Reversing Disease With Spinach?

Reversing Disease With Spinach?

Cutting-edge science is literally changing the way you should consider your diet. We’re not just talking superfoods, such as antioxidant-rich blueberries or açai. It’s obvious that eating more fruits and vegetables is sage advice, but what about eating foods specifically targeted to increase disease resistance? We’re talking about food that can alter a person’s very DNA. This new field of study is called epigenetics.

What Is Epigenetics?  

Put simply, epigenetics is the study of the chemical changes or modifications of genes and gene-associated proteins during a person’s lifetime. In general, a person’s epigenetics are adaptable and changeable over time no matter what you’re eating. And lots of outside influences beyond diet can shape or alter a person’s epigenetic profile for better or worse, such as stress and trauma. In certain instances, researchers have discovered that epigenetic changes can assist the body on a cellular level to influence how it fights back against diseases like cancer, Type 2 diabetes, or even a person’s propensity toward obesity.

While the sequence of a person’s genes never changes, the way those genes are expressed, or “switched” on and off, can and does change throughout a person’s lifetime. One such way in which scientists are discovering how these epigenetic changes can occur is called methylation. You can think of the methylation process as a genetic stabilizer, as we now know that in certain instances, errors in that process are directly linked to disease progression. An inactive methylation process has been linked to the development of cancer, for instance.

Epigenetics and Cancer

We often think of cancer as a group of healthy cells that become mutated. Those mutated cells multiply at uncontrollable rates, especially when influenced by outside stimulants, such as known carcinogens. But what if we all had the potential to develop cancer only when our epigenetic landscape was influenced in a negative way?

New research now suggests that even if a person is genetically pre-disposed to cancer, manipulating that person’s epigenetics can influence whether or not his or her cancer ever develops. Even existing cancers can be slowed in their development and progression by manually manipulating a person’s epigenetic profile.

In May 2014, scientists from the Boston University Cancer Center School of Medicine recently published several articles about this very idea in the medical journal Anticancer Research and Epigenomics1.

In those articles, lead author Sibaji Sarkar, PhD, explained that the proliferation of cancer cells is a “reversible mechanism” that may be modified via controlled changes in a person’s epigenetics. And while that sounds rather technical, similar research at Oregon State University also reports of manually reducing cancer rates in lab rats by as much as 50 percent by “reprogramming” methylated genes.

The Power of Spinach

You might be surprised at how those Oregon State University scientists actually influenced those decrease rates in cancer: They fed the rats spinach.

We now understand that the active ingredients such as chlorophyll, present in green leafy vegetables like spinach, are powerful anti-cancer agents, especially in the fight against bowel and intestinal cancers. That is because the chlorophyll actually reverses the gene switch and can turn those mutated cancer cells “off” to some degree.

To date, there are now dozens of scientific studies touting this same discovery. Scientists believe that increases in the diet of chlorophyll-rich foods can actually protect humans against the carcinogens released in meat during the cooking process, so you might want to start serving that T-bone steak atop a mountain of leafy greens.

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