Monday, October 29, 2018

Bio-Active Compounds and the Epigenetics of Osteoporosis



To better understand how bio-active compounds in food and certain supplements (such as the berberine, milk thistle, and taurine found in OsteoStim) work to improve health, we first need to understand the epigenetics of nutrigenomics (a fancy word for how nutrition affects our genetics).
 
Epigenetics: We know what genetics is about: a biological map of how we are put together and what makes us who we are...what makes us unique...but what about epigenetics? Epigenetics refers to external modifications to DNA (not actual changes to DNA sequencing) that turn genes "on" or "of". A good example of this is methylation. Methyl groups are molecules consisting of one carbon and 3
hydrogen atoms. When a methyl group is added to other molecules it is called methylation, and when a methyl group is taken away it is called demethylation. When adding or detaching methyl groups to molecules, it has the effect of 'turning on" or "turning off" a biochemical reaction. It's kind of like turning a light on or off with a switch. This is epigenetics at work. In epigenetics, the DNA sequence has not changed, only how that DNA is being read. The modifications caused by methylation (and other histone modifications) only affect how that genetic information is going to be used: for example how the DNA will or won't produce proteins.
 
When it comes to nutrigenomics and bone health, DNA methylation is extremely important. (Too much is not good and too little is not good...both can lead to osteoporosis and other chronic diseases.) "Methyl switches" (and other switch forms) work to control just about everything in the body, including how bone forms and how it is broken
down; how it is remodeled. We usually hear of methylation as it relates to cardiovascular and neurological disease, but methylation is also important for skeletal health.  
 
We know that when bone remodeling gets out of balance, it leads to osteoporosis. Bone cells (the osteoclasts and osteoblasts) must stay in harmony, balanced in their activity for bone to stay healthy. It is through cytokine-orchestrated genetic expression that this activity remains in sync. A person may have genes for strong bones, but the regulators of how those genes manifest are, for some reason or other, not turned on or off correctly and the bone strength is not realized. Epigenetics--how genes are expressed--becomes important when we talk about nutrition beyond the basic bone-building blocks of protein and minerals. Good nutrition encourages a person's genetic makeup to be expressed fully. It allows the epigenetics to engage and bring that person's genetic potential to its optimal expression. But poor nutrition may lead to an under-expression of the genetic code and result in physiological dysfunction and disease.   
 
DNA methylation also plays a major part in the immune system's response. It therefore is a major regulator of inflammation and that of the chronic systemic inflammation we see in accelerated bone loss.  
 
One of the reasons it is so important to eat lots of vegetables is because they are a great source of bio-active compounds that are methyl switches and have anti-inflammatory properties. This is also why we put several bone-specific bioactive compounds in our OsteoStim formula. Berberine, milk thistle (silymarin), and taurine are all active bio-compounds involved in either the promotion or reduction of methylation and the regulation of skeletal epigentics.    
 
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