You Are Which You Eat, Literally

Turns out some old clichés aren’t just made to encourage children to eat better. Researchers at Nanjing University found that strands of RNA from vegetables make it into our bloodstream after we eat them. The study found that microRNAs, once inside of us, can regulate the expression of our genes.

MicroRNAswith are little strands of RNA that selectively bind to matching sequences of messenger RNA. This binding results in a repression of those genes. The  role of microRNAs has only been understood in the last decade or so. Currently, they are believed to take part in a vast number of processes in both plants and animals.

Until now scientists thought these chemicals were only made and used inside our bodies, but new research shows that microRNAs from plants can enter the human body. They found low levels of plant microRNAs from rice in human tissues.

It is both exciting, and kind of creepy when you really think about it. Especially when you consider that most people in the Western world don’t pay as much attention to what they’re putting into their bodies, as they do to what clothes they’re wearing. What does this mean for most of us, especially those of us who are trying to live uncommonly healthy lives?

For many of us who take the time to eat well, to prepare nutritious and healthy meals, or to order carefully when dining out, this may not be quite a shocker. Most of us notice that when we eat well, we feel so much better. It would make sense that the effect may be cumulative over time.

An interesting byproduct of this discovery, is that it may be able to explain why some alternative forms of medicine (like Chinese herbal medicine) sometimes seem to have therapeutic value. Because the mechanism has been misunderstood until this point, it had been thought the therapeutic effects were strictly psychological (a placebo effect) in nature.

This is a great encouragement for those of us who are trying to take good care of our bodies and minds. This tells us once again we’re doing something right. Over the next 2 to 3 years, we may have clear information about which foods influence our genes in positive ways, and which foods influence them negatively. The future is wide open for good eating!

About Karen Saint Marie

Hi! I'm Karen Saint Marie. I have worked in the fields of health care, nutrition and mental wellness since 1991. Over the past two decades, I became aware that almost everyone is interested in how to feel better, live better and think better. The problem is, most people find it impossible to prioritize their physical and mental health while juggling family, jobs, and community projects. I have helped many individuals and small groups learn to identify, understand and implement better health and wellness practices. Wellness is a many-fold process. To begin, pick a place to start and get the process going. Being healthy in mind and body doesn't mean spending hours every day focused on healthy living. Instead, it is easier to make healthy living a natural and enjoyable part of our lives. Taking care of our minds means putting the right things in our bodies. It means pushing our minds in fun and explorative ways. Learning about the latest neuroscience and psychological research is helpful. It shows us the easiest ways to keep our brains humming along, well into our later years. Taking care of our bodies means being aware of our movements. It means making good choices for healthy foods, even when we eat out for most of our meals. It doesn't have to be hard, and, it can be a lot of fun. Living a great life doesn't have to come at a high price. It just involves knowing what is needed, and then, doing some small part of that every day. You can contact me at

Posted on October 16, 2011, in Diet, Genetics, Health, Placebos and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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