast cancer stomach cancer
cervical cancer



Amino Acids and DNA
Amino acids form the chemical building blocks of protein, enzymes,
and many hormones. When you eat a protein-containing food, such as
chicken, the protein is broken down during digestion into its con-
stituent amino acids. These amino acids are then delivered to cells,
where DNA and RNA use them to construct more than ¬fty thousand
new proteins for use in chemical reactions and in various tissue matri-
ces of the body. For example, bone is not pure calcium but rather a
matrix of highly specialized proteins along with calcium, magnesium,
phosphorus, and other minerals.
Unfortunately, there are some confusing de¬nitions of what are and
are not “essential” dietary amino acids. Twenty dietary amino acids pro-
vide the basic components of all proteins and amino acids in the body.
Nine of these amino acids are considered essential nutrients, because
they must be obtained from the diet. Meanwhile, eleven other amino
acids are considered nonessential, because the body can make them
from the original nine. Unfortunately, the word “nonessential” conveys
the impression that these amino acids are nutritionally unimportant.
66 F E E D YO U R G E N E S R I G H T


The truth is that all twenty of these amino acids are required for
health, and there are serious questions as to whether everyone, young
and old, can ef¬ciently make the eleven amino acids from the ¬rst nine.
Animal foods are the most reliable sources of all of them. Vegetarian
foods, like beans and nuts, provide “incomplete” proteins, in that they
lack one or more of the essential amino acids. For this reason vegetarians
must eat complementary proteins, such as those in legumes and brown
rice, so they obtain all nine essential amino acids and some (or all) of the
so-called nonessential ones. Vegetarians must be particularly conscien-
tious about complementing their proteins, because incomplete proteins
may be metabolized as carbohydrates rather than as true proteins.
To make a protein, DNA transfers an imprint of its instructions for
that protein to RNA, which then uses amino acids in the cell to “cast”
the protein, much the way a sculptor might use a plaster model to make
a bronze ¬gure. However, if all of the necessary amino acids are not
present, the protein will not be produced, even if the DNA and RNA
had the correct instructions. The inability of DNA to fully execute its
instructions can impair any number of subsequent chemical reactions.
In some cases a DNA mutation codes for the incorrect amino acid,
leading to disease. For example, sickle-cell anemia, an inherited disease
characterized by crescent-shaped red blood cells instead of the normal
round ones, results from a genetic mutation that uses an incorrect
amino acid. This simple change alters the dynamics of red blood cells
and makes them more likely to clot when they shouldn™t.
The quality of amino acids available to DNA and RNA is in¬‚u-
enced by our eating and cooking habits. Eating sugary foods and over-
cooking meat can create high levels of “advanced glycation end
products,” also known as AGEs, which essentially render proteins use-
less. AGEs form when proteins and sugars combine in a particular and
undesirable way. They are especially nasty compounds, because they
can attach to and damage DNA.
From the standpoint of minimizing AGE production, it is healthier
to eat raw protein, and many people do eat raw ¬sh in the form of
sashimi. Raw meats are far more problematic because of the risk of
bacterial and parasitic contamination, particularly with ground beef
and chicken. One reasonable compromise is to lightly stir-fry food,
which preserves quality protein while destroying harmful bacteria.
Some companies sell amino acid supplements, and nutritionally ori-
ented physicians sometimes recommend individual or multiple amino
acids to treat speci¬c conditions. For example, arginine may be helpful
67
N U T R I E N T S T H AT M A K E A N D R E PA I R D N A


in erectile dysfunction (it works the same way as Viagra), and the
N-acetylcysteine form of cysteine can reduce cold and ¬‚u symptoms.

How to Take DNA-Building Nutrients
As a family of related nutrients, the B vitamins are so important to
health that everyone should supplement with them.

• At the very least, for general health maintenance, take either a
multivitamin or a B-complex supplement containing at least 10
mg of vitamin B1, 10 mg of vitamin B2, 10 mg of B3, 400 mcg of
folic acid, and 100 mcg of vitamin B12.
• If you feel anxious, stressed, or depressed, take a B-complex vita-
min supplement that contains 50 to 100 mg each of vitamins B1,
B2, and B3. In general, the other B vitamins in the formula will be
in appropriate ratios.
• To limit gene damage, consider adding an additional 400 to 800
mcg of folic acid and 500 mcg of vitamin B12.
• If you have had serious episodes of mental illness, such as severe
depression or schizophrenia, you may bene¬t from still-higher
dosages of individual B vitamins. Under these circumstances
it might be best to consult with a nutritionally oriented physician
or psychiatrist. For referrals go to www.orthomed.org or
www.acam.org.

Please note that high dosages of vitamin B2 will turn your urine
bright yellow, but this is not harmful.

In the next chapter, we will focus on antioxidant nutrients, which help
protect DNA from damage and also turn some genes on and off.
6

Nutrients That Protect DNA
from Damage




In recent years, the term “antioxidant,” once the province of chemists,
has practically become a household word. Most people understand that
antioxidant nutrients are good for health because they reduce the risk
of disease, primarily by slowing the accumulation of age-related cell
damage to the body. Antioxidants accomplish this by preventing free-
radical-induced oxidation, the same process that turns iron to rust.
Antioxidants also serve many nonantioxidant functions. Of partic-
ular relevance, they turn some genes on and off, thereby in¬‚uencing the
normal growth of cells as well as protecting against in¬‚ammation, can-
cer, and heart disease. In addition, antioxidants function as cofactors in
myriad biochemical reactions and sometimes provide structural roles
in cells. The best-known antioxidants are vitamins E and C, but other
important ones include carotenoids (such as lutein, lycopene, and beta-
carotene), flavonoids (such as quercetin and hesperidin), selenium,
N-acetylcysteine, and alpha-lipoic acid.
Most antioxidant research has focused on how these nutrients
quench, or neutralize, harmful molecules called free radicals. As dis-
cussed in chapter 2, free radicals are unbalanced molecules that lack
one electron in what is normally a pair. As a consequence free radicals
try to restore their equilibrium by taking a replacement electron from
68
69
N U T R I E N T S T H AT P R O T E C T D N A F R O M DA M AG E


any nearby molecule, such as DNA. By taking that electron, free radi-
cals damage the molecules forming DNA or other cell structures.
Free-radical damage to DNA is disastrous because it can disable or
rewrite a cell™s genetic programming, which is what happens with can-
cer cells. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals by donating electrons,
which stabilizes them. By protecting against free-radical damage to
cells, antioxidants lower the risk of cancer, heart disease, and nearly all
diseases.


Free Radicals, Antioxidants,
and Your Genes
Both antioxidants and free radicals turn many important genes on and
off. Both are necessary, but they generally have opposing effects.

Free Radicals and Stress Genes
Although free radicals can and often do damage genes, they also turn
on many genes that initially help protect us from harm. Many of these
genes, known as stress genes, are involved in the body™s responses to
serious biological threats, such as physical injuries or infections. For
example, free radicals help turn on genes that promote in¬‚ammation, a
necessary part of the body™s immune response. But when the intake of
dietary antioxidants is low, these genes do not turn off when they
should. Instead the ongoing activity of stress genes helps sustain a long-
term in¬‚ammatory response, potentially leading to such chronic dis-
eases as arthritis, heart disease, and cancer.
More speci¬cally, free radicals activate several gene-transcription
proteins (including nuclear factor kappa beta, activator protein-1, and
heat-shock proteins). These proteins turn on certain genes and begin
the process of transcribing information in DNA to RNA, which in turn
produces proteins or enzymes. While initially protective, these tran-
scription factors turn on genes that promote in¬‚ammation, the growth
of cancer cells, and the proliferation of viruses (including HIV) in the
body.
During in¬‚ammatory responses, particularly when they are chronic,
the body™s reserves of antioxidants, which should help turn off
these genes, can become depleted. Large amounts of supplemental
antioxidants often ease disease symptoms, speed recovery, or extend
life expectancy. These bene¬ts of antioxidants have been demonstrated
many times by physicians and in a wide range of clinical studies. For
70 F E E D YO U R G E N E S R I G H T


example, several hospital studies have shown that supplemental antiox-
idants can quell the immune overreaction that often kills patients with
an infection of the blood.

Antioxidants Turn On Helpful Genes in Brain Cells
Only in recent years have scientists begun to discover how antioxidants
turn on many important genes. One of the most fascinating studies was
conducted by Peter G. Schultz, Ph.D., of the Scripps Research Institute.
Schultz and his colleagues gave an extract of the herb ginkgo biloba,
which is especially rich in antioxidant compounds, to laboratory mice
and then compared the responses of genes in their brain cells to those
of mice that had not received ginkgo. This study is signi¬cant for two
reasons. First, ginkgo is widely used to improve memory, and some
research shows that it may slow the progression of Alzheimer™s disease.
Also, this particular study demonstrated that ginkgo improves the
activity of many different genes in brain cells.
Schulz found that ten key genes affecting brain function increased
in activity by three to sixteen times after the mice consumed ginkgo.
One of the genes increased activity in the hippocampus, the brain™s cen-
ter of learning and memory. The other nine genes positively in¬‚uenced
biochemical activity in the cerebral cortex, which controls memory,
speech, logical and emotional responses, and voluntary physical move-
ments. These genetic changes underlie the more obvious improvements
in cognition and memory that occur after taking ginkgo.

Antioxidants Disable Genes in Cancer Cells
Antioxidants also help regulate the “cell cycle,” which is comparable to
a biological clock that regulates cell growth, the replication of DNA,
and the creation of new cells. Nearly all cells have a built-in suicide pro-
gram, called apoptosis. When cells reach a certain age, this suicide pro-
gram literally stops the clock, triggering the cell™s death and preventing
its genetic program from turning cancerous. This is a normal process,
and the immune system cleans up and disposes of dead cells.
However, cancer cells typically lack this suicide program and do not
die until their host dies. In fact, some of the cancer cells used experi-
mentally by researchers are the descendants of cells obtained during
surgery on patients decades ago! The genetic programs in cancer cells
enable them to be virtually immortal.
Yet researchers have found, time and again in cell and animal stud-
ies, that antioxidants can interrupt the life cycle of cancer cells and
71
N U T R I E N T S T H AT P R O T E C T D N A F R O M DA M AG E


induce apoptosis. Many of these studies have used natural vitamin E
succinate, beta-carotene, and silymarin (an antioxidant extract of the
herb milk thistle). In one of these studies, researchers at the AMC Can-
cer Research Center in Denver found that silymarin stopped the
growth of breast-cancer cells just before they were about to replicate
DNA for a new cancer cell. None of these nutrients has been found to
cause apoptosis in healthy cells, suggesting that they have normal roles
in regulating healthy DNA.

Protecting DNA from Free-Radical Damage
Dozens of studies have demonstrated that antioxidants can reduce
free-radical damage to DNA, genes, and chromosomes. Let™s look
brie¬‚y at three of them.
In the ¬rst study, researchers at the University of Ulster in North-
ern Ireland exposed cells to various dosages of X-ray radiation or
hydrogen peroxide, both generators of free radicals. Some of the cells
were also exposed to vitamin C or to vitamin E. Each vitamin protected
against DNA damage, but in different ways. Vitamin C did a better job
of preventing DNA damage from X-rays, whereas vitamin E was more
effective in preventing DNA damage from hydrogen peroxide. Each
vitamin quenched free radicals in a different place in the cells.
In the second study, European researchers asked 57 healthy men to
take an antioxidant combination or a placebo for twelve weeks. The
antioxidant dosages were relatively modest: 149 IU of vitamin E, 100
mg of vitamin C, 6 mg of beta-carotene, and 50 mcg of selenium. The
researchers drew blood from the subjects at the beginning and end of
the study, and they investigated the amount of genetic damage in the
men™s lymphocyte cells.
Overall, men taking the antioxidants bene¬ted from more than a 50
percent decrease in genetic damage. Among smokers antioxidants
decreased the amount of chromosome damage by almost seven times.
A separate group of men, all of whom had survived a heart attack, did
not have a decrease in genetic damage from the antioxidants, possibly
because their ill health created much higher requirements for these
nutrients.
In the third study, researchers looked at genetic damage in workers
who had helped clean up the radioactive Chernobyl nuclear power
plant. Because of their exposure to radiation, these men had genetic
damage ten times higher than normal. But after the men took
ginkgo supplements, their genetic damage (measured in the subjects™
72 F E E D YO U R G E N E S R I G H T


blood cells) declined to almost normal levels. When the men stopped
taking the ginkgo supplements, about one-third of them had an
increase in genetic damage, indicating that they needed continued
supplementation.

Antioxidant Synergy
The antioxidants that protect us and limit free-radical damage come
from two sources, and both are intertwined. Our bodies make a number
of antioxidant enzymes, including various glutathione compounds
(such as glutathione peroxidase), superoxide dismutase, and catalase.
These antioxidants are produced to quench as many free radicals as
possible close to their origin, so they do not cause much damage.
Meanwhile, vegetables, fruits, and herbs provide the lion™s share of
dietary antioxidants.As bene¬cial as antioxidant supplements are, they
should usually be considered just that”supplements to a wholesome
diet. Vegetables, fruits, and herbs contain thousands of different
antioxidants, most in families of compounds called polyphenols,
flavonoids, and carotenoids, which will be discussed later in this
chapter.
Unfortunately, companies sometimes advertise that a “super-
antioxidant” product is ¬fty or a hundred times more powerful than
vitamins E or C. Such ads are misleading. No single antioxidant can
neutralize all types of free radicals. Different antioxidants work in dif-
ferent places in the cell, some are fat-soluble and others water-soluble,
and each quenches different types of free radicals. In other words, you
and your genes are best served with multiple antioxidants, not just one.
In addition, many antioxidants also interact with each other, sup-
porting each other as they quench free radicals. Lester Packer, Ph.D.,
professor emeritus of the University of California at Berkeley, has
described this antioxidant synergy as the “antioxidant network.” For
example, alpha-lipoic acid helps restore vitamins C and E and glu-
tathione back to full strength after they have lost electrons ¬ghting free
radicals. So again it is better to consume a diversity of antioxidants
instead of just one.


Vitamin E
Vitamin E is the body™s principal fat-soluble antioxidant, meaning that
it works in the fatty regions of cells, such as in cell membranes. It has
diverse health bene¬ts, among them a reduction in the risk of heart dis-
73
N U T R I E N T S T H AT P R O T E C T D N A F R O M DA M AG E


ease, Alzheimer™s disease, and some cancers, as well as an easing of pain
in rheumatoid arthritis. These bene¬ts are related to the vitamin™s role
in protecting DNA and other cell structures from free-radical damage,
as well as to its role in turning off unhealthy gene activity.
Unfortunately, vitamin E has often suffered from bad press, dating
back almost a century to when researchers considered it nothing more
than a fertility vitamin for rodents. The medical use of vitamin E began
in the 1940s, when Dr. Evan V. Shute and his colleagues in London,
Canada, successfully used it to treat gynecological disorders and coro-
nary artery disease. It was not until the 1960s that vitamin E was of¬-
cially recognized as an essential nutrient in human health, protecting
cell membranes from free-radical oxidation.
As an antioxidant, vitamin E prevents the free-radical oxidation of
low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, an early step in the devel-
opment of heart disease. Globules of oxidized LDL (but not normal
LDL) trigger an in¬‚ammatory response, prompting white blood cells to
seek and engulf it. These white blood cells (fattened with oxidized
LDL) then stick to artery walls, intensifying a localized in¬‚ammatory
response. (For more information on this, please see my book The
In¬‚ammation Syndrome.)
LDL is widely considered the “bad” form of cholesterol. But this is
a misconception. LDL carries vitamin E and other fat-soluble anti-
oxidants, such as the carotenoids, through the blood. Normal LDL does
not promote cardiovascular disease, and oxidized LDL is actually a
re¬‚ection of inadequate antioxidant intake. Reducing LDL oxidation,
on a long-term basis, is one of the ways vitamin E reduces the risk of
heart disease.
During the development of heart disease, a combination of free
radicals and oxidized LDL stimulates genes that promote the growth of
smooth muscle cells in the arteries. These smooth muscle cells become
part of the matrix forming arterial plaque, which also includes choles-
terol, white blood cells, and a variety of in¬‚ammatory molecules. Vita-
min E (as well as vitamin C) inhibits the activity of these genes and
prevents the abnormal proliferation of smooth muscle cells.
Vitamin E reduces the risk of heart disease in other ways as well. It
is a mild anticoagulant, or blood thinner. Contrary to common medical
opinion, it does not increase the anticoagulant effect of warfarin
(Coumadin).
Many of the bene¬ts of vitamin E are related to its ability to inhibit
gene-transcription factors, such as nuclear factor kappa beta, which
74 F E E D YO U R G E N E S R I G H T


turns on in¬‚ammation-promoting genes. The natural form of vitamin E
reduces blood levels of C-reactive protein, a marker and promoter of
in¬‚ammation, by 30 to 50 percent. In addition, vitamin E supplements
reduce pain and improve mobility in patients with rheumatoid arthritis,
another testament to its antiin¬‚ammatory properties.
Vitamin E has also been shown to reduce the accumulation of beta-
amyloid protein in the brain, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer™s
disease. Free radicals stimulate the formation of beta-amyloid protein,
and it is very likely that this activity involves regulation of the genes
that code for beta-amyloid protein, not just a simple free-radical
and antioxidant interaction. Several human studies have found that
people who consume large amounts of vitamin E have a relatively
low risk of developing Alzheimer™s disease, and one study found that
large amounts of vitamin E slowed the progression of Alzheimer™s
disease.

How to Take Vitamin E Supplements
For the most part, natural and synthetic vitamins are indistinguishable
from each other, but this is not the case with vitamin E. The natural and
synthetic forms of vitamin E have different molecular and chemical
characteristics. The natural form is more potent and is absorbed twice
as well as the synthetic form.
You can easily identify the natural and synthetic forms in supple-
ments, but you have to read the ¬ne print on the back of the label. Nat-
ural vitamin E will be identified by its chemical name, d-alpha
tocopherol, d-alpha tocopheryl acetate, or d-alpha tocopheryl succi-
nate. Synthetic forms will have a “dl” instead of a “d” before the rest of
the chemical name. Companies that do not list either “dl” or “d” on
labels are most likely trying to hide the source of their product, which
is probably synthetic.
Some natural vitamin E products also contain other forms of vitamin
E, such as gamma tocopherol and a vitamin E subfamily of compounds
called tocotrienols.Virtually all of the research on vitamin E has been on
the d-alpha form, and the body preferentially selects this form for
absorption. However, the other forms of vitamin E have antioxidant
properties and are also bene¬cial in conjunction with the d-alpha forms
of vitamin E. I take a natural “mixed tocopherol” supplement to get the
bene¬ts of full-spectrum vitamin E. Perhaps the best selection of natural
vitamin E products is sold by Carlson Laboratories, (800) 323-4141.
75
N U T R I E N T S T H AT P R O T E C T D N A F R O M DA M AG E


How much should you take? Follow these guidelines:

• To reduce DNA damage and your long-term risk of heart dis-
ease, cancer, and Alzheimer™s disease, take 200 to 400 IU of
vitamin E daily. This is a bene¬cial dose when taken in conjunc-
tion with other antioxidants discussed in this chapter.
• To complement the treatment of heart disease, Alzheimer™s dis-
ease, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis, take 1,000 to 2,000 IU of
vitamin E daily. However, work with your physician in these
instances.

Mysterious Symptoms Caused by
Celiac Disease
Claire, age forty-¬ve, had suffered from iron-de¬ciency anemia
most of her life, despite taking a daily multivitamin supplement
and extra iron. After she had experienced fractures on three dif-
ferent occasions, a bone scan found that she was suffering from
osteoporosis, which was unusual for a perimenopausal woman.
Over the next year, Claire took still more iron supplements and
also calcium supplements, but follow-up tests indicated that she
was still anemic and her bones even thinner.
A nutritionally oriented physician suspected that Claire had
celiac disease, an intolerance of gluten protein in wheat, barley,
and rye. He ordered two tests: a genetic test for the presence of
the HLA-DQ2 gene, which is often seen in people with celiac dis-
ease, and antitissue transglutaminase, a frequent marker of
gluten sensitivity. The doctor™s hunch was correct. Both tests
came back positive.
The most common form of celiac disease involves an immune
response that often quietly attacks the intestinal wall, reducing
absorption of many different nutrients. Both iron-deficiency
anemia and osteoporosis are observed in people with celiac dis-
ease. But often the health consequences of celiac disease go
unnoticed for years.
Claire™s physician put her in touch with a nutritionist and a
celiac support group. The only treatment is the complete avoid-
ance of all gluten-containing food products, which includes most
breads, pastas, and processed foods. Although many celiac
patients enjoy high-carb gluten-free breads and snacks, Claire
76 F E E D YO U R G E N E S R I G H T


has found that a nutrient-dense diet (as described in chapter 7)
was the best way for her to avoid gluten.
Her diet includes chicken, turkey, ¬sh, pork, and vegetables”
but no bread or other grains, except for a little brown rice. In
addition, she takes a high-potency vitamin and a mineral supple-
ment to make up for years of marginal nutrient absorption. To
her pleasant surprise, Claire has lost ¬fteen pounds and a skin
condition has also cleared up.


Vitamin C
Our biological ancestors made their own vitamin C, and today most
mammals, including dogs and cats, still do. But humans, higher primates
(including gorillas and orangutans), and a small number of other ani-
mals cannot. We still have the genes that program the synthesis of vita-
min C from glucose, but the gene that codes for the ¬nal enzyme in the
process is damaged in all humans and thus nonfunctional, most likely
because of an ancient virus.
Vitamin C“producing animals make the human equivalent of about
1 to 13 grams of vitamin C daily, and these levels increase when the ani-
mal is under stress. In contrast, vitamin C levels in humans are quickly
depleted by stress. (A physician friend related that after the stress of
a spider bite, blood tests showed that his levels of vitamin C were
undetectable for days.) If you think of vitamin C as an abundant and
endogenously produced substance, like the thousands of other bio-
chemicals made in the body, it becomes clear that even the best diets
leave us with only marginal vitamin C levels.
In addition to its antioxidant function, vitamin C appears to be
part of the body™s stress response and helps us maintain homeostasis, a
state of biochemical and metabolic balance. The vitamin is needed for
the synthesis of adrenaline (one of our stress hormones), and it also
enhances our mood and general sense of well-being. The ¬rst signs of
vitamin C de¬ciency are irritability and fatigue.
Considerable research has shown that vitamin C, like vitamin E,
reduces free-radical damage to DNA. However, vitamin C appears to
play a far more fundamental role in regulating genes and cell growth.
Dr. Richard T. Lee of the Harvard Medical School tested 880 chemical
compounds to see if any of them prompted embryonic stem cells”
essentially generic cells”to differentiate into more specialized heart
cells. Such differentiation and specialization of cells enable a few
77
N U T R I E N T S T H AT P R O T E C T D N A F R O M DA M AG E


embryonic stem cells to develop into a fetus. In Lee™s experiments only
vitamin C triggered this transformation from generic cells to heart cells.
He wrote with amazement in the journal Circulation that the heart cells
even pulsated! Thus, vitamin C plays a crucial role in creating new and
replacing old cells in the body, and it can do this only by regulating the
activity of DNA in embryonic stem cells.
In 1970, the Nobel laureate Linus Pauling, Ph.D., stirred consider-
able controversy by recommending large amounts of vitamin C to pre-
vent and treat the common cold and in¬‚uenza. Since then many studies
have shown that regular supplemental vitamin C intake, in the range of
2 to 6 grams (2,000 to 6,000 mg) daily, does in fact reduce cold symp-
toms. In a review article, Harri Hemil¤, Ph.D., a professor at the Uni-
versity of Helsinki, analyzed twenty-one vitamin C studies and found
that supplemental vitamin C reduced cold symptoms and duration by
about one-third.
Although Hemil¤ published his analysis in 1994, more recent
studies have con¬rmed his ¬ndings. If you are ¬ghting an infection,
your vitamin C requirements (for immune cells, healing, and home-
ostasis) increase considerably. Dr. Robert Cathcart III, of Los Altos,
California, has long recommended “bowel tolerance” to gauge vitamin
C needs, which will change during the course of a cold or ¬‚u. Cathcart
has suggested that people take enough vitamin C (in divided daily
dosages) to the point where they almost develop diarrhea, then reduce
the amount to what creates soft stools. That, he believes, is a person™s
ideal dosage.
Several studies have found that modest dosages (500 mg) of vita-
min C can lead to substantial reductions in blood pressure among peo-
ple with mild to moderate hypertension. Some research also suggests
that vitamin C can reduce the risk of stroke, most likely because it is
involved in maintaining the integrity of blood vessels. Vitamin C func-
tions as a cofactor in the body™s production of collagen and other pro-
teins in tissues, and low levels of the vitamin prevent DNA from
ful¬lling its normal function in making these proteins.
Pauling raised another controversy when he recommended that can-
cer patients take a minimum of 10 grams of vitamin C daily. His initial
work in this area yielded inconsistent results. However, Canada™s Dr.
Abram Hoffer has developed a high-potency anticancer vitamin pro-
gram around Pauling™s initial recommendations, and he has had great
success in treating cancer and preventing the recurrence of cancer in
hundreds of patients. Dr. Mark Levine of the National Institutes of
78 F E E D YO U R G E N E S R I G H T


Health has noted that intravenous vitamin C may be more effective than
oral supplements in treating cancer. The reason is that intravenous vita-
min C is more effective than oral supplements at raising blood levels.
Several studies have found that people with high intake or high
blood levels of vitamin C live longer than people who consume little of
the vitamin. In one recent study, Dr. Kay-Tee Khaw of Cambridge Uni-
versity found that people with high blood levels of vitamin C had half
the risk of death at any age, compared with those who had low levels of
vitamin C.
Finally, several studies have shown that the topical application of
lotions with vitamin C can reduce the depth of wrinkles and improve
overall skin tone. This research is signi¬cant because it demonstrates
that some signs of aging, aged cells, and DNA and cell-membrane dam-
age can be partially reversed.

How to Take Vitamin C Supplements
It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the many different types of vitamin C
supplements on the market. Ascorbic acid is the chemical name for
vitamin C, and this type is generally the least expensive. However, pay
careful attention to the excipients listed in the ¬ne print. Excipients are
substances, including cellulose, lactose, sugar, and colorings that are
added to improve the manufacturing, taste, or appearance of tablets
and capsules. In general, supplements (of all types) sold in health and
natural food stores have fewer excipients and smaller quantities than
supplements sold in drugstores.

• Most people should take a minimum of 500 to 1,000 mg of vita-
min C daily. Whatever the dosage you take, it is best to divide it
up and take smaller amounts two or three times daily.
• An ideal dosage range is 2,000 to 5,000 mg a day, again divided
up two or three times daily.
• You may need higher dosages, particularly if you are ¬ghting a
cold or ¬‚u.
• If you develop loose stools or diarrhea, you are taking too much
vitamin C. Use the “bowel tolerance” method to adjust your vita-
min C dosage. Reduce the amount to slightly less than what it
takes to cause loose stools. This amount is your ideal dosage.
• It is also worthwhile to add some type of ¬‚avonoid supplement
(see “Flavonoids” later in this chapter). Flavonoids work with
vitamin C, and the two have synergistic bene¬ts.
79
N U T R I E N T S T H AT P R O T E C T D N A F R O M DA M AG E



Selenium
Selenium, an essential dietary mineral, is a component of the body™s
four glutathione peroxidase compounds, among the most powerful
antioxidants made by the body.
In a recent study, German and Italian researchers found that a par-
ticular selenium-containing enzyme, phospholipid hydroperoxide glu-
tathione peroxidase, is produced in large quantities in developing
sperm, where it protects against free-radical damage to DNA. How-
ever, the function of this enzyme changes as sperm mature, and it pro-
vides some of the physical structure of sperm.
In a series of animal experiments and human studies, Melinda
Beck, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found
that selenium can curb the spread of ¬‚u and coxsackie viruses. In con-
trast, selenium de¬ciency actually spurs their activity.
These viruses, along with the AIDS and Ebola viruses, use selenium-
containing proteins to reproduce. During an infection the viruses
deplete the body™s reserves of selenium, which impairs the production
of glutathione peroxidase and the body™s immune response to the
infection. Intuitively, you might think that depriving the viruses of sele-
nium would help stop them. But that is not the case. Several studies
have found that selenium de¬ciency leads to speci¬c mutations in the
¬‚u and coxsackie viruses, which make the viruses far more dangerous.
Once the viral mutation is created, it can even infect a healthy person
who consumes adequate selenium.
The solution is to maintain adequate intake of selenium, which
boosts the immune system™s ability to fight the virus and to either
destroy it or keep it in check. Small studies on patients with AIDS have
found that supplemental selenium can control viral replication and
extend life expectancy.
Selenium supplements can also reduce the risk of several types of
cancer. Through its role in glutathione peroxidases, selenium likely
helps prevent DNA mutations that would give rise to cancer cells. The
late Larry C. Clark, Ph.D., of the University of Arizona found that peo-
ple who took 200 mcg of selenium daily had a 63 percent lower risk of
prostate cancer, a 58 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer, and a 46
percent lower risk of lung cancer. These are impressive results from
taking a single supplement daily for only a few years.
Recently, Dr. Rebecca E. Rudolph of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer
Research Center in Seattle linked high selenium levels to a lower risk
80 F E E D YO U R G E N E S R I G H T


of Barrett™s esophagus. The condition, a complication of chronic heart-
burn, boosts the risk of esophageal cancer by seventy-five times.
Rudolph found that patients with high blood levels of selenium had
about half the risk of developing precancerous cell changes in
the esophagus. Selenium helps maintain normal functioning of the
p53 cancer-suppressing gene, which is damaged or not active in many
cancers.

How to Take Selenium Supplements
There are many high-quality selenium supplements on the market.
My personal preference is for a high-selenium yeast supplement (in
which yeast is grown in a selenium-rich environment and then har-
vested). However, you cannot go wrong with other types of selenium
supplements.

• Taking 200 mcg daily (which may already be in your multivita-
min supplement) is safe and can reduce the risk of several dif-
ferent types of cancer.
• If you have frequent colds and ¬‚us or chronic infections (such as
HIV or hepatitis C), take 400 mcg daily.


Carotenoids
Carotenoids are a family of fat-soluble pigments that add color to veg-
etables and fruits. As antioxidants they protect plants from free radi-
cals, which are generated when ultraviolet rays (in sunlight) strike the
plants. When we consume plants as part of our diet, we acquire many of
the antioxidant bene¬ts of carotenoids.
In addition, carotenoids in¬‚uence the expression of some genes in
plants and appear to in¬‚uence the behavior of some genes in people.
Carotenoids also play key roles in what scientists call “gap junction
communication.” Gap junctions span the physical gaps between cells
and, as the term suggests, they enable one cell to communicate with its
neighboring cells. It is through such communication that cells share
information about conditions and also whether certain genes should be
activated.
More than six hundred carotenoids have been identi¬ed, but only
about twenty are absorbed from foods in the diet. Of these, beta-
carotene, lutein, and lycopene are the most common and probably most
important in terms of health.
81
N U T R I E N T S T H AT P R O T E C T D N A F R O M DA M AG E


Beta-Carotene
Beta-carotene, perhaps the best known of all carotenoids, functions as
an antioxidant that protects against free-radical damage to DNA. Con-
siderable research supports this bene¬t of beta-carotene. In one study,
published in the European Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that
people taking 15 mg of natural beta-carotene daily reduced DNA dam-
age and enhanced DNA repair.
Beta-carotene also influences the activity of a key cancer-
suppressing gene, known as p21. This gene programs the structure of
the p21 protein. Lucia A. Stivala, Ph.D., and her colleagues at the Uni-
versity of Pavia in Italy conducted research showing that some of the
anticancer properties of beta-carotene are related to its effect on
the p21 gene. In experiments Stivala found that beta-carotene inhibited
the growth of skin-cancer cells but only in the presence of the p21
gene. Other research has shown that vitamin E increases the activity of
the p21 gene, leading to large amounts of the p21 protein, suggesting
that vitamin E and beta-carotene in¬‚uence gene behavior in tandem,
apart from their joint antioxidant activity.
In the colon, dietary ¬ber indirectly also increases the activity of the
p21 gene. Fiber is not absorbed, but it is fermented by bacteria while
passing through the intestine. This fermentation produces butyrate, a
compound that turns on the p21 gene. Experiments have found that
active p21 genes actually turn off a separate gene that promotes the
growth of colon-cancer cells.
Some research has shown that people who smoke more than a pack
of cigarettes daily and also drink substantial amounts of alcohol (spir-
its) have a slightly higher risk of developing lung cancer if they also
take synthetic beta-carotene supplements. Smoking and alcohol gener-
ate large numbers of free radicals and cause genetic damage through-
out the body. The combination overwhelms the antioxidant bene¬ts of
beta-carotene and, ironically, creates more free radicals from beta-
carotene. Because of these ¬ndings, heavy smokers and drinkers should
not take synthetic beta-carotene.
However, studies have clearly shown that former smokers and
nondrinkers do bene¬t from beta-carotene and have a lower risk of
developing lung cancer when taking supplements. In addition, several
studies suggest that a combination of antioxidants, including natural
beta-carotene, is associated with a lower risk of lung cancer. Natural
beta-carotene supplements are preferable to the synthetic form,
because they contain some alpha-carotene, which appears to protect
82 F E E D YO U R G E N E S R I G H T


against lung cancer. So the best advice should be the most obvious:
don™t smoke tobacco or drink excessive amounts of alcohol, because no
supplement will totally erase their negative health consequences.
Health problems have never been associated with the carotenoids
in foods. Carrots, pumpkins, and other vegetables are excellent sources
of beta-carotene and other carotenoids.

Lycopene
Lycopene, a red carotenoid found in tomatoes and watermelon, con-
centrates in the prostate and can reduce the risk of prostate cancer. In
one study, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health
reported that high intake of tomato sauces, rich in lycopene and related
carotenoids, reduced the risk of prostate cancer by 45 percent. Still
other research has found strong associations between high intake of
lycopene (or tomatoes) and a low risk of other cancers, including those
of the pancreas, colon, breast, and cervix.
Like beta-carotene, lycopene appears to function both as an anti-
oxidant and as a regulator of some genes. For example, lycopene
inhibits the activity of “transforming growth factor alpha,” which alters
gene behavior and stimulates the growth of cancers.
Some human evidence suggests that lycopene interrupts the growth
of prostate-cancer cells, and this would likely take place through apop-
tosis, which involves shutting down DNA replication.A team of doctors
from the Karmano Cancer Institute in Detroit gave 30 mg of lycopene
or a placebo daily to 36 men scheduled for prostate-cancer surgery.
After three weeks tumors in the men taking lycopene had shrunk sig-
ni¬cantly and their cancer cells showed a reduced tendency toward
proliferation. This does not mean that lycopene is a cure for prostate
cancer. However, one cannot help but wonder whether the men might
have bene¬ted from further cancer remission if they had taken the
supplements for several months.

Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin, found in kale, spinach, and broccoli, also serve as
antioxidant carotenoids. They are deposited in the macula, the center of
the eye™s retina, responsible for detailed vision.These yellowish deposits
of lutein and zeaxanthin are referred to as the macular pigment, and
they help ¬lter out harmful wavelengths of light. This area of pigment,
smaller than the head of a pin, also functions somewhat like a pair of
polarized sunglasses, improving visual acuity in bright situations.
83
N U T R I E N T S T H AT P R O T E C T D N A F R O M DA M AG E


A thin layer of macular pigment is a prime risk factor for macular
degeneration, the leading (and generally untreatable) cause of blind-
ness in the elderly. Supplemental lutein, some of which the body con-
verts to zeaxanthin, increases the thickness of the macular pigment and
can often improve visual acuity in people with macular degeneration
and retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited eye disease.

How to Take Carotenoid Supplements
The best source of carotenoids is a diet rich in fruits and colorful, non-
starchy vegetables. If you opt for supplements, it is important to obtain
a combination of beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein. Natural beta-
carotene (from algae) is superior to the synthetic form. Natural
tomato-derived lycopene contains related carotenoids that are likely of
value, but synthetic lycopene may be an alternative for people with
tomato or nightshade-plant sensitivities. Lutein is extracted from
marigold petals and is sold as pure (or “free”) lutein and as lutein
esters. Both products are natural, well absorbed, and functionally
equivalent.

• For most people supplemental daily dosages should be approxi-
mately 6 mg (10,000 IU) of beta-carotene, 5 mg of lycopene, and
5 mg of lutein.
• Higher dosages may offset speci¬c health risks, such as benign
prostate enlargement or cancer (30 mg of lycopene) or macular
degeneration (20 mg of lutein).

An Improved Diet and Supplements
Reverse Jared™s Prediabetes
Like many men, Jared enjoyed eating pizza and drinking beer,
and he had a sweet tooth as well. By the time he turned forty-¬ve,
he had a sizable potbelly. He was thirty pounds overweight and
had a forty-inch waist. A blood test showed that his fasting glu-
cose was 105 mg/dl, his fasting insulin was 38 mcIU/ml, and his
glycated hemoglobin was 8.5 percent, together indicating that he
would probably be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes within the
next few years.
The prospect of diabetes was a wake-up call for Jared. His
physician explained that elevated glucose and insulin levels turn
on genes that promote obesity, heart disease, kidney disease, and
84 F E E D YO U R G E N E S R I G H T


possibly even some types of cancer. Because Jared™s father had
died of diabetic complications, he was especially motivated to
avoid a similar fate.
In conjunction with his nutritionally oriented physician and
a nutritionist, Jared worked hard to modify his diet, eating
more chicken, fish, steamed vegetables, and salads. He stopped
drinking beer and instead started drinking mineral water and
tea. He began taking antioxidant supplements, including
vitamins E and C and alpha-lipoic acid, all of which have
been shown to improve glucose tolerance. In addition, he also
began going for long walks”two to three miles daily”which
his physician said would also help lower his glucose and insulin
levels.
Six months later Jared had lost 30 pounds and achieved his
target weight of 150 pounds. He felt better than he had in years
and understood that he was not just on a diet but was improving
his dietary habits for the rest of his life. A year later blood tests
showed that his fasting glucose had dropped to 86, his insulin to
10, and his glycated hemoglobin to 6.1 percent. Excited by his
makeover, Jared plans to further improve his health and bring
these numbers down even more.


Flavonoids
Like carotenoids, ¬‚avonoids (sometimes called polyphenolic ¬‚avonoids
and bio¬‚avonoids) function as pigments and antioxidants in plants.
They also in¬‚uence some gene activity in plants, suggesting that they
may do the same in people. We obtain the antioxidant benefits of
¬‚avonoids when we eat vegetables and fruits, and tantalizing research
suggests that they have positive effects on our genes as well. Studies
have found that people who consume large amounts of ¬‚avonoids have
a relatively low risk of cancer. Flavonoids turn on protective genes, turn
off in¬‚ammation-promoting genes, and protect against gene-damaging
free radicals.
To the surprise of many people, ¬‚avonoids account for most of the
antioxidants in vegetables and fruits. More than ¬ve thousand individ-
ual ¬‚avonoids have been identi¬ed in plants, and scientists have organ-
ized flavonoids into several large families based on their chemical
structure. From the standpoint of health benefits, a few specific
¬‚avonoids are of interest.
85
N U T R I E N T S T H AT P R O T E C T D N A F R O M DA M AG E


Anthocyanidins
Anthocyanidins are a family of dark-colored ¬‚avonoids concentrated
in blueberries, raspberries, certain herbs, purple grapes, and red wines.
Two ¬‚avonoid supplements, Pycnogenol and grapeseed extract, are rich
in anthocyanidins. Pycnogenol is obtained from the bark of French
maritime pine trees, whereas grapeseed extract is derived from waste
material in the wine industry. Both supplements contain complexes of
many individual antioxidant flavonoids, with some similarities and
differences.
Experiments have shown that Pycnogenol reduces the activity of
two genes, calgranulin A and B, by twenty-two times in skin cells. These
two genes are overactive in psoriasis and other skin diseases, and so
Pycnogenol may be bene¬cial in psoriasis. Other research has found
that Pycnogenol protects against some of the harmful effects of ultra-
violet (UV) rays in sunlight. In these experiments researchers used UV
rays to turn on genes involved in in¬‚ammation following sunburn. Cells
exposed to Pycnogenol maintained lower gene activity after being
exposed to UV rays.
Pycnogenol also appears to regulate the gene that codes for nitric
oxide synthase, an enzyme involved in the production of nitric oxide.
Nitric oxide is a key gene-regulating molecule. Viagra and the other
prescription drugs for erectile dysfunction work by increasing nitric
oxide levels. One study found Pycnogenol helpful in erectile dysfunc-
tion as well.

Citrus Flavonoids
Lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit, and other citrus fruits are rich
sources of ¬‚avonoids. Most of these ¬‚avonoids are found in the internal
membranes of the fruits and in the bitter rind.
Cell studies have found that a ¬‚avonoid called naringin, found
principally in grapefruit, can protect bone-cell chromosomes from
radiation damage. This characteristic, if true in humans, would
lower the risk of leukemia. Other studies have found that naringenin,
a closely related compound, can inhibit the growth of colon- and
breast-cancer cells.
In a human study, German researchers used large dosages of the
¬‚avonoid limonene, found in lemons and oranges, to treat women with
breast cancer. Tumor growth was inhibited in some but not all of the
patients, a promising finding. The researchers gave 13.8 grams of
limonene daily to the women in the study. Fresh lemonade, made from
86 F E E D YO U R G E N E S R I G H T


whole lemons, provides 1 gram of limonene per liter, but commercial
juices provide only about one-twelfth that amount.
Cell studies have shown that many other citrus ¬‚avonoids likely
protect against cancer. Among them are hesperidin, luteolin, and dios-
min, all found in lemons and oranges. They appear to work by inter-
fering with the life cycle of cancer cells, thereby destroying them.
Flavonoids do not have this destructive effect on normal cells.

Flavonoids in Herbs and Spices
Most of the antioxidants and other biologically active compounds
found in ginkgo biloba and other herbs are ¬‚avonoids or members of
their parent chemical family, polyphenols. In fact, approximately a
thousand chemical compounds have been identi¬ed in ginkgo, a sharp
contrast to single-molecule pharmaceutical drugs.
Many of the compounds found in ginkgo, St. John™s wort, ginseng,
and other herbs are also found in vegetables and fruits. However, other
compounds are highly distinctive and found only in certain herbs, such
as the ginkolides in ginkgo and the ginsenosides in ginseng.

How to Take Flavonoid Supplements
As with carotenoids, the best way to obtain a diverse selection of
¬‚avonoids is by eating a diet with a healthy range of vegetables and
fruits. The reason is simple: no supplement can provide the variety of
¬‚avonoids found in foods.

• People at risk of in¬‚ammatory diseases, heart disease, or cancer
may wish to take extra ¬‚avonoids in the form of supplements.
Consider taking 50 to 200 mg of either Pycnogenol or grapeseed
extract, or 500 to 1,000 mg of citrus ¬‚avonoids, daily.
• To reduce in¬‚ammation, strive for 200 mg of either Pycnogenol
or grapeseed extract. Consider trying both to see which works
best for you.


N-Acetylcysteine
N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is part of a family of sulfur-containing anti-
oxidants known to chemists as thiols. In one of the paradoxes of nutri-
tional science, sulfur has been virtually ignored as an essential nutrient.
Yet we would not be able to live without it. Sulfur compounds help
87
N U T R I E N T S T H AT P R O T E C T D N A F R O M DA M AG E


hold our tissues together and are also part of several amino acids (such
as methionine, cysteine, and taurine, which DNA requires to execute its
functions) insulin, and some B vitamins.
NAC is rich in both sulfur and the amino acid cysteine. As a sup-
plement it is preferable to pure cysteine, which may be neurotoxic in
high dosages. In contrast, large amounts of NAC are safe. NAC serves
as a precursor to various glutathione compounds, the most powerful
antioxidants made within the body.
NAC is considered a “chemopreventive” compound because it can
lower the risk of cancer. The cancer-protective effects of NAC have been
documented for more than thirty-¬ve years. Some of NAC™s anticancer
bene¬ts can be attributed to its ability to increase protective glutathione
levels. But many properties of NAC are distinctive. For example, NAC
can block some of the chemical signals that tell cancer cells to grow.
NAC is also a powerful immune stimulant, protecting against viral
infections. Lenora Herzenberg, Ph.D., Leonard Herzenberg, Ph.D., and
their colleagues at Stanford University reported that large dosages of
NAC”3,200 to 8,000 mg daily”for six weeks signi¬cantly boosted glu-
tathione levels in subjects with AIDS. People who continued taking
NAC had a signi¬cantly increased rate of survival.
NAC also protects against ¬‚u symptoms, probably more effectively
than does vitamin C. Dr. Silvio De Flora of the University of Genoa
asked 262 elderly subjects to take either 600 mg of NAC or a placebo
daily for six months over the wintertime cold and ¬‚u season. Although
NAC did not prevent them from contracting the ¬‚u, it had a striking
effect on symptoms. Of the subjects who had a laboratory-con¬rmed ¬‚u,
only 25 percent of those taking NAC developed symptoms. In contrast,
79 percent of those taking the placebo had obvious and uncomfortable
¬‚u symptoms, according to De Flora™s article in the European Respira-
tory Journal. In other words, NAC supplements reduced the likelihood
of having ¬‚u symptoms by more than two-thirds.
Of particular interest is the fact that garlic contains many sulfur-
based antioxidants very similar to NAC. This similarity to NAC may
account for garlic™s many reputed bene¬ts.

How to Take NAC Supplements
NAC is exceptionally safe as a dietary supplement. NAC capsules, how-
ever, possess a rotten-egg smell because of the sulfur content. So it is
wise to resist the temptation to smell NAC supplements and, instead,
simply to swallow them.
88 F E E D YO U R G E N E S R I G H T


• For general health maintenance, take 500 mg of NAC daily. Dou-
ble this amount during the cold and ¬‚u season.
• When ¬ghting infections you may need to take 2,000 to 3,000 mg
of NAC daily. These higher dosages work best when started on
the ¬rst day of the cold or ¬‚u.


Alpha-Lipoic Acid
Alpha-lipoic acid, which plays key roles in the production of cellular
energy (see chapter 4), is also a potent and versatile antioxidant. Like
NAC, it contains sulfur and is a precursor to glutathione compounds.
As an antioxidant, it protects against nerve damage in diabetes, and it
also improves the transmission of nerve signals in diabetic neuropathy
and sciatica. As discussed earlier, it reduces the activity of transcription
proteins that turn on genes involved in in¬‚ammation, replication of the
human immunode¬ciency virus, and cancer growth.
Alpha-lipoic acid has some distinctive antioxidant properties. For
one thing, the body converts some alpha-lipoic acid to dihydrolipoic
acid, which is an even more powerful antioxidant. Alpha-lipoic acid
also functions in both fat-containing and water-containing cell regions.
This quality is in contrast to most other antioxidants, which work in one
place or the other but not both.
Together, alpha-lipoic acid and dihydrolipoic acid neutralize a
wide variety of DNA-damaging free radicals. For example, alpha-lipoic
acid quenches hydroxyl free radicals”the most dangerous type”
whereas dihydrolipoic acid protects against peroxyl and peroxynitrite
free radicals.
Alpha-lipoic acid possesses still one more distinctive quality as an
antioxidant: it helps recycle several other antioxidants. Typically,
antioxidants become weak (harmless) free radicals after quenching
destructive free radicals. Alpha-lipoic acid donates electrons to
other antioxidants, helping return vitamins C and E, glutathione, and
coenzyme Q10 back to full strength. By restoring their antioxidant
capacity, alpha-lipoic acid extends the ability of these antioxidants to
¬ght free radicals.

How to Take Alpha-Lipoic Acid Supplements
For simple antioxidant protection, 50 to 100 mg of alpha-lipoic acid
should be suf¬cient. European sources of alpha-lipoic acid tend to be of
higher quality than those from Asia, so it is wise to inquire about where
89
N U T R I E N T S T H AT P R O T E C T D N A F R O M DA M AG E


a company purchases the raw material for its alpha-lipoic acid supple-
ments. For speci¬c conditions, refer to the discussion of alpha-lipoic
acid in chapter 4.

In the following section, we will focus on eating plans that foster nor-
mal gene function and reduce the risk of disease.
PART III



Gene-Enhancing
Eating Plans
7

Dietary Guidelines for
Feeding Your Genes Right




When people talk about “going on” a particular diet, their choice of
words implies that they will in time go off it. In other words, they tem-
porarily change what they eat, achieve their objectives, and then return
to their previous and unhealthy eating patterns. This situation explains
why many people on weight-reduction diets ultimately regain the
weight they lose”they eventually go back to eating the foods that orig-
inally made them fat.
A more sensible and long-term approach to healthy eating consists
of two steps. The ¬rst is modifying your eating habits to reverse or
lower the odds of developing health problems, in this case to foster
healthy DNA and optimal gene function. The second is maintaining
these new eating habits relatively consistently for the rest of your life.
In the course of making dietary changes, it is important that you
take one step at a time, while seeing your actions as stepping-stones
toward the goal of permanently improving your eating habits. At ¬rst it
may be hard to imagine making major dietary changes and then adher-
ing to them for the rest of your life. That is why it is so important to
adopt the guidelines one or two at a time (although you™re certainly
free to adopt them faster). If you are reluctant to make changes, I rec-
ommend that you follow some of the guidelines in this chapter for just
93
94 F E E D YO U R G E N E S R I G H T


one week, which should be easy. Many people tell me they feel better,
have more energy, and are less fuzzy-headed within several days of
making these changes. Feeling better is a powerful motivator for con-
tinuing, and as time goes on, this way of eating will become second
nature to you, just as it has for me.
By following these dietary guidelines, you will create a sound foun-
dation for feeding your genes right, maintaining a healthy weight,
improving how you feel on a day-to-day basis, and lowering your long-
term risk of disease.

Getting Ready to Change
Your Eating Habits
As you read this chapter, you may be thinking, “Easier said than done,”
and feeling how uncomfortable it is to make changes. Granted, it does
take a conscious effort to change your eating habits, but it is actually
easier than you might think.
We all know that it is dif¬cult for people to change their habits, par-
ticularly eating habits. Our experience has taught us that such changes
usually entail giving up some favorite foods or the large portion sizes
we enjoy eating. We also are accustomed to certain tastes and smells, to
our own personal comfort foods, and we are often wary of different
foods, even if they might be healthier.
Getting used to selecting healthier foods in supermarkets and
restaurants has a lot in common with starting a new job. There is a
learning curve, which may be easy or dif¬cult for you. At the beginning
it helps to remember that whatever type of work you do, you did not
start out knowing what you now do about your job. On your ¬rst day,
you most likely began with a hazy idea of what you were supposed
to accomplish, and you may have felt uncertain about your abilities
and been afraid of failing. These are all normal feelings. But in time
you learned how to master your job, and doing it became second nature
to you.
The same learning curve and initial emotional uncertainty exist
when you initially work to improve your eating habits. At ¬rst this job
might seem like a daunting task, just as your regular job once did. After
all, there is a lot to learn and there are probably a few bad habits to
break. But for everything you might have to give up or modify, you will
likely discover new and satisfying ¬‚avors, as well as a pleasant sense of
well-being.
95
D I E TA RY G U I D E L I N E S F O R F E E D I N G YO U R G E N E S R I G H T


As you continue to improve your diet, some of your attitudes
toward food may change also. I™ll give you a personal example. I used
to be what I now jokingly call a “pastaholic.” I enjoyed pasta almost
every day, and usually extra helpings. But from a nutritional stand-
point, pasta is almost entirely starch”empty calories. After years of
regularly eating pasta, I developed an un¬‚attering pot gut, and my fast-
ing blood sugar was creeping toward prediabetic levels.
In early 1999 circumstances in my life interrupted my regular pasta
habit for a few days. After a week I tried my favorite pasta dish and
found that it did not seem as tasty as it had in the past. As a result I
started eating more salads and baked chicken. Over the next three
months, I lost twenty pounds and four inches from my waist without
consciously trying to lose weight. In addition, my blood-sugar levels
dropped twenty-seven points, to within the normal range. I liked how I
was looking, and I beamed at how the changes were re¬‚ected in my
medical tests. In fact, I was able to qualify for a deep discount on a life
insurance policy because of how impressively those blood tests demon-
strated my better health. Five years later, as I write this book, I have no
dif¬culty maintaining my lower weight, and my overall health seems to
be better than ever.
But my changes were not just dietary or physical. My attitude
toward food had also changed. I no longer saw pasta as an appetizing
dish. Rather, when a plate of pasta went by in a restaurant, it looked
like an unappetizing mound of high-calorie carbohydrates. Today I see
pasta as an absolute waste of calories that I could better spend on far
more interesting and tastier foods. Similarly, I used to enjoy french
fries, but I now ¬nd the smell of fast food as appealing as a cloud of
diesel exhaust from a truck. And when I see people eating candy bars
and soft drinks instead of a real lunch, I see them increasing their
chances of becoming fat and diabetic.
This preamble to setting forth my dietary guidelines is a way of saying
that your attitudes toward food and dietary habits, like mine,
can change profoundly”and that you can become very comfortable with
these changes. The payoff comes with feeling and looking better and at
some point, perhaps a few years in the future, seeing that you do not suf-
fer the health problems af¬‚icting your friends, relatives, and coworkers.
The following twelve nutrition guidelines foster eating habits that
provide a nutrient-rich environment for maintaining healthy DNA and
normal gene activity.Again, if these guidelines still seem a bit imposing,
follow some of them for just one week and then consider how you feel.
96 F E E D YO U R G E N E S R I G H T


k
Twelve Guidelines for Feeding Your Genes Right
Guideline 1: Eat a nutrient-dense diet to make every bite count.
Guideline 2: Eat a variety of fresh, whole foods.
Guideline 3: Eat quality protein.
Guideline 4: Eat a varied selection of nonstarchy vegetables.
Guideline 5: Eat a varied selection of nonstarchy fruits.
Guideline 6: Consume only healthy oils and fats.
Guideline 7: Season your foods with herbs and spices.
Guideline 8: Drink water and teas.
Guideline 9: Eat organically produced foods whenever possible.
Guideline 10: Restrict or avoid re¬ned carbohydrates and sugars, and
limit your intake of all processed carbohydrates.
Guideline 11: Minimize your consumption of highly re¬ned cooking
oils.
Guideline 12: Avoid all foods with partially hydrogenated vegetable
oils and trans fats.

k

Guideline 1: Eat a Nutrient-Dense Diet
to Make Every Bite Count
Eating a nutrient-dense diet is the single most important dietary guide-
line for feeding your genes right. This recommendation is the umbrella
guideline for most of the others that follow.
What exactly does eating for nutrient density mean? Quite simply,
it is striving to obtain the best nutrition”the most vitamins, vitamin-
like nutrients, minerals, protein, ¬ber, and healthy fats”in each calorie
you eat. With two-thirds of Americans overweight or obese, and with
obesity increasing worldwide, it is of utmost importance to obtain high-
quality nutrition in the fewest possible calories. When you eat a
nutrient-dense diet, you do not waste calories on “genetically unfamil-
iar” nutrient-poor foods such as sugars, re¬ned carbohydrates, and
unhealthy fats.
For example, a chicken Caesar salad (without croutons) is a nutrient-
97
D I E TA RY G U I D E L I N E S F O R F E E D I N G YO U R G E N E S R I G H T


dense lunch relative to its total calorie content. The chicken provides
protein and some vitamins, the greens provide a broad selection of
antioxidants and ¬ber, and the dressing should provide some healthy
fats. In contrast, a double-scoop ice cream cone might provide the same
number of calories, but its high concentration of sugars, starches, and
unhealthy fats does not make it a nutritionally desirable food.
As a general rule, nutrient-dense foods are relatively low in car-
bohydrates. These foods include ¬sh, chicken, turkey, lean meats, salad
greens, tomatoes, broccoli, cauli¬‚ower, raspberries, and blueberries.
(The ¬sh and chicken should not be breaded or fried.) A nutrient-
dense dinner could consist of poached salmon and steamed broccoli
because this combination is high in protein, vitamins, minerals, ¬ber,
and healthy fats. If you are physically active or if you do not need
to lose weight, you may add a small amount of brown rice or sweet
potato to the meal. This particular meal would contain only a small
amount of carbohydrate, which is adequate for most people. (See
“Some Acceptable High-Carb Foods in Moderation” later in this
chapter.)
Why is a nutrient-dense diet healthier for you and your genes? As
you learned in chapter 3, the original human diet consisted of nutrient-
dense foods, such as animal protein and vegetables. Over many years
this nutrient-dense milieu became the de facto environment for our
DNA and genes. DNA synthesis and repair and normal gene function
became dependent on a rich supply of nutrients but relatively small
amounts of carbohydrates.
In contrast, nutrient-poor foods fail to provide adequate amounts
of protein, vitamins, vitamin-like nutrients, minerals, ¬ber, or healthy
fats. Their high levels of sugars, carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats stim-
ulate hormonal changes and gene activity that promote in¬‚ammation,
obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.



k
How Are These Dietary Guidelines Different from Those
of the Atkins Diet or Other High-Protein Diets?
You might be wondering how the dietary recommendations in Feed
Your Genes Right differ from those of the Atkins diet. The Atkins diet
is the most popular high-protein diet, but it has often been criticized for
its high levels of saturated fat.
98 F E E D YO U R G E N E S R I G H T


Both the Atkins and the Feed Your Genes Right recommendations
encourage people to eat more nutrient-dense protein. However, the
guidelines in this book emphasize protein sources, such as ¬sh, chicken,
and turkey, that are relatively low in saturated fat.
While small to moderate amounts of saturated fat (such as the
occasional use of butter or cream) should not pose a problem for
most people, large quantities of saturated fats can displace healthier
fats from the diet. For example, eating mostly beef or pork leaves lim-
ited room for ¬sh, such as salmon, that are high in healthy omega-3
family fats.
Finally, Feed Your Genes Right recommends a more balanced over-
all eating plan that includes large amounts of nutrient-dense, non-
starchy vegetables and fruits. The principal restriction is in the quantity
of empty carbohydrate calories, such as in breads, pastas, and most
other baked items.
k

Guideline 2: Eat a Variety of
Fresh, Whole Foods
Most fresh, whole foods are rich sources of nutrients. In contrast,
re¬ned and processed foods usually have their most nutritious compo-
nents separated and removed as part of large-scale manufacturing
processes.
How do you recognize fresh, whole foods? It™s simple. Whole foods
usually resemble the way they looked in nature, other than being cut up
and prepared for cooking. In contrast, re¬ned and processed foods
have been substantially altered and bear little if any resemblance to
their original form. For example, a chicken breast or leg looks like part
of a chicken, whereas a deep-fried chicken nugget (covered with a thick
coating of ¬‚our and fried in oil) does not.
The ancient hunter-gatherer diet provided an amazing diversity of
whole foods, including ¬sh, land animals, and dozens of vegetables,
collectively providing all the nutrients needed for normal gene
function. For people today, eating a variety of fresh foods can approx-
imate the ancient diet. Unfortunately, many people eat from a very
narrow selection of foods, which deprives genes of their full nutri-
tional heritage.
99
D I E TA RY G U I D E L I N E S F O R F E E D I N G YO U R G E N E S R I G H T


k
Plan Ahead, but Keep It Simple
One of the most common nutrition problems today is not planning
ahead or shopping for our next meal or two. Another dif¬culty is mak-
ing the time to cook nutritious meals and then relax over them.
In our fast-paced society, time has become one of the scarcest of all
commodities. Many of us simply do not have the time to do everything
we want to do or everything others demand of us. As a consequence we
often struggle to squeeze out a few extra minutes each day, such as by
driving fast or eating on the go.
The irony, of course, is that we do make the time for commuting,
working extra hours, and watching television but not for the mental
or physical preparation of the sound nutrition that helps sustain us and
maintain our health, particularly our genetic health. People often hold
off eating until they are overly hungry and then they eat to quickly
quench their hunger, not with the intent of obtaining good nourish-
ment. These factors have set the stage for fast-food restaurants and even
faster drive-through service, which provide almost instant but nutri-
tionally lacking meals.
Eating more nutritiously requires a little more forethought and
planning. You can do some of the mental planning during television
commercials or while commuting. Keep a pad of paper and pen handy,
and if you are in the car, jot down some of the speci¬cs while waiting at
a red light. Later, at the supermarket, buy the foods you will need for at
least two or three meals. In terms of actual cooking, keep things simple
but ¬‚avorful, with enough leftovers for a fast and tasty second meal.
(Many of the recipes in chapter 8 are meant to be simple and relatively
quick to prepare.) For example, you can quickly cube and stir-fry
chicken with herbs and vegetables.
k

Guideline 3: Eat Quality Protein
Fish, chicken, lean meats, eggs, and other protein-rich foods are good
sources of vitamins B6 and B12, which your cells need to manufacture
new DNA and repair existing DNA. In addition, the protein in these
foods is broken down during digestion into its individual amino acids.
These amino acids are transported from the gut to your body™s individ-
ual cells, where genes provide instructions for recombining them into

<<

. 3
( 9)



>>