SpectraCell Blog

An Unhealthy Diet Programs Immune Cells to be "Hyperactive"

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Tue, Mar 06, 2018 @ 12:31 PM

diet.jpgEpigenetics – the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration in the genetic code itself– has gained much attention in recent years.  Environmental factors including diet, smoking and stress have been shown to impact gene expression through epigenetic mechanisms.

In a recent experiment involving the collaboration of several medical institutions, an experiment was performed on mice to determine how their immunity responded to a typical Western diet.  When mice were fed a Western diet, systemic inflammation occurred which was entirely expected. However, what was particularly interesting was that the Western (inflammatory) diet fundamentally changed their immune system.  After eating high calorie, low nutrient food, not only did the mice exhibit more systemic inflammation (not surprising), but their white blood cells became programmed to remain hyper-sensitive to inflammatory triggers.  The cellular “memory” had changed.

Here is how it worked: a gene called NLRP3 (for Nucleotide binding domain Like Receptor Protein) makes a protein that is used by our immune cells to recognize harmful bacteria and viruses.  This protein made by the NLRP3 gene recognizes “bad” cell remnants.  These can be parts of bacterial cell membranes, or pieces of genetic material found in viruses, or even parts of a cell that are supposed to be contained but may leak out due to cellular trauma.  It is a fundamental way our immune cells recognize something is wrong – bacteria are present or acute tissue damage occurred, for example – and thus launch an inflammatory response to deal with the biological crisis and take care of it.

In this study, the immune cells in mice fed a typical Western diet of high-calorie, low nutrient foods launched the same inflammatory response as if an invading bacterial infection were present. Furthermore, the immune cells became hypersensitive so that they continued their inflammatory attack, even when the mice’s diet was returned to normal. In other words, the immune cells responded to a Western diet in the same way it responds to infections.  But instead of the infection clearing up, the Western diet seemed to reprogram the immune cells to stay in a perpetual hyperactive state. These results may help explain why chronic inflammation is behind so many lifestyle-related diseases such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

LINK to ABSTRACT Western Diet Triggers NLRP3-Dependent Innate Immune Reprogramming.

Topics: micronutrient testing, Nutrition, Epigenetics, micronutrient status, Healthy Diet, Nutritional Testing, Diet and Immune Response, Advanced Nutritional Testing

Can We Change Our Genetic Expression with Nutrients?

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Fri, Nov 17, 2017 @ 11:30 AM

DNA Human.jpgRecent evidence suggests that the answer is yes.  Most people understand that we all have inherent genetic predispositions – some as benign as the shape of our nose and others more dangerous such as the tendency toward certain cancers.  However, as research on epigenetics grows, the ability to modulate the expression of certain genes is becoming clearer.  Epigenetics is the study of how our genetic expression is affected by factors other than changes in DNA sequence.  These factors include our environment, including what we eat, supplements we take, toxins, illnesses, even the amount of sunlight to which we are exposed. 

In this study, variations (known by geneticists as polymorphisms) in a specific gene that makes a protein called the zinc transporter 8 (ZNT8), which carries zinc into the hormone insulin, were studied. This protein ZNT8 is responsible for ensuring that pancreatic beta cells (the cells that make insulin which allows us to metabolize blood sugar) have adequate zinc available.  If cells in the pancreas do not have enough zinc, they will not function optimally which may ultimately result in higher risk of insulin resistance and the metabolic dysfunction that follows.  

When participants with the (CC) genotype ingested more zinc and omega 3 fatty acids, they lowered their risk of metabolic syndrome consequences associated with their genotype. Stated differently, people with this specific genotype (CC) responded well (in terms of improved insulin sensitivity and metabolic health) to higher levels of zinc and omega 3 fatty acids, while other genotypes (CT or TT) did not show a meaningful improvement in metabolism.  Since over-supplementation has potentially negative consequences (too much zinc can cause copper deficiency, for example), knowing your genotype may lead to more informed supplementation decisions. 

For more details, click here for a link to the abstract entitled Some dietary factors can modulate the effect of the zinc transporters 8 polymorphism on the risk of metabolic syndrome published in the May 2017 issue of Scientific Reports  (Abstract 2640).  Or read the full paper here.  (Full paper 829)


Adapted from July 2017 Clinical Updates.  9/27/2017.  (NLH)

Topics: micronutrients, Epigenetics, Gene Expression, Gene Expression and Nutrition, Genetic Predisposition

Can Excess Weight Influence Gene Expression?

Posted by SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. on Fri, Feb 03, 2017 @ 02:34 PM

DNA Strand 2.jpgNew research suggests that the answer to this question is YES.  As you might have noticed, a lot of information regarding the impact of environment on genes has been published recently. Take cancer, for example. One may be genetically predisposed to a certain cancer that runs in one’s family.  However, simply possessing this gene does not determine one’s health outcomes or health destiny. It has become clear that in many cases, we can profoundly compensate for the genetic hand that we been dealt by controlling our environment.  Smoking is a clear example: it is common knowledge that abstaining from cigarette smoking dramatically reduces one’s risk for lung cancer. This is a widely understood and powerful example of epigenetics, a concept referring to the idea that environment influences genetic expression. This represents a departure from the traditional view of genetics. Scientists now know that it’s not simply a matter of whether one carries a gene for a disease (cancer, heart disease, dementia, etc), but whether one expresses that gene. And whether we express that gene has much to do with our lifestyle choices (environment) – these lifestyle factors may influence genes in a way that disease does not manifest.  Another way of saying this is that we are not entirely at the mercy of our genes.

So, what does this have to do with overweight? A recent study demonstrated that high BMI (body mass index) due to excess fat can modify a person’s DNA in several places on the DNA strand. These changes resulted from an alteration in methylation patterns (methylation is a process where methyl groups are added at specific sites in DNA molecules and is influenced by the cellular environment). Inflammation and micronutrient availability within cells are examples of these alterations that affect methylation patterns. This study confirms that cellular environment – specifically, excess fat tissue – affects genetic expression. Carrying excess weight can therefore impact genetic expression.  

For more details, download the abstract entitled, Epigenome-wide association study of body mass index, and the adverse outcomes of adiposity, published in the January 2017 issue of Nature.  (Abstract 2581)


Topics: MTHFR Genotyping, Epigenetics, Environmental Influence on Gene Expression