Varraso, et al. (2015) found that a healthier diet (Alternate Healthy Eating Index 2010) was associated with a lower risk of COPD (1). I found Varraso et al.’s (2015) study fascinating, especially since in my work experience in a nursing home I have seen the toll that COPD takes on individuals and the need to minimize the risk. I found that this study also brought to mind the impact that the environment has on the epigenome. Smoking appears to influence disease risk by its effect on the epigenome (2, 3, 4). It has been speculated that smoking might influence COPD risk in part through epigenetic mechanisms (2, 5). Diet influences the epigenome (6, 7). Dietary components might nudge the epigeome either directly or indirectly through their impact on the gut ecosystem. Whole plant foods, including produce and whole grains, contain phytochemcials that are believed to play roles in epigenetic maintenance (8, 9, 10, 11). Whole plant foods are also important for maintaining a healthy, diverse gut ecosystem (12, 13). In contrast, an overly processed, sugary diet is believed to cause an imbalanced gut ecosystem (13). The gut ecosystem influences the epigenome through chemical signaling which may influence chronic disease risk (14, 15, 16). Thus it seems plausible that diet might influence COPD risk in part through epigenetic mechanisms.
About the author: www.CeliaMRoss.com
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(12) Tuohy KM, Conterno L, Gasperotti M, Viola R. Up-regulating the human intestinal microbiome using whole plant foods, polyphenols, and/or fiber. J Agric Food Chem. 2012 Sep 12;60(36):8776-82.
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(14) Remely M, Aumueller E, Merold C, et al. Effects of short chain fatty acid producing bacteria on epigenetic regulation of FFAR3 in type 2 diabetes and obesity. Gene. 2014 Mar 1;537(1):85-92.
(15) Huller MA, Fu BC. Diet, the gut microbiome, and epigenetics. Cancer J. 2014 May-Jun;20(3):170-5.
(16) Kumar H, Lund R, Laiho A, et al. Gut microbiota as an epigenetic regulator: pilot study based on whole-genome methylation analysis. MBio. 2014 Dec 16;5(6).
Competing interests: I write about health issues.