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You are what you eat: Study suggests plant-based foods may alter gene expression

Here's yet another reason to make sure you eat the daily recommended servings of fruit and vegetables. Beyond being a rich source of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, plant-based foods may change the behavior of your genes. That's according to a new study, which is highlighted in a story (registration required) in this month's New Scientist:

In what is the strongest evidence yet that the genetic material in food survives digestion and circulates through the body, fragments of plant RNA have been found swimming in the bloodstreams of people and cows. What's more the study by Chen-Yu Zhang of Nanjing University in China and his colleagues shows that some of these plant RNAs muffle gene expression and raise cholesterol levels in mice. The discovery opens up a new way to turn food into medicine: we may be able to design plants that change our genes for the better.

While the idea of engineering medicinal plants isn't one that will likely bear fruit in the near future, the findings are likely to spur a flurry of research activity to further discern how eating plants can alter our genes and, as a result, our health.

Previously: Research shows eating berries may boost brain health, Stanford nutrition experts discuss top cancer-preventing foods and Stanford nutritionist offers guidelines for eating healthy on the go
Photo by jules:stonesoup

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