A new study published this month on cell research claims that micro-RNAs in certain foods we ingest can regulate the expression of target genes in mammals. Although miRNAs are known to regulate various immune systems, and although it’s no surprise that our food intake affects our bodies on the cellular level, this study opens a whole new can of worms for further exploration because it involves our genetic makeup being altered by a plant organism– an organism so different from ours.
“We report the surprising finding that exogenous plant miRNAs are present in the sera and tissues of various animals and that these exogenous plant miRNAs are primarily acquired orally, through food intake […] Functional studies in vitro and in vivo demonstrated that MIR168a could bind to the human/mouse low-density lipoprotein receptor adapter protein 1 (LDLRAP1) mRNA, inhibit LDLRAP1 expression in liver, and consequently decrease LDL removal from mouse plasma. These findings demonstrate that exogenous plant miRNAs in food can regulate the expression of target genes in mammals.”
How did the discovery happen? Researches at Nanjing University in China who were studying miRNA’s found high levels of rice miRNA’s in their test subjects– Chinese men and women whose staple food is rice. So they followed up by putting rice miRNA’s in mice. What they found was that it was biding to messenger RNA’s, which carry the genetic code. This was making levels of a liver receptor that filters out LDL (bad cholesterol) go down. When the researchers gave the mice a molecule that would turn off the rice miRNA, the receptor bounced back. For there to be such a direct route of effect from plant to mammal is surprising.
What does this mean? Plant miRNA can directly affect a mammal’s genetic expression. And if it can be found in the sera (blood) and tissue of mammals, then it can be passed down in reproduction.
This certainly adds a whole new meaning to the phrase you are what you eat. Maybe we can start saying: your children will be what you eat.