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← How To Communicate With Our DNA Through Food I Maria Chiara Bassi I TEDxMantova

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Showing Revision 3 created 08/30/2019 by Michele Gianella.

  1. I start with a question:
    can food communicate with our DNA?
  2. And if it communicates with our DNA,
    can it affect health?
  3. Let's think of a first image, the bees.
  4. We have three bees: the worker bee,
    the drone, and the queen bee.
  5. All three have the same DNA,
    the same genome;
  6. but the queen was fed by larvae
  7. with a different food: royal jelly.
  8. And as we can see,
    the queen's dimensions are different.
  9. But not just the size:
    her function is different.
  10. It is the only one, inside the hive,
  11. that can mate and give rise
    to a new colony.
  12. So the food communicated
    something to the DNA,
  13. because they all have the same DNA.
  14. And we need to go,
    in order to understand that,
  15. into the small core of our cells.
  16. Two microns, enclosing
    three billion bases,
  17. which is our two meters long,
    extremely packaged genome.
  18. Think that in the late 90s
  19. it was thought that the study
    of the human genome
  20. would have provided great answers
  21. both in understanding diseases
    but also in understanding the DNA.
  22. It soon became clear,
    we were only at the beginning,
  23. because only 2-3 percent of DNA
    encodes for a protein,
  24. and therefore a function.
  25. Everything else - think, 98 percent -
  26. is a DNA that at the time
    was considered junk DNA,
  27. sorry for the English term,
  28. junk that served as a backup
  29. to ensure that mutations
    did not fall on genes.
  30. In fact this DNA turned out to be
  31. the beginning of a new adventure:
  32. this DNA was functional
    to regulate the expression of genes.
  33. How's that?
  34. There are chemical markers on DNA,
  35. flags that are affixed to DNA
    during development.
  36. These flags,
  37. which can be directed either on the DNA
    or on the proteins that wrap the DNA,
  38. or even on some RNA, which are
    the mold of anti-sense DNA,
  39. are affixed during development
  40. so that the cells
    can perform their function.
  41. Mind you, we have
    the same DNA in our cells,
  42. in each of our cells.
  43. But each cell operates differently. Why?
  44. Because it has the first parts
    of DNA which are different,
  45. thanks to these flags,
    these markers that say to a gene:
  46. you have to be expressed in this cell,
  47. you have to make sure
    that this cell has this function,
  48. and that another cell has another one.
  49. To better understand,
  50. let's imagine that our DNA
    is an orchestral score,
  51. and that genes are the instruments.
  52. If you play all together,
  53. there would be no harmony,
    there would be no symphony.
  54. It wouldn't be the music,
    there'd just be noise.
  55. Actually, every gene knows perfectly well,
    thanks to these flags, these markers,
  56. when to start working,
    when to play, to shut up,
  57. whether to play loud or slow.
  58. This harmony takes place
    every second, every instant
  59. within our cells.
  60. And there is a study,
    an extremely interesting study,
  61. done on mice -
  62. in biology we always start
    from an experimental model,
  63. and often on mice.
  64. Two mothers with the same genetics
    were given food to eat.
  65. Mother was fed with low-nutrient food;
  66. another mother was fed
    a nutrient-rich food.
  67. And especially rich in vitamins,
    specific nutrients.
  68. The result of this was,
  69. the pups of these two mothers
    had a phenotype,
  70. that is, an evidence of what
    they are different in -
  71. even the color of the coat changed,
  72. because the food has communicated
    something different
  73. during the development
    of these these pups, to the genes.
  74. So let's think about food at present.
  75. We have on this small planet,
    as Edgar Morin says,
  76. people dying of hunger;
    people who eat in excess;
  77. we waste food.
  78. We have people who get sick
    because they eat too much, too bad.
  79. And we also have a paradoxical situation,
    called "nutritional desert":
  80. I leave home, and in ten minutes
  81. I can not find any food rich in vitamins.
  82. I can only recover the so-called -
  83. I don't like the term,
    as food must always be respected -
  84. food that has only calories
    but no essential nutrients.
  85. And the most interesting thing
  86. is that the environment, food,
    lifestyle and even emotions
  87. can edit DNA.
  88. They can talk with the DNA.
  89. And this writing can be transmitted -
  90. especially during the first
    1000 days of the child's life,
  91. from conception to the third year of age -
  92. this writing can also be transferred
    from one generation to another.
  93. There is evidence, historical evidence
    of this intergenerational transfer
  94. of how much the environment, and food,
  95. influenced the health
    of subsequent generations.
  96. This is a historical study,
    which took place in Holland.
  97. A population of 45 million
    Dutch people was studied,
  98. who during World War II
  99. was confined to a very
    restricted area of the Netherlands.
  100. It was winter: on one side
    there were the German troops,
  101. on the other side the frozen canals.
  102. This population lived
    for about nine months
  103. eating very little,
    they were almost starving:
  104. they even came to eat
    the bulbs of the tulips.
  105. And it was calculated,
    they ate about 500 kcal per day.
  106. We then studied the babies
  107. born from them pregnant mothers.
  108. These children maintained
    their mothers' programming:
  109. their mothers lived without food,
  110. and when these children
  111. were born they were programmed
    to resist the absence of food.
  112. When the war was over,
    they had access to food
  113. and these children were more exposed
    to health vulnerablity:
  114. more exposed to diabetes, obesity,
    overweight, cardiovascular disease
  115. and even cancer.
  116. And this vulnerability,
    this increase in risk
  117. also reappeared in the second generation
  118. and now we are studying
    the third generation.
  119. We must think of the small scale,
  120. so that the small can suggest actions
    to be taken on the large scale,
  121. to improve our society, and also
    the health expectancy of our society,
  122. and rethink the origin of diseases.
  123. And that is the best way
    to promote health:
  124. bring the science of the small scale,
  125. these wonderful mechanisms
    that occur in our cells,
  126. in the great choices.
  127. Invest especially in the social classes
  128. that are less aware of all this.
  129. They have access to poor food,
  130. because it is cheap,
    and maybe they have a low income,
  131. and they may also have
    a low level of education
  132. that cannot allow them to access
    these types of messages.
  133. Above all, investing in mothers,
  134. [Right to health / Health and Equity]
  135. because the right to health,
    also enshrined in the Constitution,
  136. is also a right
    of intergenerational justice.
  137. We must care about our health,
    because it is a precious good,
  138. but we must also think,
    we can pass it on to the next generations.
  139. Then we need to wake up a little bit,
    and this is my awakening.
  140. There is an origin that gives
    a greater vulnerability to disease:
  141. the first thousand days
    of the child's life are important.
  142. And there is perhaps -
    this is a question I often ask myself -
  143. a silent evolution that leads a society
  144. to have a different health perspective
  145. because their access to food is different.
  146. And will this evolution continue?
  147. Fortunately, it can be reversible
    if conditions change.
  148. And if the mom's food, our food, changes.
  149. So, if it is true that it is important,
  150. for the health of the unborn
    and of the following generations,
  151. the environment and the food
    that mother eats,
  152. then we must take care of the food
  153. and everything that surrounds
    the mothers, their environment,
  154. around what are the new lives.
  155. So we have to consider
    every eating moment.
  156. And curate this moment.
  157. It can be the hospital:
  158. we can't forget, treat food
    like yet another hotel service.
  159. Food must convey values:
  160. it must also be deemed important,
    and promote health.
  161. Many parents, in schools,
  162. are more concerned
    if the children do not eat,
  163. but never worry if the child eats badly.
  164. Always the worry: my son doesn't eat.
  165. But let's worry about what they eat,
  166. let's worry if what he eats
    is important for his health.
  167. Then there are companies:
  168. at any time, but also among friends,
  169. a health marketing that can also span
    across different social worlds.
  170. We think in every moment that we eat
  171. how much we can communicate through food.
  172. It must always be good,
    but also functional to health.
  173. Because food is an interconnection
  174. between our past, our present
    but also our future.
  175. It connects us with the Earth,
    because food is work:
  176. it is produced and transformed,
    we must respect it.
  177. With human beings, with the environment.
  178. A great English agronomist said
  179. that the health of man, animals,
    land, water and air
  180. is unique and indivisible.
  181. Consider also: we feed on molecules,
    which are carbohydrates,
  182. where the carbon is
    in a high energy chemical bond.
  183. But where does this
    high energy bond come from?
  184. From the plants!
  185. And plants, on the other hand,
    use solar energy
  186. to transform a carbon molecule,
    with a low-energy CO2 bond,
  187. into high-energy oxygen.
  188. For the transitive property,
  189. we can say that we eat
    thanks to the energy of the Sun.
  190. So we have to respect
    this kind of environment around us
  191. which allow us to be part of our history.
  192. Let's think of the scents
    that evoke emotions,
  193. the scents of our grandmother's kitchen.
  194. Let's think of Proust and the Madeleines.
  195. Let's think about how much
    food binds tradition, history:
  196. it is part of our past,
    but it is also part of our future,
  197. And it is also part
  198. of what we can transfer
    to future generations.
  199. Sometimes, however,
    you also eat standard foods,
  200. with standard scents and standard flavors,
  201. and I think this is disqualifying
  202. for taste, our organ of sense.
  203. We have five sense organs,
  204. and the sense organ of taste
    is a wonderful organ:
  205. we have five tastes through taste,
  206. but through the vomer-nasal organ
    and the sense of smell
  207. millions of possibilities
    to appreciate flavors and aromas.
  208. Sometimes the food
    is industrial, very processed.
  209. A food that endlessly repeats itself.
  210. And we must invest in the culture of food.
  211. Which is a different culture
    from prevention,
  212. but they can really have links in common.
  213. Also, nourishing and loving
    are a mother's first acts.
  214. A feeding food is a loving food.
  215. And then, of course, our traditions.
  216. Our traditions account for a distinction
  217. between a daily diet,
    with frugal but still tasty food,
  218. and a holiday that we have
    to expect and wait
  219. so we can share a richer food
    with our beloved relatives.
  220. Then what is epigenetics?
  221. From "epi", Greek, "above" DNA.
  222. All these modifications on top of the DNA.
  223. It is a bridge that links
    the environment - alas, even pollution -
  224. emotions, food, that encompasses
    all this, to our DNA.
  225. We thought of DNA as an immutable code:
  226. tall, short, blue eyes, black eyes.
  227. In fact, we understood,
    through these latest studies -
  228. there are not so recent,
    because they dates back to 15 years ago -
  229. that we can have a dialogue with our DNA,
  230. and we can also transfer our history
  231. to the following generations.
  232. And in fact I think, a fairer, more equal
    health perspective for all.
  233. So that new generations
  234. will have even less vulnerability
    to certain diseases.
  235. Thank you.
  236. (Applause)