Why are veggies good for us? Using a nutrigenomics approach

May 24, 2013

Eating vegetables is healthy, as has been shown in large-scale epidemiological research. How, and to what degree, vegetable consumption can help prevent conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes, is, however, still under discussion. A study published in Genes and Nutrition uses a nutrigenomics-approach that aims to enable the accurate assessment of the subtle health effects of foods—in this case vegetables.

The researchers conducted an intervention study with 30 males—15 had an average BMI of 23.4, and 17 had an average BMI of 30.3. The men consumed 50 or 200 g of vegetables for four weeks in a randomized, crossover trial. They received weekly rations of fresh and canned vegetables to prepare and consume at home and could decide for themselves what they consumed on which day of the week. After four weeks, the researchers analyzed blood samples and fat tissue not only via classical biomarkers, but also determined the levels of large numbers of metabolites and genes. Afterward, all subjects underwent four weeks of energy restriction (60% of normal energy intake).

For data interpretation the researchers used advanced software for bioinformatics and network analysis. This software allowed them to find, based on current scientific insights, connections between molecular and classical biomarkers. By inclusion of sensitive omics technologies and comparing the changes induced by high vegetable intake with changes induced by energy restriction, the researchers concluded that part of vegetables’ health benefits are mediated by changes in energy metabolism, inflammatory processes, and oxidative stress.

Study (pdf)