It’s the Nutrition, Stupid
According to modern medical dogma, our genes rule our lives. Genes code for the proteins that determine just about everything about us. The thing we are just discovering is that it is not the genes we are born with that are important but rather which genes are turned off or on.
We are often told that our pets are victims of their genes. “Sorry, she was just born that way.” However, diet and lifestyle often play more of a role in their health than the experts realize. Nutrigenomics is the study of how the nutrients a body takes in determine which genes are activated.
According to one study into nutirigenomics1, certain nutrients can have a profound effect on health. One of the researchers, Randy L. Jirtle commented that, “Early nutritional changes can clearly affect adult phenotypes.” The other, Robert A. Waterland, said “Diet, nutritional supplements and other seemingly innocuous compounds can alter the development in utero to such an extent that it changes the offspring’s characteristics for life, and potentially that of future generations.”
They are speaking of research they conducted on mice with a genetic flaw called the Agouti mutation. Agouti mice tend to have a yellow hair coat, diabetes, obesity and cancer. These scientists found that if two Agouti mice were bred, the offspring expressed the Agouti gene – no surprise there.
However, if two Agouti mice were bred and the pregnant female’s diet was supplemented with extra Vitamin B12, Folic acid, Betaine, or Choline, the offspring appeared completely normal. They had the disease-causing gene but the nutrients “turned it off.” If fact, these normal appearing mutants could interbreed and produce normal looking progeny. So this epigenetic factor can be passed on outside the genetic code.
Yes, veterinarians are just now appreciating the true importance of nutrition. According to one expert, “Previously, clinical nutrition was considered adjunctive therapy to common diseases, but in recent years it has emerged as a cornerstone of treatment based on the principles of grade 1 evidence-based medicine…No longer are nutrients simple building blocks, cofactors, or enzymes, but instead regulators of cellular metabolism, gene transcription, or translation.”2
As important as nutrition is, most veterinarians do not place much emphasis on it when dealing with sick or well patients. It is up to the pet caregiver to choose the best diet for her four-legged friend. In my view, a balanced raw diet is best.
1. Walterland RA, Jirtle RL. Transposable elements: Targets for early nutritional effects on epigenetic gene regulation. Molecular and Cellular Biology 2003;23(15):5293-5300.
2. Kirk CA, Bartges JW, Dietary management and nutrition, preface. Veterinary Clinics of North America Small Animal Practice, 2006;36(6):xi-xii.
Hey, raw feeders out there – tell us about the health changes you saw when you switched your pets to raw food.
I have fed my poodle Geno raw for most of his life and his coat and nails have always grown at an incredible rate. (More grooming work for me, but he looks great!) I recently switched my Chinese Crested to an all raw diet as well. In the past she had top-of-the-line kibble. In the year and a half I’ve had her, the hair on her furnishings only grew to an inch or so in length – that is, until the raw diet. Now her hair is most certainly getting longer. All along I thought it was just her genes and that she’d always have shorter furnishings than some cresties – but there is definitely more going on!