Professor Chenyu Zhang, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology chair at Nanjing University has made a discovery about certain plant foods—including rice, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts—that promises to revolutionize the way we conduct our nutrition as well as our overall health.
Zhang and his team have discovered the possibility of the micro-genetics of some plants to alter human gene expression: plant genes that have been “surviving” the digestive process, going past digestion and going into and staying in the bloodstream. Not quite sure how these plant genes are making it through and escaping the digestive acids and enzymes, Zhang and colleagues have nevertheless found a phenomenon in plant microRNAs that can possibly wipe out certain diseases. Indeed, Zhang and team intend to seek ways microRNAs in general and certain Chinese herbs (names of which remain secret for now) can survive digestion, make their way into the bloodstream, mute or amplify their way through some 50 genes they influence, and muffle, mute, destroy such illnesses as the human flu virus.
The plant genetic material Zhang discovered in the bloodstream is made up of what is called microRNA—comprised of an average number (19 to 24) of nucleotides, which direct or control the “expression” of certain of the mammalian body’s genes, muffling, or amplifying, the activity of said genes. For instance, as Zhang’s group found to be happening with about 50 of our body’s genes, the plant microRNAs of rice/cabbage family plants have the power to turn up (amplify) or turn down (muffle or mute) the expression or activity a liver protein gene called IDLRAP1, which rids the body of damaging cholesterol types.
What Professor Zhang did initially was set out, with his team, to discern what makes up some of the microRNAs in the human body: plant genetics or our own genetics. Testing using healthy men, women, and cows, Zhang and colleagues performed an experiment using a sodium periodate process, oxidizing and/or modifying plant gene strands to make their target microRNA left untouched, or isolated enough, to study; and finding, in their process, some 30 known plant RNAs in the bloodstreams of their subjects.
More specifically, they found in the bloodstreams of the men and women as well as in cows at least 2 plant RNAs—those of rice and those of cabbage family plants—which were of particularly high concentrations, or amounts, in the bloodstreams of the men, women, and cows. This means the genetic material of plants, if it can survive the digestive process, can move into areas of the body where influence on genetic expression could be for the better when it comes to influenza, even AIDS. This means that where scientists the world over have experimented with genetic mutation to come up with herbicide-resistant soya beans and insect larva toxin-resistant corn they have also come closer to altering human genetics so that people are able to eat such altered foods without harm. This therefore means that thanks to scientists such as Professor Zhang, the genetic influence of plants such as Brussels sprouts and broccoli will extend beyond vitamin and antioxidant health.
And for those of us in recovery this continues to mean that good nutrition is very important to our healing process. This is not to suggest plants and other foods can cure our addiction, but it is clear that as part of nutrition in recovery, they have positive, supportive physical and psychological benefits, effecting as we know now our mood, behaviour, and even cravings by way of the stomach as well as the bloodstream, where good plant RNA still lingers.