Sunday, 29 September 2013

Happy International Coffee Day - Coffee, Caffeine and Your Unique Liver

If you're not familiar with the field of nutrigenomics, prepare to be amazed.

It turns out that caffeinated coffee can either be a medicine or a poison. At least when it comes to one particular risk: heart disease. And it all hinges on one specific gene, called CYP1A2.

You see, the CYP1A2 gene tells your liver to make one of two enzymes: CYP1A2 fast or CYP1A2 slow. Now, here's where it gets interesting.

If you have the gene that makes the fast version of CYP1A2, each time you drink caffeinated coffee, your body processes and eliminates the caffeine from your bloodstream very quickly.

That effect -- being a fast metabolizer of caffeine -- leads to a decrease in heart disease risk when you drink a moderate amount (two to four cups) of caffeinated coffee each day.

(Stay thirsty my friends!)

However, if you have the gene that makes the slow version of CYP1A2, each time you drink caffeinated coffee, your body processes and eliminates the caffeine from your bloodstream very slowly.

That effect -- being a slow metabolizer of caffeine -- leads to an increase in heart disease risk even when drinking the same amount of caffeinated coffee each day.

(Damn these slow genes!)

Crazy, isn't it? When it comes to heart disease risk, caffeinated coffee can actually be a "poison" for one person, and a "medicine" for another. It all depends on one little gene.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Local Food is Here to Stay

Hi everyone! 

Adriana Glofcheskie here, 4th year NANS student and Academic Commissioner for our student association. I have the privilege of writing our first blog post for the 2013-2014 school year. On behalf of all of us on the exec, welcome to our official blog!

If you’re reading this, it’s safe to bet that you’re conscientious when it comes to nutrition, food and health (or at least I hope you are!) In this post, I want to talk a bit about locally grown food, why it’s important and where you can get it.

I was lucky enough to be raised by parents that instilled in me a love for growing fresh, nutritious and delicious food.  Yes, I was that child who actually loved eating vegetables and fruit…basically every parent’s dream. So maybe you didn’t grow up eating food grown right in your own backyard.  Regardless, the local food movement is one that has been gaining momentum for quite some time now, and it seems to me that it is here to stay.  

The agri-food sector is a key component of Ontario's economy. In fact, this past Monday, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced a $30-million fund to promote local food.  Buying local means that you’re supporting local farmers, sustainable farming practices and helping to reduce air pollution and packaging waste. Not only does fresh food taste better, but it tends to be more nutritious: the shorter the time it takes food to get from farm to table, the less likely it is that nutrients will be lost. For example, 24 to 48 hours after harvest, 50%—89% of vitamin C is lost from leafy vegetables. Bagged spinach loses about half its folate and carotenoids after being stored in refrigeration for just four days. Now, just think about the nutrients in produce that is imported from other countries or continents. In general, by becoming more mindful of the food we eat, we are more likely to make healthy choices and consume less processed foods with added preservatives, sugar and fat.

It’s no secret that agriculture is a key player in our local economy here in Guelph:  there are 2, 588 farms in our region. So where can you go to get your hands on some local food?  The Guelph Farmer’s Market is one hot spot to check out. Open year round, it has between 60-120 vendors selling a wide variety of meat, breads, fruits and veggies, ethnic foods and more.  If you’ve never been, now is the time to go, as many fruits and veggies are in season Aside from local farmer’s markets, you can also get your Ontario food fix at fruit and veggie stands, supermarkets, restaurants and other businesses.  

Here’s a great website that includes a directory of all of the places in the region where you can get local food:

Another great resource is Foodland Ontario’s Availability Guide, where you can see when fruits and veggies are in season: