Monday, December 19, 2011
Rant: Beware Vegetables!
It seems that every week we are learning something new about the food we eat, either that the food is now more dangerous or more beneficial. Scientists are always studying the effect of various foods, and their results can change the way people diet. It can be hard to keep up so what food can you really trust? Well, there is a new study adding to the confusion, and Ill try to keep the science lesson to a minimum.
MicroRNAs, which have come to the forefront of scientists' attention during the last ten years, are fragments of genetic material and they contribute to gene regulation, basically helping to determine how and when genes shut on or off. These microRNAs are found in both animals, including humans, and plants. Analysis and study of these microRNAs could lead to very positive results in defeating diseases from cancer to diabetes. But there is a potential dark side as well, which is only at the infancy of comprehension.
A recent Chinese study found, by studying rice, that microRNA in plants can actually enter the human body when those plants are ingested. Despite being digested, these microRNA can still survive and travel into the human bloodstream. Tests were performed on mice using a specific microRNA called MIR618, and the results showed that increased levels of this microRNA led to elevated cholesterol levels. So, eating rice could thus increase your cholesterol through these microRNAs. If true, does that mean Japanese sake, made from rice, could also cause increased cholesterol? I really hope not.
Some plants could pass on positive microRNA but as the field is still very new, there are many unknowns. Their effect could even turn out to be so minimal that it could be ignored. But questions remain. For example, what types of microRNA can grapes, and thus wine, pass on? Should you really eat your broccoli? Are vegans and vegetarians playing Russian Roulette, not really understanding what the vegetables they ingest might do to their health?