Eating Local Foods Feeds Your Genes : An Exclusive Renegade Health Article by Dr. J.E. Williams

Saturday Dec 3 | BY |
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Buy organic, locally grown when possible, and plant a garden. Eating a fresh, plant-based diet will help ensure microRNA modifies your genes in a positive way.

Resident Medical Authority: J. E. Williams, OMD, FAAIM

The more I understand about plants, food, and health, and the new sciences driving knowledge-based clinical choices, the more it all makes sense to me. Take Brussels sprouts for example. In recent studies in China, some 30 new plant microRNA messengers were found in the blood of test subjects after eating this least loved member of the cabbage family. In fact, our blood is virtually alive with RNA from all kinds of plants, swimming everywhere in our body. The evidence for nutragenomics, or the science of how chemical messengers found in food (primarily plants including vegetables, fruits, and herbs) change the behavior of genes in amazing ways, is getting stronger.

All the plants we eat, especially organically grown and wild ones, have been modifying our genes for as long as we’ve been eating them. That’s a long time. MicroRNA, as they are called, muffle or amplify gene expression. In fact, some turn on positive gene expression that help prevent and cure disease and promote longevity. And, others interface with our microbiology and genetics to increase the chance that we’ll get sick. Some plants can even shorten or lengthen our lifespan.

This is nothing new to the Chinese, who favor a plant-based diet and liberally lace their daily fare with small amounts of herbs like ginseng. In my enthomedical fieldwork with indigenous groups, who still live traditional lifestyles, I find the same results: healthy, long-lived, happy individuals. My theory is consistent with nutrigenomics: their bodies evolved adaptive functions that resonate with positive gene expression to locally grown or gathered foods.

We, of course, are different. We eat foods grown long distances from where we shop and live and that are picked too green. Unripe fruits and vegetables don’t have the nutritional value of field-ripened ones, and certainly lack the same healthy genetic messengers. You already know the solution: buy organic, locally grown when possible, and plant a garden.

In theory, the ultimate personalized medicine would be a tailor-made diet that controls your weight; optimizes your health; reduces your risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes; and adds twenty healthy years to your lifespan. Eager biotech companies and marketers have jumped at the opportunity, but we’re not there yet. For now, keep you money in your wallet if you’re tempted to order a genetic lab test panel that reveals the secrets of your health and tells you what to eat.

How about GM foods? My guess is that microRNA found in genetically modified foods tamper with our genome and participate in the diseases of modern living: obesity and metabolic syndrome, weakened immunity and autoimmune diseases, and cancer. We don’t know for certain yet, but French studies are strongly suggestive that GM foods are bad for us.

It’s about time we graduated from the old paradigm of nutrition and food science and started to expand our ideas about nutrients by including microRNA – and other messenger molecules found in plants – as functional and essential components of food.


Cell Res. 2011 Sep 20. Exogenous plant MIR168a specifically targets mammalian LDLRAP1: evidence of cross-kingdom regulation by microRNA. Zhang L, Hou D, Chen X, Li D, et al. School of Life Sciences, Nanjing University, China.


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Dr. Williams is a pioneer in integrative and functional medicine, the author of six books, and a practicing clinician with over 100,000 patient visits. His areas of interest include longevity and viral immunity. Formerly from San Diego, he now resides in Sarasota, Florida and practices at the Florida Integrative Medical Center. He teaches at NOVA Southeastern University and Emperor’s College of Oriental Medicine.

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  1. hI Kevin and tribe ,
    Where do we get organic brussel sprouts . I can’t find them

  2. Scott says:

    It appears the microRNA is the same as the epigene in other literature. It this correct?

  3. Justin says:

    Interesting information about GMO I thought. I’ve heard people say that eating GMO can cause worse symptoms than having limes disease. What do you think about this?

  4. jackie says:

    Hey Kevin,
    Why do we have to “cook” the Ceylon Cinnamon for so long to make tea? I’ve been wanting to try it for so long, but just can’t handle the cooking time. #1 I’m too impatient! When I want tea, I generally want it within 20 min or so. #2 My stove can only go so low, and by the time all those hours were up all the tea would be evaporated and my house would be on fire! Currently I boil my cinnamon and let it simmer for 20 min (even then, some of it evaporates with the lid on). Can you develop a faster recipe for us? Thanks so much…

  5. I wonder, since almost all of are immigrants x-number of generations back, whether this is more applicable to where we live, or to where our ancestors came from? Even 400 years is not time for a lot of evolution/adaptation to have taken place.

  6. Kym Hutcheon says:

    Like this article very much — mainly because it reinforces everything I want to believe. 😉 Nutrigenomics is still not well known in the mainstream but it has a lot of very solid science behind it now. The ability to improve your genetic profile through food and environmental choices and then pass that on to your children is very empowering.

    I feel there is also little doubt that GM foods react differently to standard foods both in the environment and within the organisms consuming them. We’re currently entering a second stage of GM development, which may offer safer options. But as scientists seek to affect even radical modification, I suspect the possibility for things to go wrong will only continue to increase.

  7. i imagine because cinnamon is fat soluble rather than water soluble, that has something to do with why it takes so long to turn it into a flavorful tea. try dreaming up some drink/food recipes with a little coconut oil to help that ceylon along.

  8. Amanda says:

    Surely we have reached a point (at least here where we discuss cutting edge raw food nutrition) where we stop referencing research using animal models as laboratory tools. The work at Nanjing University mentioned above was carried out on a variety of animals. Animal experiments are notoriously unscientific and unreliable, not to mention immoral. I would rather see higher level research being discussed has been carried out on plant material using the more accurate human animal as the carrier model. This stuff is bad Karma and is going to come back at a later day and smack us right in the face!

  9. Frank Berg says:

    From long ago I enjoyed the difference between ripened-in-the-box peaches and ripened-on-the-tree. Words can’t describe the comparison. Only your taste buds can tell the difference. I much prefer the tree ripened fruit. However there is another side to all of this. Fruit/plants will only have the minerals in them that were in the soil where they grew. In Canada, USA, and Mexico there are eighteen or less minerals in the soil. Mostly it is much less. Other continents and other countries have other/different minerals that our bodies need. Although not all minerals are available from plants. We need over 90. I have visited organic mills where soil tests showed zero minerals in the soil and the grain tests said minerals in the grain are almost non detectable. So, notwithstanding other considerations, it would seem that for overall good health we do better by getting some of our food from other places. Even though shipping by truck and other forms of travel we create other problems.

  10. Dan Hegerich says:

    First off I do not buy into anything that is promoting longevity. It is a big gimic into the psychie of people. Longevity is up to the Creator. My job is to focus on quality and what and how I am doing life and love now.

    Jackie consider purchasing a crock pot for you cinnamon and stop complaining about it not being convenient. Perhaps you can consider brewing cinnamon tea as a reminder to slow down and enjoy life, liberty and happiness now.

    Amanda-what would you suggest as higher level research? How about testing humans? That is already taking place…GMO, conventional farming, medicine, Chem Trails, etc…

  11. rf k says:

    wake up America, control of the food system is only one component

    American Citizens on U.S. Soil May be Indefinitely Detained, Sent to Guantanamo or Assassinated

    U.S. Says Americans Are MILITARY Targets in the War on Terror … And Says that Only the White House – and Not the Courts – Gets to Decide Who Is a Legitimate Target
    As everyone realizes by now, Congress’ push for indefinite detention includes American citizens on American soil. As Huffington post notes:

    The debate also has left many Americans scratching their heads as to whether Congress is actually attempting to authorize the indefinite detention of Americans by the military without charges. But proponents — led by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee — say that is exactly what the war on terror requires. They argued that the bill simply codifies precedents set by the Supreme Court and removes uncertainty, which they said would better protect the country.

    Here is John McCain justifying sending Americans to Guantanamo:

    And see this.

    (As Emptywheel and Glenn Greenwald note, the White House has believed for many years that it possessed the power to indefinitely detain Americans. See this, this, this, and this.)

    But that’s not all.

    The government can also kill American citizens. For more than a year and a half, the Obama administration has said it could target American citizens for assassination without any trial or due process.

    But now, as shown by the debates surrounding indefinite detention, the government is saying that America itself is a battlefield.

    AP notes today:

    U.S. citizens are legitimate military targets when they take up arms with al-Qaida, top national security lawyers in the Obama administration said Thursday.


    The government lawyers, CIA counsel Stephen Preston and Pentagon counsel Jeh Johnson … said U.S. citizens do not have immunity when they are at war with the United States.

    Johnson said only the executive branch, not the courts, is equipped to make military battlefield targeting decisions about who qualifies as an enemy.

    The courts in habeas cases, such as those involving whether a detainee should be released from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, make the determination of who can be considered an enemy combatant.

    You might assume – in a vacuum – that this might be okay (even though it trashes the Constitution, the separation of military and police actions, and the division between internal and external affairs).

    But it is dangerous in a climate where you can be labeled as or suspected of being a terrorist simply for questioning war, protesting anything, asking questions about pollution or about Wall Street shenanigans, supporting Ron Paul, being a libertarian, holding gold, or stocking up on more than 7 days of food. And see this.

    And it is problematic in a period in which FBI agents and CIA intelligence officials, constitutional law expert professor Jonathan Turley, Time Magazine, Keith Olbermann and the Washington Post have all said that U.S. government officials “were trying to create an atmosphere of fear in which the American people would give them more power”, and even former Secretary of Homeland Security – Tom Ridge – admitst hat he was pressured to raise terror alerts to help Bush win reelection.

    And it is counter-productive in an age when the government – instead of doing the things which could actually make us safer – are doing things which increase the risk of terrorism.

    And it is insane in a time of perpetual war. See this, this, this and this.

    And when the “War on Terror” in the Middle East and North Africa which is being used to justify the attack on Americans was planned long before 9/11.

    And when Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser told the Senate in 2007 that the war on terror is “a mythical historical narrative”. And 9/11 was entirely foreseeable, but wasn’t stopped. Indeed, no one in Washington even wants to hear how 9/11 happened, even though that is necessary to stop future terrorist attacks. And the military has bombed a bunch of oil-rich countries when it could have instead taken out Bin Laden years ago.

    As I noted in March:

    The government’s indefinite detention policy – stripped of it’s spin – is literally insane, and based on circular reasoning. Stripped of p.r., this is the actual policy:

    If you are an enemy combatant or a threat to national security, we will detain you indefinitely until the war is over
    It is a perpetual war, which will never be over
    Neither you or your lawyers have a right to see the evidence against you, nor to face your accusers
    But trust us, we know you are an enemy combatant and a threat to national security
    We may torture you (and try to cover up the fact that you were tortured), because you are an enemy combatant, and so basic rights of a prisoner guaranteed by the Geneva Convention don’t apply to you
    Since you admitted that you’re a bad guy (while trying to tell us whatever you think we want to hear to make the torture stop), it proves that we should hold you in indefinite detention
    See how that works?

    And – given that U.S. soldiers admit that if they accidentally kill innocent Iraqis and Afghanis, they then “drop” automatic weapons near their body so they can pretend they were militants – it is unlikely that the government would ever admit that an American citizen it assassinated was an innocent civilian who has nothing at all to do with terrorism.

  12. Nancy says:

    Interesting stuff Kevin, thanks.

    rf k: also interesting stuff, but I thought we were talking about microRNA?

  13. Lisa says:

    The more we learn about what is really going on when we eat the more I want to smile. It is like a beautiful dance that can make us beautiful life dancers.

    As ever, thanks Kevin and Annmarie.
    You are beautiful dancers who dance with the music!

    Wishing you continuing great health!

    Lisa ;o)

  14. Velda says:

    Great information, Kevin. Congrats on your brother moving to California and working with you. I think that is really wonderful!!

    All this information on nutragenomics and gene expression is so interesting to me. And, it makes a lot of sense. Thank you so much for the great educational information you continue to expose us to!!

  15. Han-Lin says:

    I read your article about sensitive teeth being caused by mineral deficiencies and I see that your diet is very healthy. My teeth are extremely sensitive to cultured vegetables so I swallow them blended.

    It seems like even if we are eating the best foods, we still need multivitamins. Do you think cold foods and beverages play a big role in our mineral or protein deficiencies?

    Our enzymes, gut flora, and HCl work best at warm temperatures. At cold temperatures, less minerals would be ionized, and less proteins, starches, and fats would be digested. Undigested proteins can potentially lead to food sensitivities. It would then be a good idea to gently reheat green smoothies, leftovers, or drink warm beverages with meals

  16. Wonderful comment, Han-Lin. Drinking warm drinks would certainly be good. You know,
    I live in Oregon, where many of us already
    know about GM and another large corp or two
    have been filling our so-called “safe” foods
    with harmful chemicals of all kinds, knowing
    full well of the harm it is doing to us. I have cancer now, in my 6th yr, will start yr #7 on Jan 1,2012. I have many books telling about eating raw foods, and that organic is the best way to go if possible. I have lasted
    this long because I am trying to watch what I
    eat very carefully, so, I eat well, along with
    the chemo (I can’t afford to go to a clinic
    that would help me cure.) I am still learning,
    but let me tell you to be very very careful about eating anything that comes from GM. I would NOT. Thanks for reading this. (oh yes –
    I am 76 yrs old and live alone. Hard to do.)

  17. I have no changes to make, except – give you
    a name? a fake name? How about Birdlady 7400?
    I love birds. I do not work. Thanks, Ellen

  18. Do I not qualify? Is that the problem? If
    that is the case, leave me out. I enjoyd
    reading the above. Thank you.

  19. I need further clarification from you. Please
    explain in more detail. Thank you. Ellen If it is the name I sign with, I prefer to use
    my middle name – Ellen. Vergie is too uncommon
    and would be easier to find so I prefer Ellen
    You can log me in as Ellen Lougheed if you
    prefer. Thank you.

  20. What do you call moderation? If we can’t get this settled soon, I will quit trying.
    Ellen Lougheed

  21. I have commented. It is now your turn!

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