Ask any runner and they will likely tell you that optimal performance in running and other endurance events depends on many different variables. Some of these variables: training and nutrition status, are within a runner’s control. Others, like race-day weather, age, and genetics, are not.
Most would not argue that there is ongoing transition in how our healthcare is being delivered. This article will examine some of these transitions as a result of breakthroughs in technology, as well as how genetic information, exercise, and diet will play an increasingly greater role.
When medical science was first getting its start, a more holistic philosophy was taken on how to treat illness and maintain health. Hippocrates is often deemed the father of modern medicine, and even today the allopathic physicians (M.D.s) take the Hippocratic Oath – to do no harm to their patients. Hippocrates knew, even in 400 B.C., that the best healer of the body is the body itself. For the most part, the best treatment is to create a strong body and get out of the way. Five guiding principles used in his philosophy for treatment include:
- Walking is man’s best medicine.
- Know what person the disease has, rather than what disease the person has.
- Let food be thy medicine.
- Everything in moderation.
- To do nothing is also a good remedy.
The second and fifth principles emphasize the power of knowing the individual and getting out of the way! The first and third principles show the power of exercise and food for healthy living. Even the genius, Thomas Edison, realized that a health maintenance organization (HMO) approach was the best method of healthcare both practically and financially. His quote, “The doctor of the future will give no medicine but will interest his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease,” is evidence that a holistic, preventative approach is what he advocated. He is also quoted, “…you can’t improve on nature.”
One size does not fit all
Personalized medicine is now on the forefront and it utilizes the genetic and epigenetic data of a person to guide medicines and treatment plans. Cancer drugs have probably harnessed this advantage to the greatest extent, thus far. Former President Jimmy Carter received Keytruda (pembrolizumab) for his brain cancer and it boosted his immune system and beat the cancer. While most of America (71%), still doesn’t even know about personalized medicine, those who were familiar with it did not know it would yield better results with fewer side effects. The different directions of personalized medicine are still being realized, but the field of pharmacogenetics is the first to really jump on the bandwagon of highly effective, precision-based treatment.
The reasons some drugs work for some people and not for others, or why side effects occur in some individuals and not others, is due to individual variability in metabolism. Why are some people lactose tolerant, or some can drink alcohol with no problem, and others have severe issues? It is usually because of enzyme differences, which are under the control of our genes. Interestingly, our enzyme genes can often be turned on or off by “inducible sequences” known as promoters or suppressors of operons, respectively. These “switches” can be repressed or induced depending on our environmental stimuli. Thus, we actually have some control over our gene expression, and this field is known as epigenetics.
Knowing what gene variants someone possess or not will guide the personalized medicine physician on which drug to use or not. By knowing allergic reactions in advance or which medicines may have side effects will help physicians to not make a bad situation worse. Unfortunately, the cost of personalized medicine drugs is much higher than alternative treatments. There is still a lot of exploration to be done on all the various applications of this technology, but the bottom line is that understanding individual variations and enabling the body to do what it is designed to do is a very good thing! Companies like Toolbox Genomics is one of many companies that use your genetic information to then tell you what foods and supplements to eat or avoid, and which exercises may help you the most, and ones that you may not respond to so well. The reason physicians do an intake on family history, or run various tests is to collect information that will guide their treatment. A genetic test on certain gene variants is simply taking this a step further.
How does exercise and diet apply to our epigenetics?
Did you know that exercise is highly beneficial to not only help with fighting cancer once it is already present, but also to never getting it? Physical exercise or movement in general will shift the epigenetics so that genes that suppress tumors are increased, and genes that cause cancer (oncogenes) are decreased. It does this by changing the amount of certain reactions called methylations. Things go wrong when there is too much or too few methylation reactions. Exercise has been shown to reduce or even reverse the epigenetic mutations that often result in tumorigenesis or tumor production. Exercise has also been shown to reduce genetic factors associated with aging like telomere length.
The fields of proteomics and metabolomics as well as pharmacogenomics, are all emerging because of the knowledge on how our genetics affects proteins, metabolism, and reactions to drugs, respectively. The field of nutrigenomics is rapidly expanding, and several companies are capitalizing on studying the relationship of how our genes affect how we process and utilize foods, as well as how food can affect our genes. Vitamins A and D, certain fatty acids, especially medium and short chain, some sterols (derived from cholesterol) and zinc have been shown to directly influence gene transcription. In direct effects include how diet affects gut bacteria, which in turn influences gene expression. Soon when nutritional recommendations are given, it will likely be “for this individual.”
The future of medicine will be taking our genetic information to a whole new level. Soon “smart” watches, clothes, hats, and other common devices will collect information that can benefit our health in many ways as the way healthcare is delivered continually evolves.
This article was featured in MedFit Professional Magazine summer 2019 issue.
Subscribe to MedFit Professional Magazine to read more great content like this!
Dr. Mark P. Kelly has been involved with the health and fitness field for more than 30 years. He has been a research scientist for universities and many infomercial projects. He has spoken nationally and internationally on a wide variety of topics and currently speaks on the use of exercise for clinical purposes and exercise’s impact on the brain. Mark is a teacher in colleges and universities in Orange County, CA., where Principle-Centered Health- Corporate Wellness & Safety operates.
Telomeres are sections of genetic material that form a protective cap at the end of each chromosome in every cell of the body. When a cell divides, the telomere gets a tiny bit shorter, until there is no more telomere left to protect DNA from “unraveling,” and the cell dies. Cellular death causes the body to age, whether the cell is from cardiac muscle, skin, or brain tissue, thus making telomeres a novel biomarker for biological age. The longer one’s telomeres, the younger one’s biological age. Several things affect telomere attrition rate – both positive (good nutrient status, healthy blood sugar and lipid metabolism, normal weight, exercise, etc.) and negative (micronutrient deficiencies, inflammation, cellular stress, a sedentary lifestyle, etc.).
How is micronutrient status linked to the aging process?
Micronutrient status has direct implications for telomere length. This makes it especially important to correct specific deficiencies and maintain micronutrient balance. Measuring total antioxidant capacity via SPECTROX® is equally important as the body’s ability to handle oxidative stress contributes significantly to telomere health/length.
Why measure fatty acids?
OmegaCheck® measures the amount of three very important fatty acids (EPA, DHA, and DPA) in one’s blood. Fatty acids can either contribute to or alleviate inflammation, and the OmegaCheck determines the amount of these pro- and anti-inflammatory fatty acids. Although the protective omega-3 fatty acids influence enzyme and hormone systems throughout the body, they have gained attention primarily for their superb cardiovascular benefits. Since fatty acid status is a surrogate marker for inflammation and oxidative stress, it is not surprising that omega-3 fatty acids can slow cellular aging by preserving telomeres. When it comes to OmegaCheck, higher is better.
Omega-3 fatty acids can slow the aging process. There are many reasons for this: they reduce inflammation, help maintain the cardiovascular system healthy, and protect the brain. However, the existing research points to an entirely different mechanism of action against aging: protection of telomeres.
A recent study on people with active heart disease demonstrated that individuals with high blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids also had the lowest rate of telomere attrition, suggesting that omega-3 fatty acids protect against cellular aging.1 In another study, the adoption of comprehensive lifestyle changes (including daily supplementation with 3 grams of fish oil, which is high in omega-3 fatty acids) was associated with an increase in telomere length in human leukocytes.2 In animal studies, dietary enrichment of omega-3 fatty acids prolongs life span by approximately one-third.3
Yet another way that omega-3 fatty acids have a protective effect on telomeres is through their action on cortisol. Following six weeks of fish oil supplementation, a group of men and women in a study demonstrated significantly reduced4 cortisol, a stress hormone known to reduce the activity of telomerase,5an enzyme that protects and even lengthens telomeres. Even stress-related cellular aging may be thwarted by omega-3 fatty acids!
SpectraCell’s Telomere Analysis
SpectraCell’s telomere test measures a person’s telomere length. A control gene is also measured and compared to the telomere length, and then results are stated as a ratio. A higher ratio means a longer telomere, and younger biological age. The Telomere Score is also compared to other individuals in the same chronological age group.
The price of the Telomere Test is affordable and is also covered by insurance. Testing once each year or every other year is suggested to monitor the rate of telomere loss.
The great news is that with the telomere analysis and appropriate lifestyle, habits, you can protect your telomeres and reduce the rate at which they shorten! Discover your estimated cellular age today with a comprehensive, and individualized approach to managing the aging process.
Click here to learn more about SpectraCell testing services.
Reprinted with permission from the SpectraCell blog.
SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc. is a leading clinical laboratory specializing in personalized disease prevention and management solutions. Our pioneering intracellular micronutrient and cardiometabolic testing, driven by state-of-the-art technology, assesses a spectrum of risk factors and biomarkers for optimum wellness. Through our dedication to research and development, SpectraCell also provides innovative solutions for hormone health and genetics.
What healthy people can learn from getting their genome sequenced.