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Just like how water exerts pressure on the walls of the pipes when flowing, blood too exerts pressure on the surface blood vessels.

The pressure exerted must be constant and of a particular value. A drop or hike in this pressure may likely be a warning of an abnormality.

When the pressure exerted by blood on the walls increases beyond a certain level, it is known as hypertension or high blood pressure.

Hypertension is a common health condition. Nearly half the American population is expected to be diagnosed with hypertension. 

Symptoms Of Hypertension

Most people don’t experience any particular symptom until the condition becomes severe. That is why hypertension is rightly known as the "silent killer”. Even when people do experience the symptoms, they are almost always associated with other issues.

What Are The Symptoms Of Hypertension?

What Causes Hypertension?

The causes of hypertension or high blood pressure are still being studied. Some of the well-accepted and scientifically proven causes are smoking, obesity or being overweight, diabetes, having a sedentary lifestyle (one involving very minimal physical activities), and unhealthy eating habits. 

When it comes to diet, a high salt intake can result in hypertension, especially if you are 'salt-sensitive.'

What Is Salt Sensitivity?

We all require some amount of salt in our diets to survive. As its chemical name sodium chloride suggests, salt contains an important mineral, sodium.

Salt sensitivity is a measure of how your blood pressure responds to salt intake. People are either salt-resistant - their blood pressure doesn't change much with salt intake or salt-sensitive - their blood pressure increases upon salt consumption.

About 60% of people with high blood pressure are thought to be salt-sensitive.

How to determine if you are salt sensitive?

If you suspect salt sensitivity, the best way forward is to approach your medical practitioner. 

Your practitioner may initially put you on a low sodium diet. This can then be switched to a high sodium diet. 

If there's a rise in the blood pressure by 5-10% after the switch, then you may be considered salt sensitive.

The Story Behind Salt Sensitivity

When our ancestors were roaming about in Africa, many thousands of years ago, salt may have been a scarce nutrient in their diets.

Our bodies require salt for a lot of important functions like muscle contraction, maintaining blood volume, and sending messages and signals between the cells.

Salt also plays a role in water retention in the body. In archaic times when our ancestors were out and about in the Savannah, exposed to the sun for long periods of time, being salt-sensitive would have given them an advantage by losing less water to the environment. 

Salt retention became even more essential when infectious diseases (which often cause people to lose sodium through diarrhea and vomiting) started to spread.

Researchers speculate that this is the reason why humans probably developed the sensitivity to salt. 

So, an ability to hold on to this nutrient was a survival advantage in many ways. 

Unfortunately for many of us, we have retained this evolutionary ability to hold on to calories and sodium ever so dearly. Being surrounded by an environment filled with high-salt and high-calorie foods has automatically ended up increasing our risk of obesity and hypertension. 

Surprisingly, salt is not only found in salty foods, but many sweet-tasting foods have large amounts of salt in them. Salt is used as a taste enhancer and a preservative.

Many brands that make cake and pastries hide some amount of salt in them in order to enhance the taste. 

ACE Gene, Salt (Sodium), And Blood Pressure Control - Molecular aspect

The kidneys control blood pressure by either excreting or reabsorbing sodium. Since sodium moves with water, it is excreted as urine when the blood pressure needs to be lowered. By contrast, the kidneys reabsorb sodium in order to increase the blood pressure.

Our blood pressure is also regulated by the widening and narrowing of the blood vessels to regulate the blood flow.

The ACE gene produces the angiotensin-converting enzyme and plays a key role in controlling blood pressure.  

Whenever there's a drop in the blood pressure, it triggers the release of a hormone, renin, from the kidneys. Renin helps form a molecule, angiotensin 1. Angiotensin 1 and 2 are two forms of the hormone angiotensin, that controls the narrowing of the blood vessels to regulate blood pressure. Angiotensin-converting enzyme or ACE, released by the lungs, converts angiotensin 1 to angiotensin 2. Angiotensin 2 triggers the release of another hormone, aldosterone, that helps kidneys reabsorb sodium and water, thereby increasing the blood pressure.

The genetics behind salt sensitivity and blood pressure

Some types of ACE gene increase the production of the angiotensin-converting enzyme. This results in an increased sodium absorption, thereby causing a higher than normal spike in the blood pressure. 

rs4343The SNP rs4343 influences the production of the angiotensin-converting enzyme in response to sodium (salt) in blood. The G allele of rs4343 has been associated with the increased production of the enzyme, and thus an increased risk for high blood pressure. 38% of the population is known to have this allele, and these people are likely to be salt-sensitive.

Food recommendations for salt-sensitivity

People who are salt sensitive should watch the sodium content in their diet. Foods that are low in sodium and high in potassium are recommended - potassium lessens the effect of sodium.

The DASH diet is popular among people with high blood pressure. This diet emphasizes fruits and vegetables - both of which are low in sodium and high in potassium. It also includes nuts, whole grains, poultry, and fish. 

Dairy products also are a good addition to the diet. Milk, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products are major sources of calcium, vitamin D, and protein.

Other low sodium foods include basil, apples, cinnamon, brown rice, kidney beans, and pecans.

Summary

While retaining salt in the body was a survival advantage for our ancestors, the same has become a villain in this day and age of high-calorie and high-salt foods all around. Hypertension, characterized by a persistent elevation in the blood pressure, is a risk factor for many serious conditions like heart disease and stroke. Depending on our sensitivity to the sodium in salt, our blood pressure either spikes or lurks in the normal range upon consumption of salt. The ACE gene plays an important role in determining our sensitivity to salt. The ‘salt-sensitive’ individuals must be wary of the amount of sodium (salt) intake in order to maintain their blood pressure in the normal range. The DASH diet is popular among people who are trying to limit their salt intake.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3214830/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11711524/
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angiotensin
  4. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/dash-diet

A research study on the data from Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study suggests a relationship between certain regions in the brain and weight gain among children and adolescents. The study explored the relationship between “reward region” and food processing and suggests that this region may predict obesity in children. 

Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the United States, putting children and adolescents at risk for poor health. Overweight children are much more likely to become overweight adults unless they adopt and maintain healthier patterns of eating and exercise.

Previous research has identified a region in the brain associated with overeating or unhealthy eating behavior.

The Reward System Region In The Brain

Almost all our actions are driven by two things: Necessity and Reward. An activity can be considered a reward when it motivates us or gives us pleasure. Neurons, the brain's fundamental working unit, communicates this "reward" using dopamine, which is popularly known as the "happy hormone." 

Incidentally, food-reward is common in animal training routines. An animal is rewarded with a treat when it performs certain actions and this programming of food-reward is routinely used by animal trainers in zoos and entertainment venues and other animal training facilities.

Hedonic Hunger

Hedonic hunger describes eating for pleasure than hunger - to enjoy the taste rather than to meet the body's energy needs. This pleasure eating triggers the brain's reward system region, which can lead to overeating - a common cause of obesity.

The Study

"The ABCD study or the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study is the largest long-term study of brain development and child health in the United States." The study was done on over 10,000 children from ages 9-10 and was followed up through early adulthood. 

Using the data from this study, the researchers attempted to investigate the relationship between the reward system region in the brain (called the nucleus accumbens) and eating behavior by examining 5300 research participants.

It was observed that when 2000 participants returned for a one year follow up, the waist circumference had increased by an average of 2.76 centimeters per participant.

The cell density (number of cells for a given area) in the reward region of the brain was examined using a noninvasive MRI technique. 

The MRI revealed changes in the cell density that reflected the increase observed in the waist circumference. 

The study speculates that the increase in this cell density can be because of an inflammation caused due to a diet rich in high-fat foods. 

The findings essentially tell us that a vicious cycle of pleasure eating leading to changes in brain, in turn leading to overeating and increasing the risk of obesity.

Not all children who carry a few extra pounds can be classified as obese. Weight fluctuations are commonly observed in the growing stage of children. Before you decide on dietary changes for your child based on any weight gain you see, it's best to consult a doctor. The doctor may use growth charts, calculate the BMI and, take a family history, and, if necessary, may order a few tests to outline the issue behind the weight gain. 

References

  1. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120503103446.htm
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dopamine
  3. https://abcdstudy.org/about/

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of this novel Coronavirus as a Global pandemic on 12th March 2020.

Caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2 (formerly known as 2019-nCoV), this is the deadliest pandemic the world has seen since the Spanish influenza of 1918.

As of July 2020, COVID-19 is still continuing its fateful march around the globe.

Why do the symptoms vary? 

In most cases, COVID-19 starts out as flu-like symptoms, and a little over 70% of the people recover on their own.

But occasionally, (if you have to put a number on it, around 1 in 6) breathing difficulty and other respiratory issues occur.

In extreme cases, COVID-19 positive individuals can be asymptomatic.  

Initial research that explored the broader spectrum of things suggests that age, gender, geographic location, and underlying health conditions may all influence the severity and susceptibility to COVID-19.

To gain more clarity, GWAS studies, and other small sample size research studies were conducted on the genetic contribution to the varying symptoms.

Here’s what we know so far:

COVID severity 

Research studies have shown that genetic variants associated with host cell entry, production of cytokines, and immune response have a link to the severity of the infection.

The study confirmed the importance of ACE gene expression and the HLA region in the host response to viral infection.

ACE2

ACE2, an enzyme created by the ACE2 protein, usually plays a role in the maintenance of blood pressure.

However, it has allied with the SARS-CoV 2 by functioning as a door to the cells.

In comparison to the SARS-CoV virus, the SARS-CoV-2 virus binds with a higher affinity to the ACE2 cell receptor, making it highly infectious.

An analysis of over 300,000 individuals variant data from across the world found variants in this gene that alters the receptor making it less friendly for the virus to bind to the host cell.

Individuals carrying such variants may thus be less susceptible to COVID-19.

HLA

A diverse set of human genes in the major histocompatibility complex encodes the human leukocyte antigens (HLAs).

Most people carry between three and six different HLA alleles that show geographic-specific distributions.

These proteins are important for how the immune system recognizes and mounts immune defenses against infection.

It is thus safe to say that HLA variations could affect your immune response to the virus.

A study found that HLA-B*46:01 variant had the fewest predicted binding sites, and therefore, reduced immune responses to SARS-CoV-2.

The gender bias

According to a study in China, the number of men who died from COVID-19 is 2.4 times that of women.

According to NYC Health, men account for almost 60% of COVID-19 deaths.

So, what puts men at a higher risk for COVID-19 infection when compared to women?

A study hypothesizes the involvement of TLR gene in this.

TLRs or Toll-Like Receptors are a class of proteins that play an important role in immune functioning.

Humans have ten classes of TLRs (TLR1 to TLR10).

TLR7 is a pattern recognition receptor present in several immune cells and can detect single-stranded RNA viruses, including coronaviruses.

The X chromosome encodes the TLR7 and TLR8 tandem.

Women carry 2 X chromosomes, whereas men carry an X and a Y chromosome.

Though one of the X chromosomes is inactivated in women, the  TLR7 and TLR8 tandem seems to have escaped this silencing resulting in higher expression levels of TLR7 in females in comparison to males.

ABO blood grouping 

A research study involving 1610 COVID-19 positive patients with respiratory failure established that blood type may play a key role in determining who contracts COVID-19 and how severe the illness becomes.

According to the study, blood group O is associated with a lower risk of acquiring COVID-19, whereas blood group A was associated with a higher risk.

The researchers are still a bit hazy on the exact science behind it, but some authors suggest that variations in biological mechanisms in ABO blood groups may play a role, specifically in their immune response. 

Response to drugs

Pharmacogenomics, the study of how genes affect your body’s response to drugs, is a rapidly growing field that is in the process of unlocking the key to preventing adverse drug effects.

The bolus of drug and genomics research occurring during the pandemic has lead to assessing the role of genetics in personalizing COVID-19 treatment. 

Hydroxychloroquine, used to treat malaria, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus, had an approval initially by the FDA for clinical trials to treat COVID-19. 

However, the clinical trials recorded a significant number of arrhythmias, especially in patients with existing cardiovascular disease. 

Evaluating the genetic variants that contribute to the effectiveness of the drug metabolism can help alter the dosage accordingly to avoid such adverse side effects.

Xcode Life COVID-19 Genetic Report

Based on the key findings from the latest genetic research on COVID-19, we have curated a comprehensive report to enable you to understand your body better and align your care, diet, and therapy to your genetic type for the best support.

The report we have built consists of 4 sections:

1. Genetic risk for severe COVID-19

2. Genetic association with nutritional traits that may affect COVID-19 severity

3. Genetic influence on drug therapy

4. Genetics of the gut microbiome

How to use the report?

Please note that the COVID-19 genetic report is based on preliminary studies and is meant only for educational purposes.

This report should be interpreted only by a medical practitioner.

Any lifestyle modifications based on this report should be done only after consulting with a qualified medical practitioner. 

Your nutritional needs

The immune system is always active, carrying out surveillance, but there is an enhancement in its activity if an individual encounters an infection.

Several vitamins (A, C, D, and E) and trace elements (zinc, selenium) have been demonstrated to have key roles in supporting the human immune system and reducing the risk of infections.

It would seem prudent for individuals to consume sufficient amounts of essential nutrients to support their immune system.

While one can ensure nutritional sufficiency through diet, other factors may hinder your body from absorbing these nutrients well, making you prone to deficiencies.

For example, some genetic variants interfere with the proper metabolization and utilization of certain nutrients, ultimately leading to its deficiency.

Carriers of such variants may require additional supplementation.

The nutrition section of the report profiles the genetic variants associated with this process.

It also includes specific dietary recommendations to ensure that you are meeting your optimal nutritional needs.

Your drug response

Your genetic makeup has a big role in drug metabolization, and consequently the effect of the drugs on your body.

The same genetic variants also influence how well your body allows the drug to treat viral infections.

This section of the report focuses on analyzing these genetic variants.

The outcomes throw some light on which combination of drugs your body type may respond better to, ensuring little to no side effects. 

Your gut microbes

One of the serious clinical manifestations of COVID-19 is pneumonia and progression to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), especially in elderly, immune-compromised patients.

Numerous experimental and clinical observations have suggested that the gut microbiota plays a key role in the pathogenesis of sepsis and ARDS.

Loss of gut bacteria diversity can lead to dysbiosis, which may then be associated with many diseases.

Thus, the speculation of gut-lung connection influencing the clinical manifestation of COVID19 seems highly plausible.

In fact, according to research, nearly 60% of patients with COVID-19 show symptoms of gastrointestinal disturbance like diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea.

Some genetic variants aid a better growth of beneficial gut microbiome, thereby curbing all unwanted GI disturbances. 

You can order your COVID-19 Genetic Report here. 

Empathy is the ability of an individual to identify intentions, feelings, thoughts, and desires of another individual, and responding to it.

Hence, it is considered to be vital for prosocial behavior and social cognition.

A large study was conducted by researchers from The University of Cambridge with considerable support from 23andMe researchers.

Around 46,000 23andMe customers who consented to the study, completed an online survey which was used to evaluate their Empathy Quotient (EQ).

There are two types of empathy:

Cognitive empathy, which is the capacity to identify the thoughts and feelings of another individual, while affective empathy is the capacity to respond accordingly.

Here are five key finds about empathy genes and their impact on health and well being:

How can you find out your genetic risk for empathy?

Upload your 23andme, Ancestry DNA or FTDNA raw data to find out if you have the genetic variants associated with increased risk of empathy, available as a part of our Traits and Personality Report.

What can you do with this information?

Xcode Life's Traits and Personality Report is about self-empowerment through self-awareness.

For example, people with a higher genetic score for angry temperament can take measures to actively prevent angry outbursts, once they understand that this tendency is innate.

A high genetic risk score for alcoholism could be used to prevent overuse.

Most people are usually aware of their innate instincts.

However, a personality genetic report can reveal several such aspects that people are generally unaware.

Xcode Life's Trait and Personality Report provides information on extraversionness, intelligence,  entrepreneurship potential and more than 25 such traits. You can find out more about it here.

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Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH) is a condition characterized by elevated levels of ‘bad’ or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

This condition occurs in nearly 1 in 500 individuals.

According to the European Atherosclerosis Society, there is a 13 fold increased risk of coronary heart disease for people with FH.  

What’s more? Nearly 90% of FH patients remain undiagnosed!

Familial Hypercholesterolemia Genes

Cholesterol is a precursor for many molecules like vitamin D, bile acids, and even steroid hormones.

It forms the lipid component of cell membranes, aiding in stabilizing, and maintaining the integrity of the membrane.

Nearly one-fifth of circulating cholesterol is from the diet consumed.

High intake of cholesterol-rich foods increases serum cholesterol levels temporarily, with a reduction in levels after about seven hours.

Cholesterol is synthesized primarily in the liver, intestines, adrenal gland, and in the reproductive organs.

Cholesterol transport

LDL particles transport cholesterol from the liver to the extremities, while HDL particles transport cholesterol from the extremities back to the liver, where it is removed from the body.

The genes associated with familial hypercholesterolemia are LDLR, which codes for the LDL receptor, APOB that codes for apolipoprotein B100, and PCSK9 genes that code for proprotein convertase subtilisin/Kexin type 9, which promotes intracellular degradation by binding to LDLR.  

80% of FH incidences are due to variations in the LDLR genes, followed by variations in the APOB and PCSK9 genes.

Xcode Life's Gene Health Report provides information about familial hypercholesterolemia.

An understanding of risk will help in the initiation of therapeutic strategies that can lower risk.

 Have Your 23andMe Raw Data? Use It To Get 500+ Health-Related Genetic Traits!

How can you find out your genetic risk for familial hypercholesterolemia risk?

Upload your 23andme, Ancestry DNA, or FTDNA raw data to find out if you have the genetic variants associated with increased risk of familial hypercholesterolemia.

What can you do with this information?

There is a complex relationship between genes and the environment with factors like diet and lifestyle also playing a role in the outcome.

Therefore, the information obtained from your health genetic report can be used to tailor diet and lifestyle to lower the risk of diseases.

The health report should be interpreted only by a qualified health care practitioner.

This report generated using raw data from ancestry tests and has limitations.

Only an exome report is clinically certified to diagnose disease conditions.

Xcode Life Gene Health Report currently offers 50+ reports spanning 700+ health-related categories.

What does the COMT gene do?

The COMT gene is an essential gene when it comes to determining the development of our personalities, identities, and dispositions.

This gene codes for the catechol-o-methyltransferase enzyme that inactivates or breakdown catechols, which are a type of neurotransmitters in the brain, like dopamine.

These neurotransmitters are responsible for brain functions like short-term memory, planning, and cognitive abilities.

Where is COMT found?

COMT gene is found on chromosome 22.

There are two types of COMT genes :

Membrane-bound COMT (MB-COMT)

It has more affinity for dopamine and therefore, plays a more significant role in inactivating dopamine in the brain.

The MB-COMT is located in the cell bodies, axons, and dendrites of cortical neurons with its C-terminal end in extra-cellular space.

Soluble COMT

It has a lesser affinity for dopamine and is located in peripheral tissues like liver, blood, etc. and plays a role in detoxification and metabolism of catechol compounds.

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What is COMT gene mutation?

There is one SNP (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism) within the COMT gene that is associated with the consequences of poor health.

When a small piece of chromosome 22 gets deleted as part of the 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, it leads to the loss of 30-40 genes that includes the COMT gene.

Due to this deletion, people with this disorder have only one copy of the gene instead of two.

Loss of one copy of the COMT gene results in abnormal regulation of the COMT enzyme in the brain and increases the risk of developing behavioral problems and mental illnesses.

What are COMT and MAO enzymes?

COMT and MAO or Monoamine oxidase A (MAO) are two primary enzymes that are responsible for breaking down catecholamines in the brain.

Catecholamines like norepinephrine, epinephrine, and dopamine lower the threshold for an aggressive response to external stimuli.

Where are MAO and COMT found?

MAO is located on the outer membrane of the mitochondria, i.e. in the nerve terminals and glia in the brain and peripheral tissues, it is found primarily in the liver and the kidney.

MAO is of two types and two separate genes code for the two forms: MAO-A and MAO-B.

MAO-A is located in the dopaminergic and noradrenergic neurons, and MAO-B is present in serotonergic neurons and glia.

As mentioned above, COMT is also of two types, where one is membrane-bound, and the other is soluble.

What is the function of the MAO enzyme?

MAO enzyme is responsible for deactivating primary, secondary and tertiary amines that are found in the brain, liver, and kidney.

They play an important role in metabolizing the biogenic amines and oxidizing xenobiotics like aniline.

How do MAO inhibitors work?

MAO is responsible for deactivating amines like dopamine, which is a chemical messenger in the brain.

Low levels of dopamines are associated with Parkinson’s disease.

In such cases, treatment with a dopamine drug is not useful as it cannot cross the brain barrier.

So, MAO inhibitors are used that prevent the breakdown of dopamine and make it available for use in the brain.

What are MAO-B inhibitors?

MAO-B inhibitors are a type of inhibitors that are used to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

These drugs are prescribed for patients to block the action of the MOA enzyme and prevent the breakdown of dopamine.

What is COMT v158m?

COMT v158m is the most studied SNP of the gene because it plays a vital role in intelligence, personality and the risk of developing a disease.

Presence of the ‘A’ allele is said to decrease the activity of COMT by 3-4 times and affects cognitive and executive functions.

So, if you have AA, then you will have the highest amount of dopamine and GG would mean the lowest amount of it.

Too little or too much dopamine impacts cognitive performance.

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What is the VDRTaq gene?

VDR or Vitamin D Receptor is the nuclear hormone receptor for vitamin D3. Low levels of vitamin D are seen in many acute and chronic illnesses and is also related to neurological and immunological conditions.

Also, it is important to note that vitamin D stimulates enzymes that create dopamine.

TaqMan genotyping assays were used to identify VDR polymorphisms like Taq-1, Bsm-1, Fok-I, and Apa-I.

The VDR Taq and Bsm gene are always inverse to each other.

What is VDR Mutation?

VDR mutations occur in the vitamin D3 receptors and COMT gene have an inverse effect on the regulation of the dopamine levels.

When a person has a VDR mutation, it means that the person is less sensitive to methyl group supplement levels.

Warrior Vs. Worrier Genes

Having AA alleles on the COMT v158m gene, SNP is said to make one prone to stress, and they tend to be ‘worriers.’

In people with AA alleles, the level of COMT is less, and dopamine is high which makes them poor dealers of stress.

However, in the case of GG alleles, the individuals perform better under stress and show more aggression and therefore, are termed as ‘warriors.’

What is the warrior gene?

The 'warrior' gene is located on the short arm (p arm) of the X chromosome and codes for the enzyme Monoamine Oxidase A (MAOA).

The variants of the MAOA gene, collectively called MAOA-L, are responsible for the aggressive behavior seen in many individuals with mental disorders.

A recent study in Finnish criminals brought about another gene that has initially been linked with ADHD, autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder called CDH13.

Even this gene today is considered to be a ‘warrior’ gene.

Can a woman have the ‘warrior’ gene?

Everyone has the ‘warrior’ gene.

Its effects are based on the mutations that the gene undergoes due to a variety of predisposing factors.

However, a recent study at the University of Florida has linked the MAO-A or the ‘warrior gene’ in men to be the ‘happiness gene’ in women.

The reason for the difference in expression of the gene in men and women was proposed to be testosterone, which is much higher in men than in women.

Does norepinephrine increase metabolism?

Epinephrine and norepinephrine are catecholamines that act as hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain.

Their primary function is to prepare the body and the brain for action.

They increase the blood flow and activity of the organs needed for impending actions such as increasing the heart rate, promoting alertness, and vigilance, increasing the blood pressure, increasing blood flow to the skeletal muscles, and increasing the utilization of glucose stored in the body.

However, at the same time, epinephrine and norepinephrine reduce the blood flow to certain other parts of the body such as the gastrointestinal system and excretory system as they are not directly involved in the fight or flight response.

So, epinephrine and norepinephrine reduce gastric motility, digestion, and metabolism and inhibit voiding of the bladder.

What is the function of COMT inhibitors?

COMT gene is responsible for the breakdown and metabolism of neurotransmitters like norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine in the brain.

When there is less production or excessive metabolism of dopamine, it contributes to the motor symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

Dopamine drugs cannot cross the brain barrier and therefore, are unable to improve the symptoms of the patient.

So, in such cases, COMT inhibitors that prevent the production of COMT enzyme are prescribed. 

This increases the availability of dopamine and reduces motor symptoms of conditions like Parkinson’s disease.

What enzyme breaks down dopamine?

Dopamine is broken down into metabolites by a variety of enzymes that include:

Dopamine can be broken down by different pathways, but all of them lead to the same end product homovanillic acid that has no known biologic activity.

Are the COMT and MTHFR genes interlinked?

Yes, they are and let us see how:

The MTHFR gene codes for the MTHFR enzyme that converts 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate (MeTHF) to 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (MTHF).

MTHFR is a part of the one-carbon pathway that cycles dietary folate into its various forms. It gets converted back to THF after it loses one methyl group when methionine synthase converts homocysteine into methionine.

However, a mutation in this MTHFR gene stops the activity of methionine synthesis, leading to the accumulation of homocysteine (an excess of which is terrible for the body).

This is where the COMT gene comes into the picture. Limited methionine means an insufficiency in the activity of the COMT gene.

This is how COMT and MTHFR genes are functionally linked.

Is COMT associated with the genetic susceptibility of schizophrenia?

Currently, there are no conclusive results about the association of the COMT gene with schizophrenia.

However, extensive studies are being carried out to explore the linkage between the COMT  gene and other mental disorder. 

Nutrition facts: Magnesium is a cofactor for COMT and is required for its efficiency. Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine acts as a cofactor for enzymes associated with methionine metabolism.

Xcode Life’s Health Report provides information on openness, extraversion ness, intelligence,  entrepreneurship potential, and more than 25 such traits.

What is Nutrition?

Nutrition can be defined as the process of providing or supplying the food required for health and growth.

It is also the branch of science and human medicine which deals with the practice of consuming and utilizing foods.

Moreover, a nutritious diet helps to strengthen the body's immunity.

What are the types of nutrition?

The three main types of heterotrophic nutrition are:

  1. Saprophytic: Feeding on dead remains of other organisms.
  2. Holozoic: Animals which eat their food as a whole. Complex food is intaken that passes through a specialized digestive system that breaks it down into small pieces that can be absorbed. There are five stages- Ingestion, digestion, Absorption, Assimilation, and Egestion.
  3. Parasitic: Organisms were obtaining food from other organisms that act as a host. The parasites suck and feed the blood from such host organisms.

What are the elements of nutrition?

There are seven essential macronutrients and micronutrients that our body requires every day, that include:

Protein

Carbohydrates 

Fat

Vitamins 

Minerals

Fiber 

Water

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Why is nutrition important?

Nutrition is vital for an individual's health and can make you maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risks of chronic health conditions.

It is estimated that about one-third of adults in the U.S are obese and approximately 17% of children and adolescents are obese.

Even for individuals of healthy weight, a poor diet can lead to health risks such as hypertension, heart diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer, etc. 

Healthy eating will help you to get the required body nutrients.

What is good nutrition?

Good nutrition: the key to good mental and physical health is consuming a balanced diet; eating the right food at the right time.

You have to eat a combination of foods from different food groups to meet your constitutional requirements every day.

A healthy diet consists of foods from each group taken in a recommended amount, with foods low in sugars and fat and low in sodium.

What are the basic principles of nutrition?

The basic principles of nutrition are:

  1. Eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes
  2. Opting for lean and low-fat protein sources
  3. Restricting sweet consumption, soft drinks and other items with added sugars.
  4. Incorporating protein, carbohydrates and some good fat in all meals and snacks.

What are the optimal nutritional requirements?

The nutritional requirement for an average human being includes the following:

What are the benefits of nutrition?

The benefits of good nutrition include the following:

How does nutrition affect your health?

Poor nutrition can affect an individual's natural health and wellbeing.

It can impair an individual's ability to lead an active and enjoyable life.

Precisely, improper nutrition can lead to stress, make you tired and reduce your capacity for chores and over time, it can lead to increased risk of diseases and health conditions like:

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Effect of nutrition on brain health

Needless to say, the brain is an essential body organ, and its primary function is to instruct other organs to perform each of their tasks.

Hence it is essential to keep the brain working in its optimal condition by consuming a healthy diet.

Certain foods can affect your brain and impact your memory, mood and increase your risk for certain conditions.

This can be easily prevented by avoiding those negative-impacting foods from your diet.

Some food items that harm your brain health include:

  1. Sugary drinks & foods: Not only does it make you gain weight, but it also does affect your brain. It can cause high blood sugar levels which increases your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. High fructose intake can impair your memory and affect your brain function involved in learning and brain neuron formations.
  2. Refined carbohydrates which increase your glycemic index and glycemic load can affect your memory, intelligence and increase dementia risk.
  3. Trans fats are linked to impaired memory and increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
  4. Processed foods containing artificial sweeteners (especially aspartame) are associated with behavioral issues and cognitive decline.
  5. Alcohol, when consumed excessively, can lead to loss of memory, sleep disruption and behavioral problems.
  6. Mercury-rich fish (shark & Swordfish) can cause harm to developing fetuses and young kids.

Recommended article: Why most things you know about nutrition and weight loss are plain wrong!

What are the signs of good nutrition?

The signs that your body is getting adequate nutrition include:

Food recommendations for good health

A healthy diet includes the following:

Children (2-8 yrs old) 1400-2000 calories per day; Adolescent girls & women- 2200 calories per day; Adolescent boys & men- about 3000 calories per day

What are the thirteen vitamins your body requires?

Here is a list of vitamins that your body require:

There are nine water-soluble vitamins and four fat-soluble vitamins, that includes:

Vitamin A

It is mportant for cellular growth & development.

Sources: Dairy products, Fish, egg yolk, etc.

Vitamin B1

Essential for maintaining a healthy metabolism.

Sources: Cereals, grains, seeds, nuts, legumes, pork, etc.

Vitamin B2

It is an essential element for energy metabolism, adrenal function, proper vision, and healthy skin.

Sources: Dairy products, cereals, grains, lean meat, poultry, etc.

Vitamin B3 

It is mportant for healthy growth and energy metabolism.

Sources: Seafood, milk, eggs, legumes, poultry, etc.

Vitamin B5 

It Serves various bodily functions, fat metabolism and normalizes blood sugar.

Sources: Broccoli, avocado, eggs, milk, poultry, legumes, lentils, etc

Vitamin B6

It aids in the production of happy hormones- serotonin, dopamine, and melatonin.

Sources: Nuts, meat, Banana, poultry, Avocado, legumes, whole grains, etc.

Vitamin B7

It is essential for a healthy metabolism.

Sources: Whole grains, nuts, yeast, soybeans, egg yolks, etc.

Vitamin B9 

It is required for the synthesis of DNA, RNA, RBCs and is very important for pregnant women since it helps prevent birth defects.  

Sources: Liver, yeast, green leafy vegetables, avocados, legumes, asparagus, etc.

Vitamin B12 

It is essential for the production of myelin for nerve fibers, DNA, RNA, and RBCs.  

Sources: All animal products.

Vitamin C 

It helps to strengthen your blood vessel walls, promotes wound healing, iron absorption, prevents atherosclerosis, aids immunity and acts as an antioxidant.

Sources: Citrus fruits, melons, berries, peppers, broccoli, potatoes, etc.

Vitamin D

The sunshine vitamin helps calcium absorption, maintains and builds healthy teeth and bones.

Sources: Milk, Butter, egg yolks, fatty fish, etc.

Vitamin E

It guards fatty acids maintain RBCs and muscles and is an important antioxidant.

Sources: Eggs, margarine, mayonnaise, nuts, seeds, cereals, etc.

Vitamin K 

It helps in blood clotting.

Sources: Spinach, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, Cabbage, Cauliflower, cereals, fish, liver, beef, eggs, etc.

What are the prescribed daily nutritional requirements?

Per FSC (Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code), the ideal diet for an average adult includes:

Note: This is just a guide, but an individual’s intake may vary depending on their lifestyle and energy needs.

What constitutes complete food?

A food that has the right amount of proteins, essential fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals is called complete food.

Restricting yourself to one meal per day may have long-term adverse effects.

What are the signs and symptoms of poor nutrition?

Some  of the signs of nutritional deficiencies have been listed below:

Is processed food harmful?

Processed foods are harmful as they contribute majorly to obesity and health conditions globally.

Here are some reasons to justify this:

Do you need vitamin supplements?

Vitamin supplements are not required for everyone, as long as you can obtain all the essential nutrients from a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

Some people opt to take vitamin supplements, but long-term administration could be harmful.

The Department of Health recommends specific supplements for a particular group of individuals who might be at risk of deficiency, as described below:

What is Dietary Reference Values (DRV) nutrition?

DRV is a system of nutritional requirements system followed by the United Kingdom Department of Health and the European Union’s Food Safety Authority.

The DRV system is of three types:

  1. RNI (Reference Nutrient Intake)
  2. EAR (Estimated Average Requirement
  3. LRNI (Lower recommended nutritional Intake)

What is the recommended daily intake of sugar?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends not more than 10% of an adult’s calories, i.e., less than 5% of added sugars, that too from natural sugars from honey, syrups and fruit juices.

According to this, the daily sugar limit is up to 6 tsp (for women) and up to 9 tsp (for men).

What is the Nutrition Surveillance System?

The National surveillance system is an approach that helps detect malnutrition and identifies populations who might be at risk of malnourishment.

Their report emphasizes the information, description, and methods used for monitoring nutrition in 16 different developing countries throughout the world.

What is the 'National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act'?

The National Nutrition Monitoring & Related Research Act (1990) was enacted to establish a comprehensive, coordinated program and related research to help improve health assessment and nutrition of the U.S population.

Per the act,

A program is required to achieve coordination of federal nutrition monitoring efforts within a decade and assist state and local governments in participating in a nutrition monitoring network.

An inter-agency board is necessary for developing & implementing the program.

An advisory council required to offer scientific and technical advice and evaluate program effectiveness.

What is the Dr. Rhonda Patrick diet?

The Dr. Rhonda Patrick diet covers the following core diet strategies:

Apart from these diet strategies, she makes sure that she also includes all the essential vitamins and minerals required for optimal health.

Xcode Life’s Nutrition Report provides information on openness, extraversion ness, intelligence,  entrepreneurship potential, and more than 25 such traits.

Lactose intolerance, aka lactase deficiency, the most common digestive problem, is a person’s ability to digest a natural sugar ‘lactose.’ Lactose sugar is broken down by an enzyme, lactase, that is produced in the small intestine. When there is a deficiency in this enzyme, the undigested lactose moves into the large intestine, and the bacteria present there interacts with the unprocessed lactose sugar and causes bloating, gas, and diarrhea.

What are the levels of lactose intolerance?

There are four types of lactose intolerance with a different cause for each class.

Primary lactose intolerance

The most common form that makes one’s body to prevent secreting lactase enzyme by about age 5 (as early as two years old in the case of African-Americans).

Since lactase levels decrease, dairy products get challenging to break down.

Individuals with primary lactose intolerance secrete decidedly fewer amounts of lactase enzyme, and that makes it hard for them to digest dairy products by the time they turn adults.

This type is genetic and is common among Africans, Asians, Hispanics, Mediterranean and southern Europeans and less common among north or western Europeans.

Secondary lactose intolerance

It occurs due to any illness or injuries or post surgeries.

Any such conditions might affect your small intestine and lead to a reduction in lactase secretion.

Celiac disease and Crohn’s disease are the two most common intestinal diseases linked to low lactase secretion.

Developmental Lactose Intolerance

It occurs in premature babies. It usually lasts only for a short duration after birth and goes away on its own.

Congenital lactose intolerance

A rare type that happens when there is no lactase or a minimal amount of the enzyme produced by the small intestine right from birth.

It is a genetic disorder, and both parents have to pass the condition to their children.

Symptoms of lactose intolerance

Typical lactose tolerance symptoms include the following, and are exhibited about 30 minutes to two hours after having any milk-based food item:

However, if you experience symptoms such as hives or wheezing immediately after having milk, it is probably a milk allergy that you are suffering and not lactose intolerance.

To manage your symptoms, you may need to reduce the amount of lactose consumption. Most people with lactose intolerance can have some lactose without getting symptoms.

For how long do the symptoms persist?

Lactose intolerance symptoms begin about 30 minutes to 2 hours after consuming lactose-containing foods.

The symptoms persist until your body manages to eliminate the lactose fully.

For some individuals, it could be about 12 hours while for others it could be much longer.

Your body will have to force the undigested dairy substance through your system and in that process, you might experience pain and discomfort.

Digestive system transit time (the time is taken to digest and eliminate any substance) can be tracked by using enough activated charcoal capsules appropriate for your weight.

What foods to avoid if you are lactose intolerant?

The diet recommendation for lactose intolerance depends on the severity of the condition.

People with a mild case can have up to 12 grams of lactose without experiencing symptoms or maybe a few mild symptoms.

Consuming lactase products along with these can aid the digestion of lactose.

If your symptoms are severe, it is better to completely refrain from lactose-containing foods like:

Read the label carefully to see if there is any dairy or lactose-present items on the ingredient list (Whey, Curd or Yogurt, Dry milk solids, milk powder).

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Lactose intolerance diagnosis

The primary test that your physician may ask you to take up is abstaining from dairy products and check to see if the symptoms subside.

Your stool samples can also help in making the diagnosis- a watery, loose, or foamy stool can indicate that you are lactose intolerant.

However, to confirm the diagnosis, the following tests are mostly used:

Hydrogen breath test

Lactose tolerance test

Can you test for lactose intolerance at home?

Yes, you can do this simple test for lactose intolerance at home:

Genetics and Lactose Intolerance

Studying the mutations- C/T-13910 and G/A-22018 located upstream the gene that codes for the enzyme lactase-phlorizin hydrolase can be a useful tool to diagnose hypolactasia (The condition causing Lactose malabsorption).

Heredity

Primary lactase deficiency, which is the most common cause of lactose intolerance throughout the world, is caused by an inherited genetic fault running in families.

Congenital lactase deficiency or congenital alactasia is the disorder where infants suffer from not being able to digest the lactose present in breast milk or formula, causing diarrhea.

Such infants might even develop dehydration and weight loss if they do not switch to lactose-free infant formula.

Congenital lactase deficiency in infants is inherited in an autosomal recessive pattern (Both copies of the LCT gene in each cell is mutated).

The parents being individuals with the autosomal recessive condition, each carry one copy of the mutated gene, and may not experience any symptoms. However, when they both pass on the defective genes (25% chances), the infant could, as a result, be intolerant to lactose.

The type of variations in the regulatory element in the MCM6 gene inherited from one’s parents decides the ability to digest lactose in adulthood.  

One copy of the altered regulatory element is enough to sustain lactase production.

Individuals who haven’t inherited such variations from either parent will have a certain degree of lactose intolerance.

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How can I increase lactose tolerance in my body?

Switch to low-lactose dairy products

Some cheese like cheddar and parmesan, probiotic yogurts, heavy creams have low lactose levels and can be added to your diet in minimal amounts.

Consume lactose-containing foods alongside other foods 

When you are digesting other foods simultaneously, gastric emptying can get slower, and lactose, which makes up just a small proportion of the total food may not create many problems.

Include fermented dairy products

The bacteria present in yogurt and kefir can produce a lactase-like enzyme which can make your food to digest even though it contains lactose.

Take lactase supplements

Lactase supplements allow the breakdown lactose into glucose and galactose so that your body can absorb the sugars without experiencing symptoms

Can lactose intolerance develop during adulthood?

Except for sporadic cases, every infant can produce lactase enzymes which helps the small intestine digest the lactose sugar.

But with age, one’s lactase levels can start to decline, and it can prevent the lactose you eat from going to your colon without being digested.

The bacteria there might break down the sugar and cause flatulence and fluid in that process.

It is quite common for people to develop lactase deficiency in adulthood.

Per the NIH report, about 65% of the global population has a lowered ability to digest lactose after infancy.

The genetic factors can be equally responsible for lactose intolerance.

Your body tends to secrete the enzyme lactase only when instructed to do so by the gene LCT which can get less active over time and result in lactose intolerance.

The condition which can begin as soon as a person turns two years old, may not manifest itself until a person reaches adolescence or adulthood.

The recommended diet for lactose intolerance

The ideal diet for the lactose intolerance emphasizes on the foods to avoid more than about what to eat.

Needless to say, it is essential to avoid or reduce the amount of lactose-containing foods.

But, it is also important to read food labels to exclude canned, boxed, frozen, and prepared foods like bread, lunch meats, salad dressings, cake, cookie or pancake mixes, coffee creamers, etc., that contain lactose ingredients (like cream, cheese, butter, milk, milk solids, dried milk, whey, etc).

Excluding dairy from your diet can make you more prone to vitamin D and calcium deficiency.

Some calcium-rich, dairy-free foods include:

Vitamin D and calcium supplements can also be consumed upon your physician's advice.

Find out your genetic risk for lactose intolerance in Xcode Life's Gene Nutrition report.

According to a new study, marital bliss may be linked to your genes. Scientists have found that one’s genes can influence feelings of happiness and security in a marriage, as well as your spouses’.

There are so many must do’s and rules that people talk about for a successful marriage, however, can genes tell you more? Will this end the almanac and zodiac compatibility? Do you want to find out more about your marriage compatibility genes?

Handpicked article for you: Worrier Or Warrior? Analyze Your DNA Raw Data For COMT – The Warrior Gene

What are marriage compatibility genes? It is the analysis of genetic variations associated with differences in certain psychological attributes.

The study conducted by researchers at Yale School of Public Health  showed that individuals with a specific variant of the oxytocin receptor gene, tend to have greater satisfaction in their marriages than those with other genotypes—and  their warm and fuzzy feelings spill over to boost their spouses’ happiness quotient as well.

Aptly named the ‘love drug’, oxytocin is the hormone that is released when you hug or cuddle with a loved one, triggering feelings of trust, contentment and empathy.

It is also essential for mother-child bonding and helps in childbirth and breastfeeding.  

People with the GG genotype are perceived to be more caring, empathetic and pro-social than those with the AG or AA genotypes, thanks to their gene variations influence on oxytocin levels.

The study on marital satisfaction found that people carrying the GG genotype reported less ‘anxious attachment’, a type of relationship insecurity that is associated with low self-worth, high rejection sensitivity, jealous and intrusive behaviour.

It also unearthed the ‘partner effect’, wherein one spouse’s GG genotype traits of being more secure and responsive in a marriage caused greater marital satisfaction for the other spouse, irrespective of their genotype.

Interestingly, the study also found that wives with the GG genotype were less likely to have children than wives with the AA or AG genotypes.

The study was conducted on 178 heterosexual, married couples in the 37-90 age group, who gave in buccal swabs for DNA testing.

The couples were questioned in depth about various relationship aspects, including levels of agreement and dispute when dealing with matters like family finances, health concerns and sexual relations, their levels of support for each other, recreational activities, etc.

They were then asked to rate their feelings about their relationship with their partners and evaluated on measures of attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance.

Researchers estimate that the genotype accounts for around 4% of the variance in marital satisfaction.

Marriage compatibility gene is not so much about predicting outcomes as it is about self-empowerment through self-awareness.

For example, people with a higher genetic score for lower satisfaction can take measures to actively prevent unhappiness and work towards creating a more positive environment.

Most people are usually aware of their innate instincts. However, a personality genetic report can reveal several aspects that people are generally unaware.

Xcode Life’s Personality report provides information on extraversionness, intelligence,  entrepreneurship potential and more than 25 such traits. You can find out more about it here.

So far, conventional ‘wisdom’ and popularly touted adages like “early to bed, early to rise” have always favored people who are early risers.

People who stretch their gym worn bodies and sip into their coffees well before daylight are most often depicted as go-getters and people who are keen on scaling heights.

However, successful people like Mark Zuckerberg and Jonah Peretti are night owls.

Everyone has a friend who works best at night. Someone who seems bored in the morning but active at night. Or someone who calls for a meeting at 8:00 a.m and has already put in 2 hours of work by then!

What drives people to get up early or to function better at night? A new 23andme study reveals interesting new information

Genetics of being a morning lark or a night owl

Differences in sleep patterns among humans served an evolutionary purpose.

Staggered sleep timings meant that there was someone awake all the time, watching over the group.

The advent of farming, unfortunately, meant that people who woke up early were adorned with greater significance, as the seeds had to be sown early morning.

This association of morning people being better performers, however, has unnecessarily continued into our technology age.

A previous study by 23andme using information from the UK biobank study showed that there were 24 genetic variants, especially in genes associated with circadian rhythm, associated with morningness.

The current study has revealed more than 300 genetic variants associated with being a morning person.

Apart from revealing more genetic variants in circadian rhythm genes, genetic variants in other associated genes provide clues to the various mechanisms that correlate with our sleep-wake cycle.

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Who is better at waking up to the first rays of the sun?

Does even a slight shuffling noise keep you awake at night? Or do you wake up at the first click of your morning alarm?

Some people seem more sensitive to light around them while others can sleep right through it?

Could these be our light sensitivity genes?

The latest 23andme study on morningness has found that certain genetic variants (RGS16 and INADL) associated with the function and development of retinal ganglion cells are also associated with our circadian rhythm.  

This finding highlights that variations in the detection of external light signals may play a role in whether we are a morning person or a night owl.

This could partially explain why a morning person finds it hard to sleep in during the day!

Do hunger pangs wake you up? Here is why

Everybody has a 24-hour circadian rhythm, also called the internal clock, that coordinates various functions in tune with the body clock.

For example, the body temperature drops when it is time for the body to rest while it picks up when it is time to get up.


The 23andMe study has found that genetic variants associated with appetite (FTO) and insulin secretion are also associated with being a morning person or a night owl.

Other variants include those associated with nicotine metabolism and caffeine metabolism.

Also read: Changing your meal timing may help you lose weight, according to genetic research.

Circadian rhythm and disease

An interesting finding in this study is that certain genetic variants associated with morningness or night owl are also associated with schizophrenia and depression.

Morningness was negatively associated with depression and schizophrenia while there was a positive association with well-being.

Certain observational studies have shown that circadian rhythm mismatch could lead to an increase in the risk of schizophrenia.

Does that mean night shift workers who go against their natural circadian rhythms are at higher risk of disease?

For this, a study that focuses on genetic variants, mismatched circadian rhythm and disease risk is required.

Finding out if you are a morning person or a night owl will help in finding out which part of the day you are more likely to have higher energy levels.

Most people are usually aware of their innate instincts.

However, a personality genetic report can reveal several such aspects that people are generally unaware.

Xcode Life’s Personality report provides information on being a morning person or night owl, extraversion, intelligence,  entrepreneurship potential, and more than 25 such traits.

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