In the US, around 4.6 percent of the population aged 12 and above are diagnosed with hypothyroidism. It is a condition where the body does not produce enough thyroid hormones. The thyroid is an important regulator for many functions in the body. This butterfly-shaped organ controls blood pressure and, therefore, the efficiency of the digestive system. Since this hormone controls such important processes, it indirectly controls energy regulation and metabolism. Hypothyroidism can be diagnosed through routine blood tests, or after symptoms start to show. The most common cause of this condition is a disease called Hashimoto's.

Signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism

Since the thyroid hormones are involved in so many functions, there may be many symptoms, and they may be wide-ranging and diverse. 

The main symptoms are fatigue, cold intolerance, joint, and muscle pain. The other signs and symptoms are:

Severe secondary symptoms

If left untreated, this could manifest into more severe symptoms like:

How does hypothyroidism affect weight?

It has been a long-known fact that there is a complex relationship between thyroid, body weight, and metabolism.

Metabolism, determined by measuring the oxygen usage by the body over a specific time, is regulated by the thyroid hormone. 

This measurement, when done in rest, accounts for something called ‘basal metabolic rate’ or BMR. 

A low BMR may have an association with weight gain in certain cases. 

Low thyroid hormone levels is a contributor to low BMR levels, and earlier, this was one of the diagnostic tools for hypothyroidism. 

However, a low BMR could be due to an n number of reasons, and thus, it is not an effective measure of diagnosis anymore.  

In the case of hypothyroidism, weight gain need not always be due to excess fat in the body. 

Accumulation of salt and water being the contributor to weight gain is more plausible here.

Weight gain also depends a lot on the severity of hypothyroidism. In other words, more weight gain may be seen in cases of severe hypothyroidism.

To conclude, if weight gain is the only visible symptom, it’s better to explore the other contributors first before suspecting hypothyroidism.

Losing weight with hypothyroidism

Firstly, it is important to assess whether you’re at risk for the disorder, for quick diagnosis and treatment.

Early detection and treatment can help manage the complications that emerge if hypothyroidism is left untreated.

Identifying the risk factors also can point in the right direction for losing weight with hypothyroidism.

Assessing the risk factors for hypothyroidism

Genetic risk factors

Role of the TSHR gene

The TSHR (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) Receptor) gene codes for a receptor protein that is found on the membrane of the cells that span across the thyroid gland.

The receptor binds specifically to TSH and plays a pivotal role in thyroid hormone metabolism.

A part of the receptor is outside the thyroid gland cell, and the rest remains in the cell.

The thyroid-stimulating hormone binds to the receptor, which brings about a series of reactions that control the development of the thyroid gland. 

TSHR gene mutations

TSHR gene mutations can cause congenital hypothyroidism. These mutations change the building blocks that make up the receptor protein.

Moreover, the mutations affect the spread of the receptors across the thyroid gland. Other mutations make the receptors reside completely within the cell or impair the hormone's ability to bind with the receptor.

In conclusion, these mutations don’t allow the receptor to interact with the hormone efficiently. 

When the receptor is unable to interact with the hormone, the hormone production is not stimulated.

This makes the body compensate for the lack of stimulation.

The gland either overproduces the hormone, and functions as normal, or severely under produces the hormone, causing hypothyroidism.  

Mutations in the TSH receptor gene result in resistance to TSH, and therefore, a reduction in thyroid hormone production.

Mutations in TSHR may also cause thyroid hypoplasia, that is, an underdevelopment of the thyroid organ.

Diagnosis and treating hypothyroidism

Clinical symptoms

Firstly, the patient is assessed for symptoms like fatigue, dry skin, constipation, and weight gain.

Above all, the family's and the individual's medical histories are assessed for any previous condition like goiter or any other thyroid problem.

There are increasing reports that correlate the prevalence of thyroid autoimmunity and glycogen storage disease (GSD).

GSD is a condition where stored glucose reserves (stored as glycogen) cannot be degraded efficiently in the body. 

Blood tests

Blood tests are the easiest way to diagnose hypothyroidism.

Usually, the levels of TSH and thyroxine are checked.

An underactive thyroid gland would produce high levels of TSH and low levels of thyroxine.

This is because the body is putting in extra efforts to produce the thyroid hormone.

Treatment

The most common way to treat this condition involves the use of a synthetic thyroid hormone, levothyroxine.

This is an oral medication that reverses the signs and symptoms of the disorder.

Six to eight weeks after the medication, doctors recheck the TSH levels.

Excessive amounts of the hormone can cause increased appetite, insomnia, heart palpitations, and shakiness. 

Other medication that you’re taking, as it can affect how the synthetic hormone work, and therefore, it is important to mention them.

This includes diabetes, antidepressants, estrogen, warfarin, heart medication, and supplements like magnesium, aluminum, iron, or soy.

Other treatments include diet supplements, surgery, and herbal remedies. 

Diet for weight loss

With regard to diet, it is important to note that conventional weight loss diets need not help in losing weight with hypothyroidism.

Make sure you eat the correct amount of calories that match your BMR as well as your physical activity levels.

Eating too little can slow down metabolism to the extent that any weight loss effort would be sabotaged.

Try to stick to a consistent meal plan and preferably stick to small but frequent meals.

Calorie counting, or keeping a food journal would help in understanding what foods you tend to eat more of, and this can provide an overview of your diet.

What to eat

Thyroid patients experience tend to constipation and slow metabolism. So losing weight with hypothyroidism can be challenging.

Typically, diets consist of fiber-rich foods to aid in weight loss.

The following have a significant impact on the diet of a thyroid patient:

  1. Zinc-rich foods: Meat, nuts, avocado, garlic, mushrooms, and pumpkin seeds
  2. Selenium: Chia seeds, brown rice, chicken, eggs
  3. Iodine: Iodised salt, fish, potato, yogurt
  4. Fat-burning supplements: There is some evidence that supplements with Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) can help reduce fat storage in the body. Natural supplements like Caralluma and Hoodia Gordonii, and drinking green tea in moderation, can help suppress appetite. 
  5. Water: Water is such an essential component to allow the body to metabolize efficiently. Drinking the required amount can also help in reducing bloating, and improve digestion. 

These components are essential in maintaining an anti-inflammatory diet.

This helps to calm the immune system and reduce excessive inflammation.

This diet also reduces the pressure on the liver and allows the body to metabolize the nutrients efficiently.

What to avoid

Do thyroid medications help in weight loss?

Although an underactive thyroid gland is associated with significant weight gain, treating the root cause with supplementing synthetic thyroid hormones does not aid in significant weight loss in patients.

In a study conducted by the American Thyroid Association, the synthetic thyroid hormone, levothyroxine, aided in losing weight in only half the volunteers with hypothyroidism.

Tips and Hacks for losing weight with hypothyroidism

Home remedies for hypothyroidism

The basis for natural remedies for hypothyroidism includes focusing on a balanced diet, curbing stress, and incorporate missing nutrients.

An optimal diet plan for patients with hypothyroidism has been explained in the section above.

Other supplements that can be added are as follows:

1. Vitamin B

Low thyroid hormones affect the body's vitamin B levels.

Taking vitamin B supplements can help tackle the fatigue that the body faces.

Foods that are rich in this vitamin are peas, beans, sesame seeds, tuna, milk, and eggs. 

2. Probiotics

Adding probiotics to your diet can help maintain live, helpful bacteria in the gut- preventing serious conditions like chronic diarrhea.  

3. Coconut oil

In its raw form, it helps in the optimal functioning of the thyroid gland.

This helps in losing weight, increasing metabolism, and balancing body temperature.

4. Apple Cider Vinegar

It helps in maintaining a balanced production of hormones in the body.

It helps in removing body toxins and regulate body fat. 

5. Vitamin D

A deficiency of vitamin D can lead to thyroid problems.

Ensure that you get at least 15 minutes of sunlight daily for optimal vitamin D production.

Foods that are rich in this vitamin are mackerel, orange juice, egg yolks, and dairy products.

References

  1. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/gene/TSHR#normalfunction
  2. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131016095849.htm

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Published 08, June 2020

Being one of the top 5 abundant minerals in the human body and involved in over 600 reactions, magnesium is often the overlooked and ‘taken-for-granted’ type of mineral. The spotlight is often taken over by calcium and phosphorous. In fact, the importance of magnesium is so less known that about 48% of Americans fall deficit when it comes to daily magnesium intake. Studies have shown magnesium deficiency as a cause of several chronic conditions. So, if this mineral’s that important, what exactly does it do in the body?

Getting to know the mineral

The benefits magnesium offer to the body is not limited to one organ. They help in regulating diverse biochemical processes such as nerve function, blood pressure regulation. Some of the essential functions are given below:

Magnesium-in-action in the brain

The indispensable function of magnesium is their role in regulating signals between the brain and the rest of the body. Additionally, they take residence in the NMDA receptors of brain cells. By doing so, they prevent them from being excited unnecessarily and reduces the risk of brain damage. They can also calm down neural activity when it’s time to sleep, so you get a restful night. 

Supervising psychological well-being

When it comes to mental health, the importance of magnesium goes understated. By regulating brain signals and coordinating mood, the mineral keeps our psychological health in check. Several studies have shown the link between low levels of magnesium and increased risk for depression. In fact, restoring the magnesium levels in the body almost reversed depression, suggesting their role as an anti-depressant.  

Keeping the heart healthy

For your heart to keep beating, the muscles will need to contract and relax in a rhythmic fashion. While the contraction is taken care of by calcium, it is magnesium that relaxes the muscles after each contraction. This helps in maintaining steady heart rhythm. Magnesium also lowers blood pressure levels and reduces the risk of several heart conditions. 

Maintaining blood sugar levels

The main role of magnesium when it comes to blood sugar is insulin regulation. They transport sugar from the blood into the cells for storage. Low levels of this mineral, therefore, increases blood sugar levels and causes type 2 diabetes.

Hypomagnesemia: Being magnesium deficient

Magnesium is usually present in abundant quantities in the body. But, when their levels go down, and we do not get the required magnesium intake by food, it leads to hypomagnesemia.

Causes of hypomagnesemia

Some of the main causes of the condition are:

Manifestations of hypomagnesemia: Symptoms

The symptoms of Hypomagnesemia vary depending on the progression of the condition. 

Early symptoms of magnesium deficiency include:

If not corrected in time, this leads to more severe symptoms that include:

Combating hypomagnesemia

Most commonly, oral supplements are prescribed for hypomagnesemia. Taking magnesium-rich foods are an alternative. When the deficiency is below 1.25 mg/dL, magnesium salts are given. Twice the dose of the mineral is administered to those with normal renal function, as 50% of it will be excreted in the urine.  For those, who have excessive hypomagnesemia that cannot be managed with supplements alone, an IV or IM of magnesium will be given. Particularly, magnesium sulfate in 5% D/W at the rate of 1 g/hour as a slow infusion for up to 10 hours will be given.

Genetics and magnesium: Asking your DNA

Like other minerals and vitamins, the levels of magnesium in the body are influenced by the gene variants you carry. Several genes are involved, of which we'll discuss two:

TRPM6 gene

TRPM6 gene, located on chromosome 9, is short for transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily M member 6. It regulates the entry of magnesium ions into the cell by creating a protein channel. They are primarily present in the large intestine, kidneys, and lungs. When there's requirement for magnesium, the channel promotes the entry of ions into the cell. If there's a mutation in this gene, the entry of magnesium will be affected, causing a fluctuation in their levels.

Variants of TRPM6 gene and magnesium levels

Research is presently ongoing to understand the gene variants of TRPM6. Several studies have shown few variants in the TRMP6 gene that influence the channel activity, Of particular interest is one variant, a T to C transition. This variant has been shown to enhance the function of the channel. This allows more magnesium ions into the cell.

CASR gene

The CASR gene, also called the calcium-sensing receptor gene, instructs the synthesis of the 'calcium sensing receptor' protein (CaSR). Located on chromosome 3, this gene is primarily concerned with maintaining calcium levels in the body. However, studies have shown that this gene also affects the levels of magnesium. Particularly, the gene influences the handling of magnesium in the kidney.

Variants of CASR gene and magnesium levels

Studies are underway to understand the CaSR-mediated interactions between calcium and magnesium homeostasis. A genome-wide association study was conducted to decipher the genetic variations influencing serum calcium and magnesium levels. The study revealed that a particular variant, an A to G transition, was associated with higher serum magnesium levels in the population.

Knowing magnesium requirements

Of the total magnesium present in the body, 50-60% is found in the bones, 1% in blood, and the rest in soft tissues. The levels vary widely between individuals based on age. The following table shows the amount of magnesium required, categorized based on age group.

AgeMaleFemale
Birth to 6 months 30 mg 30 mg
7 to 12 months 75 mg 75 mg
1 to 3 years 80 mg 80 mg
4 to 8 years 130 mg 130 mg
9 to 13 years 240 mg 240 mg
14 to 18 years 410 mg 360 mg
19 to 30 years 400 mg 310 mg
31+ years 420 mg 320 mg

Attuning the dose for different needs

Magnesium is also useful to relieve certain health conditions, and the dosage of the mineral varies based on the condition.

Dosage to maintain mental health

Dosage for other conditions

Taking Magnesium Supplements

Magnesium supplements improve a range of health markers. Since the body cannot make this mineral, it can be obtained by consuming magnesium-rich foods or taking supplements.

Types of magnesium supplements

Magnesium supplements are available in different forms. Before deciding on a supplement, it is important to know more about its absorption rate or how well it is suitable as per your body type

Who's in need for the supplements?

Other than those suffering from hypomagnesemia, the supplements are also given to individuals with health conditions such as:

When’s the best time to take them? 

Though one can take magnesium any time during the day, some studies report that taking these supplements in the evening is beneficial as it helps in relaxing the body and improving sleep quality. 

Downsides of the supplements

Magnesium supplements are generally considered to be safe. However, if an individual has any existing medical condition, he/she must consult with their doctor to prevent any cross reaction with other medications.

High doses can result in nausea, vomiting, dehydration, and diarrhea. Also, those with kidney diseases are more likely to suffer from the side effects.

Diet: Choosing magnesium-rich foods

The best way to increase magnesium levels and maintain optimum dietary intake is by eating foods that are rich in magnesium. Some of these include:

References

  1. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/
  2. https://www.msdmanuals.com/professional/endocrine-and-metabolic-disorders/electrolyte-disorders/hypomagnesemia
  3. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/gene/TRPM6#synonyms
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5047867/
  5. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/gene/CASR#location
  6. https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/99/2/E363/2537245

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Less than a month ago, the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) when it affected more than 100,000 people in 114 countries. As of today, April 7, there are over 1,000,000  cases in close to 200 countries. An unprecedented explosion in the number of cases in as little as 20 days is nothing short of terrifying. 

Ever since its outbreak in December 2019, scientists have been racing to understand the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2, also called nCoV19). While we know this is the deadliest pandemic the world has seen since the Spanish influenza of 1918, what we don’t really know is just how dangerous this virus is. It appears there are more questions than there are answers. For example: How did the virus make the jump from animals to humans? How does it spread undetected without causing any symptoms right away? Why does it prematurely end the lives of some, but not the others? These are some of the questions keeping virologists occupied presently. 

The basics: How viruses work

As a string of RNA molecules packed tightly in a protein coat, all viruses function the same. Enter a host cell, hijack its internal machinery, repurpose it to produce viral components, replicate, and once new viruses are made with the host’s help, release to infect other cells. Most viruses work as simple as that. 

Coronaviruses, belonging to the complex ‘coronaviridae’ family, are known for their proteins that stick out from the outer lipid layer. These ‘spike’ proteins are considered critical as they help the virus anchor to the host’s cell. Particularly, the spikes interact with angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) of the host to gain access to the cell, and for this, it gets the help of a host cell protein, the transmembrane serine protease 2 (TMPRSS2). On entering the cell, nCoV19 works like other viruses to produce new infectious particles.  

Why infections from animals pose a huge problem

Infections that affect animals are generally harmless to humans. However, some viruses do cross the species barrier and cause ‘zoonotic diseases’. COVID-19 is one perfect example. Such zoonotic infections are deadly because we lack pre-existing immunity to them and are unable to fight it off as efficiently. Most such infections that come from animals rarely spread from one person to the next. However, nCoV19 seems to be better evolved and adapted at this and spread between individuals. 

Genetics of nCoV19: Just how threatening is it?

As the cases started growing rapidly, researchers in China sequenced the genome of nCoV19 and labs around the world got to work. The genome of the virus, made of RNA and not DNA, carries 15 genes in 30,000 bases. It was found to be similar (~80%) to its sister virus that caused the SARS outbreak in 2003. Both viruses seemed to have jumped from bats (96% similarity to bat coronavirus). Genome analysis suggests that this is a one-time jump, as the genome appears stable and not mutating further. The nCoV19 poses a huge problem because it reproduces so quickly without evoking an immune response from the host. This makes containing the spread of the virus unimaginably difficult.  

Thanks to advancements in genomics, we now know a lot about nCoV19 in a short span of a few weeks. For example, genome comparison studies suggest that the novel coronavirus is a chimera of two pre-existing viruses. Such recombination is not unheard of. But it would occur only if the two different viruses affect a host simultaneously under a set of unique conditions. Owing to the rare occurrence, labs are now trying to confirm the preliminary findings. 

Out new: 'Supercharge your immunity with these simple at-home tips and tricks'

The reason for bias: Why the severity of symptoms differ

The majority of COVID-19 cases develop flu-like symptoms and a little over 70% of the people recover on their own. However, 1 in 6 people develop shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. In yet some cases, healthy people with no symptoms are diagnosed with COVID-19.  This selective nature of nCoV19 has left virologists perplexed and they are turning to genetics for an answer. 

1. Genetic variations: Does yours protect you?

As of today, theories favor the differences in the genetic makeup of individuals that make them more or less susceptible to being infected by nCoV19. For instance, certain variants of the ACE2 gene may alter the receptor to which the spike proteins bind. This may render it difficult for the virus to gain entry into the host cells. This theory is plausible because an example of such effects could be seen in the case of HIV. A variation in the CCR5 gene profoundly affected the entry of HIV and made the individuals carrying the variation resilient to infection. Another example stems from variations in the HBB gene. This gene encodes a subunit of a protein that’ll be a part of hemoglobin (the oxygen carrying component of our red blood cells). Particular variants of HBB make individuals carrying them less susceptible to infection by malaria-causing parasites.

Considering these examples, scientists are also wondering if variations in genes that influence immune responses might have a part to play in the difference. 

Presently, all of this remains a conjecture. Efforts are now underway to pool genetic data from across the globe, ranging from DNA of individuals in severely hit places to those with mild infections of COVID-19 to better understand the role of genetics in the uncharacteristic behavior of coronavirus.

A Genome-Wide Association Study (GWAS) by 23andMe

To understand if the severity of the disease reflects variations in the genome, 23andMe is actively recruiting hundreds of thousands of its customers across the United States. The researchers at 23andMe are planning an online survey followed by a GWAS. This will help analyze the key genetic variants associated with the differences in the severity of the symptoms. While they are optimistic, they forewarn that identifying the role of genetics in symptom-severity is not assured. 

2. Is it all in the viral exposure?

Other researchers support the concept of ‘viral load’ i.e. the dose of the virus at the time of exposure. A higher viral load would translate to a severe case, while a lower dose can be easily fought off by the immune system and does not cause severe symptoms. However, emerging evidence suggests that the relationship between the infection and severity may not be so simple either. This makes COVID-19 stand out from other such viruses. Minimizing exposure to the virus still helps as our immune system is efficient to take down lower loads of nCoV19. 

Death rate: Do we have an answer yet?

Despite performing reams of research and analyzing a spell of data from different countries, we still don’t have an answer. The estimates are wide, with mortality ranging from as low as 1 in 1000 to as threatening as 1 in 30. There appears to be no defined answer, with the fatality rate different in each country. Italy has a death rate of 12% while in Germany, it’s 1%. The difference in the rate could be attributed to the age group of the population affected. The first few cases affected in Italy were the older people, while in Germany most cases affected were under the age of 40.

However, the statistics don’t give us a general estimate of how many infected people will lose their lives to the infection. One important question to ask in this scenario is - how many people are left undiagnosed because they show no, or if at all, mild symptoms? When antibody tests are approved, we may be able to estimate the missed cases. But for now, we don’t know just how fatal COVID-19 is. 

Strike two: Getting COVID-19 the second time

Thousands of people have recovered from coronavirus. Does that mean they are immune for life? Or can they catch the disease again? Several reports in China and Japan have identified second positives for nCoV19. This caused panic among people, as it meant that unless a vaccine is in place, we may all be subjected to nCoV19 multiple times. To study this, a group of scientists tried to reinfect four rhesus macaque after their first infection. Surprisingly, they were immune the second time around. This gave hope as immunity could be established against nCoV19. However, there’s not been enough time to analyze the immunity to nCoV19. Scientists are not certain for how long the immune responses clad us with protection against COVID-19.  

Alcohol use and COVID-19: A major concern?

Ever since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, the sale of alcohol has been on the constant rise. As the stressful time has made most people fragile, many psychologists are worried about the overuse of alcohol and the toll it could take on the immune system. Along with the risk of mental health issues, alcohol would also make people more susceptible to infection by nCoV19, by compromising their immunity. In fact, it has become so much of a concern that WHO has issued a warning against the excessive use of alcohol, especially during the pandemic.

COVID-19: Does it wane as season changes?

Winters generally see the peak in flu cases for a few reasons. First, viruses love the cold, dry weather. Second, the immune system is not at it’s best due to minimal sunlight exposure. Could this be the case with COVID-19? The evidence is conflicting but the WHO warns that the virus is capable of spreading in hot and humid weather. A study conducted in China which agrees with WHO identified that nCoV19 is suited to spread in warm temperatures. However, a large-scale study of cases till February 29 found a lower incidence of disease onset in regions that have a higher temperature. Scientists believe that an accurate prediction of seasonality is possible only by keeping track of the number of cases as the season changes. 

Vaccines: When can we expect them?

Like all viruses, nCoV19 requires hosts’ living cells to survive. The main strategy with the vaccines is to nudge the body and alert the presence of a pathogen and letting our immune system take care of the rest. Alternatively, interfering with any step of the viral replication will be helpful too. So then, if we know how a virus can be stopped, why is it taking so long? It is because there is so much more that we’re not sure of. More importantly, we have to keep the safety and efficacy of the vaccine in mind. In the words of a scientist at Mayo Clinic, ‘We’re building the plane as we’re flying’. 

Usually, developing a vaccine takes years. Thanks to the scientists working at breakneck speed in the labs around the world, we may be able to get a vaccine in as short as 12-18 months. 

We now have several vaccine candidates, all of which are currently under trial. To date, there is no one vaccine to treat/stop the spread of the virus. Therefore, it has become all the more important to have good immunity to be able to fight off the incoming pathogen. Taking care of your immune system, the resilient force of your body is the way to go especially in the face of threats like the COVID-19.

References

https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-media-briefing-on-covid-19---11-march-2020
https://www.contagionlive.com/news/zoonotic-threats-as-unpredictable-as-they-are-dangerous
https://www.who.int/blueprint/priority-diseases/key-action/novel-coronavirus-landscape-ncov.pdf?ua=1
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2012-7
https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.02.13.20022715v1
https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.18.20036731v1
https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.13.990226v1
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/02/28/national/coronavirus-reinfection/#.Xo1eZ8gvOLR

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Hippocrates once rightly quoted "Let food be thy medicine." Following a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle is the primary way to prevent many types of diseases. On an average, healthy individuals are better equipped to survive contagious diseases, like influenza, common cold, and even the novel COVID-19. Interested to learn more to help boost your immunity? Make these changes to your diet and lifestyle.

Immunity, in an organism, is having the natural bodily defenses to be able to fight off an infection, disease, or any other biological invasion. Humans have innate and passive immunity. Innate immunity is the primary response in the body, and this is when immune system cells attack any foreign substance within the body. On the other hand, adaptive immunity takes a longer time; however, it is much more specific than an innate immune response. This is when the body produces proteins called antibodies, that bind specifically to a foreign substance. Once antibodies are produced, the immune system can bind to the proteins of the foreign entity (antigen) and quickly initiate an immune response. This is the basics of how a vaccine works as well. 

Like in the case of COVID-19, where there's no vaccination for it as of yet, the best alternative is to equip the body's immune system with certain vitamins and minerals. It is important to note that, currently, no study claims that supplements can cure COVID-19; however, many articles do suggest that a balanced diet consisting of all vitamins and minerals can help bolster the immune system.

Immunity boosting foods

Vitamins to boost immunity

Vitamin C

This is an essential vitamin, and therefore, the body cannot produce it on its own. It is found in many fruits like kiwi, strawberry, broccoli, spinach, etc. Regular supplements with this vitamin have been shown to reduce the duration of a cold by 8% in adults and 14% of children. Additionally, regular supplementation reduces the occurrence of colds by up to 50% in soldiers and marathon runners, found the same study.

Know more: Know Your Genes: SLC23A1 “Vitamin C Gene”

Vitamin D

Most people are found to be deficient in this particular vitamin, which may negatively affect immune function. Research suggests that its deficiency may increase the chances of upper respiratory illnesses, like influenza and asthma. 

Know more: Are You Meeting Your Vitamin D Needs? Let Us Ask Your VDR Gene!

Vitamin B6

Also known as pyridoxine, is an important vitamin for several functions. It is important for protein, fat, carbohydrate metabolism, and the creation of red blood cells and neurotransmitters. Above all, the benefits of this vitamin range from the prevention of cancer, to boosting eye health. 

Know more: Did You Meet Your Vitamin B6 Needs Today? Your ALPL Gene Can Tell!

Vitamin E

This is a fat-soluble nutrient. A study that analyzed more than 2,000 people who were regular smokers, and exercised regularly; upon vitamin E supplementation, the study witnessed a reduced risk of pneumonia by 69%. 

Know more: Know Your Genes: TTPA “Vitamin E Gene”

Minerals that help boost immunity

Zinc

Zinc is now a common additive to all vitamin supplements and lozenges because of its crucial role in immunity. The mineral helps in immune cell development and communication; it also plays a role in inflammatory responses. Therefore, a deficiency in this mineral could lead to susceptibility to pneumonia. Supplementation of zinc could also decrease the duration of the common cold by up to a third.

Iron

Iron is essential for cell duplication and maturation, particularly in lymphocytes. The system also uses iron as an intermediary, when fighting off bacterial infections.

Exercising and immunity

Regular exercise has multiple benefits. For instance, a quick workout can release dopamine, which improves mood greatly. In addition, exercising helps in reducing the chances of heart disease and keeping bones healthy and strong. Therefore, acute training (vigorous training) is really good to stimulate active immune cells between the blood vessels and tissues. Such exercises enhance the recirculation of all immune cells, and if done daily, can improve overall health. Moreover, there is some evidence that the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of regular training affect preventing atherosclerosis, cancers, etc.

In a meta-analysis of 281 people, it was seen that regular, moderate-intensity exercise had a say in the occurence of the common cold. The group that exercised reported less occurrence. While this study only has a limited number of participants, it still shines some light on disease prevention.

Exercises that help boost immunity

Supercharge Your Immunity With Genetic Insights From Your DNA Raw Data
  • Some exercises that help boost immunity include yoga, running, even walking for around 30-45 minutes a day.
  • Yoga, for instance, helps in reducing stress hormones, stimulating the lymphatic system into flushing out toxins, and conditioning the lungs and the respiratory tract.
  • Similarly, walking for a minimum of 30 minutes can help stimulate the production of immune cells like neutrophils and natural killer cells.

However, intense, hard training, including marathon training, can take a toll on the immune system. This is because of the production of a very high amount of stress hormones. Hence, the key here is moderation.

Stress and immunity

Firstly, stress hormone corticosteroids can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system. Secondly, stress can affect the ability to fight off antigens. Thirdly, there is enough evidence that supports the decrease in immune function after a stressful event. Above all, there is a hypothesis that this is a result of the effect on neuroendocrine mechanisms and health practices.

In a study that involved 75 medical students before their final examination, researchers found that the levels of an immune cell known as Natural Killer (NK) cells decreased significantly. Volunteers who have had stressful life events or who have described themselves as lonely also showed similar findings. Apart from NK cells, there was a reduction in the levels of antibodies as well, when compared to other healthier volunteers. 

Tips for Stress management

In cases of increasing anxiety levels, especially so during the current pandemic, it is imperative to find alternative ways to reduce stress and stay fit mentally. 

  1. Firstly, identify the key stressors, and acknowledge the things that lead to stress. Understanding the relationship to the stressor can help in managing stress. 
  2. Speak up, and tell a close relative or friend about what is causing stress. Their perspective on the problem you are facing may help you solve it.
  3. Exercise, apart from the benefits listed above, is also a great way to relieve stress.

Sleep and immunity

During sleep, the immune system releases a protein known as cytokines. These proteins are required when there is an infection/inflammation, or when the body is under stress. In conclusion, lack of sleep can affect antibodies and other immune cells.

In a study, volunteers were subjected to sleep restriction. Analysis of their immune cells showed that there was a spike in pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines, soluble receptors, inflammatory signaling pathways, and innate immune responses. So, sleep deprivation has a direct impact on immune and inflammatory responses. However, this does not mean that more sleep can help in increasing immunity, adults need to average 6-8 hours of sleep, and children may need 10 hours or more.

Tips for a good night's sleep

  1. It helps to have a strict sleep schedule; having the same sleep and wake up time, irrespective of weekends/weekdays. 
  2. Have a good ritual before sleeping; this includes avoiding all screens. Preferably read a book.
  3. Exercise regularly
  4. Avoid untimely naps in the afternoon to ensure undisturbed sleep.
  5. It helps to cool down the room and free from any light.

Do you have your DNA raw data from 23andMe, AncestryDNA, MyHeritage, FTDNA, LivingDNA, etc.?

Upload the file to Xcode Life to find out how your genes affect the levels of vitamins and minerals in your body.

References

Published 30 March, 2020

23andMe, the ancestry genetic testing company, received the nod from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to provide Direct To Consumer (DTC) health reports early in 2017.

These reports inform customers about their genetic predisposition to certain diseases and conditions, that may or may not exist in the family history.

That was the first time the FDA approved a direct-to-consumer genetic test.

Three years back, the federal agency had banned the Silicon Valley-based company from providing health reports for lack of agency authorization.

As a result, the firm had stopped providing health-based genetic reports.

The company, however, continued to sell the ancestry reports and provided the uninterpreted genome raw data.

The raw genetic data is a list of all the genetic variants analyzed in the microarray chip, with their chromosome position and genotype.

When 23andMe discontinued their health reports, consumers began using this raw data to get health reports from other websites.

According to the FDA, 23andMe had produced satisfactory evidence to show that their health test is reproducible, and could correctly identify the genetic variants from a given DNA sample.

The 23andMe Health + Ancestry package is available for $199.

What are the traits covered in the 23andMe health report?

The 23andMe health report covers 4 main aspects:

  1. 10+ Health Predisposition reports
  2. 5+ Wellness reports
  3. 40+ Carrier Status reports

The FDA approved 23andMe health reports covers the following traits and conditions:

[table id=16 responsive=scroll/]

How It Works

23andMe uses a saliva sample to analyze specific genetic variants in an individual’s DNA, that has been found to be associated with risk for diseases and conditions.

The final report contains information on whether an individual has the variants associated with those genetic disorders.

This may also include information like the percentage lifetime risk of developing a certain condition.

What the report cannot tell

Just the presence or absence of a gene variant is not always relevant for people to develop the condition.  

Genetic risk is among several risk factors for any given condition.

This is the case with any genetic test and not just the 23andMe health test.

The challenge lies in educating the customers on the correct way to interpret consumer health genetic test results.

In the clinical scenario, genetic testing is often only used in cases where routine tests give ambiguous results or as supportive evidence.

The concern is that individuals may make changes to their lives solely based on these reports.

The development of a disease or a condition also depends on factors like the environment and lifestyle.

Microarray genotyping, the test on which the 23andMe health reports are based, looks at specific gene variants that have been linked to these diseases.

It does not examine the entire genome.

The FDA has instructed 23andMe to include information describing the limitations of these tests in the reports and website from where people can make an informed decision.

How accurate is the 23andMe health report?

23andMe doesn’t test the whole genome.

It identifies genetic markers known as single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).

SNPs are positions along the DNA chain where genetic variations commonly occur.

Since the reports are based on SNPs they may be more applicable to certain populations than others.

This means that the information covered in the report may not be relevant for all ethnic groups.

For example, the 23andMe BRCA report covers 2 mutations in the BRCA1 gene and one in the BRCA2 gene, all of which are prevalent in the Ashkenazi Jewish population.

True that these are among the most well-studied gene mutations, but they still only account for a small fraction of hereditary breast cancers in the USA.

The same applies to Gaucher’s disease type 1.

Is a 23andMe health report worth it?

Reports with information on variants associated with neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s could take an emotional toll on the customers.

The 23andMe health report covers the APOE e4 variant, the strongest known genetic link for Alzheimer’s disease.

Genetic testing for APOE e4 gene variants is usually done for supportive evidence accompanying other clinical tests.

As mentioned before inheriting the risk APOE gene variant does not imply the development of the disease.

Before viewing results for Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease, customers are made to read an online disclaimer

Alternative to the 23andMe health report

The 23andMe Health + Ancestry test is currently costs $199.

Yet, 23andMe is not the only company providing DNA-based health reports.

Popular third-party raw data analysis tools offer 10 times the information as 23andMe for free or a nominal price.

In this section, we describe Xcode Life’s health reports.

Xcode Life currently offers 12 reports spanning 700+ health-related categories.

[table id=81 responsive=scroll/]

Here is why Xcode Life’s health reports are consumers' favorite:

  1. Xcode Life’s raw data analysis tool is compatible with DNA raw data from all major DNA testing companies.
  2. Xcode accepts both genotyping and whole-genome sequencing-based raw data files.
  3. New reports are added to the portfolio and existing reports are updated regularly to include new features.
  4. The reports are expert-curated from ClinVar, OMIM, UK Biobank, and other such reputed scientific databases.
  5. Reports are delivered within 24 hours of uploading the correct raw data file.

Don't trust us? Take a look at what our customers say!

Creativity is not restricted to producing a ground-breaking master art piece. Even a small gesture of creative act in the daily life counts. Nevertheless, being creative is nothing short of a grand gesture. Everyone we ever meet is creative - some more than others. But, does creativity have a dark side that is not much known? Are the famous artists and creative experts as happy as they could've been?

Creativity: A socially valuable trait

Simply put, an act of creativity is turning a novel idea in your head to reality. It happens when we think 'outside-the-box'. It doesn't mean starting something from scratch. Rather, it's about making connections to previously existing but totally unrelated concepts and identifying hidden patterns. Creativity is a talent that is inherent for most, but it is also something that can be cultivated.

The road to being creative

In the early 1940, John Webb Young wrote a book called 'A technique for producing ideas'. According to the book, there are 5 steps involved in the process of creativity.

1. Learning stage

Stage 1 involves reading. As much as you can. On topics long and short. It first starts as a general reading, familiarising with many concepts and identifying a source of fascination. Then, like a funnel, the reading narrows - to topics of interest. Especially, the ones related to the task in mind.

2. Consolidate and make connections

This step is an important part of the creative process. The ideas and concepts learned in stage 1 are looked at from different angles. New combinations of ideas are given a shot. A mix-and-match happens during the second stage.

3. Take a break, really

The third stage is as important as stages 1 and 2. It involves stepping away from the topic and letting your mind wander. Doing something relaxing helps. Even if you let your mind in a diffused state, your subconscious continues work. So, practically, you'll still be twisting and turning ideas without your conscious mind realizing!

4. The Aha! moment

When you take a break, as your subconscious still works, the new idea comes to you in sort of an Aha! moment. The flash of insight accompanied by a burst of energy are usually the tell-off signs.

5. Get feedback

Let the world know. Wait for the feedback. And when you do get it, be humble and learn from the criticism. Shape your ideas and make changes.

Here's 5 more bonus tips

Apart from the tips mentioned above, the following 5 bonus tips will help you be more creative!

Naturally creative? Ask your DNA!

Being creative is often seen as a natural 'talent'. While it is not exactly a misconception, it is solely not the only base of creativity. Studies have shown that about 22% of genetic variants contribute to creativity. Of the several genes involved, the widely studied ones are NGR1 and COMT.

NGR1 gene

Neuregulin 1 (NGR1) gene is located on chromosome 8. There are several different isoforms of this gene, meaning they produce proteins that are functionally similar, but structurally different. The main function of this gene is to induce the growth and differentiation of brain cells. Variants of this gene have been implicated in creativity. A particular variation, the T allele, makes the individual highly creative, than the natural C allele. Dysregulation of this gene has also been linked to conditions like schizophrenia.

COMT gene

The catechol-O-methyltransferase gene, also called COMT, is located on the small chromosome 22. Their main role in the brain is to breakdown neurotransmitters, especially dopamine and norepinephrine. They ensure the balance of these chemical messengers. By doing so, they influence the transfer of information from one neuron to the next. A G to A transition in this gene is highly associated with creativity. The variation regulates the concentration of dopamine in the brain's prefrontal cortex.

The dark side of creativity

Many studies conducted in recent years have tried to identify how creativity interrelates to the dark side. A study conducted showed that creativity and narcissism are closely interlinked. Moreover, it also made the person less honest and lose their humility. But that's not all. Studies also show that creative experts, such as artists and musicians, are more prone to depression.

A research from a university in Iceland also provided evidence that people in creative professions are 25% at more risk for carrying variants involved in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Compared to individuals with CC genotype in NGR1 gene, those with a TT genotype had a lower white matter density in the frontal brain. This increased their risk of schizophrenia.

Summary

Creativity is neither entirely negative nor totally positive. It's not all black and white regions. They're co-dependent on one another, and one may not exist without the other. It's all a big grey shaded area. In the words of a neuropsychologist, 'there is, after all, no light without the dark'.

References

  1. https://www.nature.com/articles/tp201441
  2. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/5515671
  3. https://www.nature.com/articles/nn.4040/
  4. https://www.nature.com/news/first-robust-genetic-links-to-depression-emerge-1.17979

Have your DNA raw data from 23andMe, FTDNA, or MyHeritage?

Upload your DNA raw data to Xcode Life for insights into 700+ health-related traits!

What is vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes loss of skin color in blotches.

Based on the pattern of patches, vitiligo can be of two types, namely- segmental and nonsegmental.

  1. Segmental vitiligo develops only on one side of the body.
  2. Nonsegmental vitiligo tends to develop on both sides of the body.

The condition can develop at any age but usually starts above the age of 20.

What are the symptoms of vitiligo?

Discoloration of various parts of the body is the primary manifestation of this condition, the symptoms include:

What are the risk factors of vitiligo?

There are a few health complications that may put you at risk for the skin condition. These complications include:

Other conditions which may trigger vitiligo are:

Does vitiligo spread?

There is no particular way to determine the spread of a patch.

However, in most cases, the vitiligo patches tend to spread to different parts of the body.

The spreading may occur either gradually over time or rapidly.

What are the causes of vitiligo?

Vitiligo is an autoimmune condition.

An autoimmune disorder is that in which the body’s immune system identifies its healthy cells and tissues as foreign and attacks it, ultimately destroying it.

The leading underlying cause of vitiligo is that the body's immune system attacks the pigment-producing cells called melanocytes.

The melanocytes produce melanin, the pigment responsible for skin color, hair color, eyeball color, etc.

The attack of melanocytes by the immune system leads to loss of melanin in different parts of the body, and that appears as pale patches in vitiligo.

Genetics has been identified as the main reason behind this faltered immune mechanism.

The genetics behind vitiligo

There have been several genes that have been reported causative of this autoimmune disorder.

The most commonly reported genes are:

TYR

The gene codes for tyrosinase, which is an enzyme responsible for the biosynthesis of melanin

[table id=147 /]

CD44

The gene encodes a cell surface glycoprotein, which, when altered, is associated with lupus and vitiligo.

[table id=148 /]

MC1R

Melanocortin receptor is encoded by MC1R, which is a regulator of melanogenesis.

[table id=149 /]

CD80

It codes for an immune cell surface protein and takes part in the immune response of the body.

[table id=150 /]

IL2RA

Elevated IL2RA levels have been associated with increased T-cell activation in autoimmune diseases.

  [table id=151 /]

LPP

Single nucleotide polymorphisms in the gene have been implicated in various autoimmune disorders.

[table id=152 /]

HLA-G

The human leucocyte antigen family gene has been associated with an elevated immune response against melanocytes.

[table id=153 /]

Vitiligo and psychological complications

Though the skin condition may seem to be simple patches on the skin, there have been several psychological complications associated with the condition.

People with the condition have been reported to suffer from depression, social phobia, etc.

How to treat vitiligo?

This condition cannot be cured and therefore, it is crucial to treat the condition.

The most common treatment options available for this autoimmune disorder currently are:

How to manage vitiligo?

It is important to manage the condition efficiently, and the following supplements may help with it:

Recommended fruits and vegetables for vitiligo are:

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3366044/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2891985/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4100418/

Do you have your DNA raw data from 23andMe, AncestryDNA, FTDNA, MyHeritage?

Upload your DNA raw data to Xcode Life. Our Gene Health Report analyzes, vitiligo, alopecia, dermatitis, and more than 47 such categories.

About Body Mass Index (BMI) 

Body Mass Index, known commonly as BMI, is essentially a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of their height in meters.

This number is used to classify individuals into different groups – optimum weight, underweight, overweight, or obese.

BMI has been used as an indicator to determine an individual’s body fat levels.

However, in recent studies conducted, it has been proven time and again that BMI is a poor representation of an individual’s body fat percentage.

BMI can be used as a screening test rather than a diagnostic test.

It can be used to screen the body fat levels and overall health of the individual. 

BMI does not furnish information such as the mass of fat in different regions of the body and does not differentiate between body lean mass and body fat mass.

Also, it does not take into consideration factors such as gender, age, and race.

Here is something that may be of help you: Optimize Your Weight Loss Plan With Your 23andMe Raw Data

How to calculate your BMI? 

To calculate the BMI using the metric system, we need to divide the weight of the individual (in kilograms) by the square of their height (in meters), i.e. 

WEIGHT(Kg) / [HEIGHT(meters)]^2

Since height is usually measured in centimeters, the formula can be written as:

[WEIGHT(Kg) / HEIGHT (cm)/ HEIGHT(cm)] x 10,000

To calculate the BMI in the English system, the formula is:

WEIGHT(lb) / [HEIGHT(in)]^2 x 703

Before the BMI calculation, the weight needs to be converted into decimal values in case it is given in terms of ounces.

BMI categorization  

In order to calculate an individual’s BMI, his/her weight(in kgs) must be divided by the square of his/her height(in meters).

Based on the above-mentioned calculation, individuals are categorized as:

[table id=154 /]

Based on BMI, obese individuals are further classified as:

[table id=155 /]

Is BMI the right way to determine whether you are healthy?

Absolutely not! It is a screening tool to determine a healthy ratio between an individual’s weight and height.

The calculation does not take into consideration many factors such as muscle mass, fat mass in different regions of the body, gender, race, and age of the individual.

Due to this, the BMI of an individual is usually either an overestimation or underestimation of the true body fat.

One of the prime reasons for this is that BMI doesn’t differentiate between muscle and fat.

A tall individual who is lean but has heavy muscle mass can appear to be obese as per the BMI calculation.

But, this is incorrect because the actual amount of fat, which acts as a risk factor for many diseases, is less.

Another problem with BMI calculation is that it doesn’t differentiate between the fat present in different areas of the body.

For example, fat in the belly is harmful, but fat under the skin is harmless.

Few lean individuals have excess belly fat and still may fall under the ‘normal’ range of BMI.

This is incorrect because belly fat increases the risk of an individual to develop many health problems.

Hand-Picked article for you: Have Your 23andMe Raw Data? Use It To Get 500+ Health-Realted Genetic Traits!

BMI and obesity 

As we saw earlier, BMI is used to categorize individuals into underweight, normal, overweight and obese categories.

However, it is not the right way to determine obesity and the amount of body fat.

Yes, it can be used as a screening test, but definitely not a diagnostic test to determine one's obesity.

The reason for this is that the calculation of BMI does not describe what is ‘abnormal fat accumulation’ and does not differentiate between fat mass and muscle mass.

Inaccurate measurement of body fat using only BMI as a tool is potentially dangerous as it can lead to poor treatment, over-treatment, and even social stigma to the individual.

What are the best ways to measure body fat?

The BMI calculation method neither gives accurate body fat percentage nor its distribution.

However, in many cases, individuals need to determine the exact amount of fat in their bodies.

Some of the more accurate ways to measure body fat include:

Body Fat Scales

Before deciding on a particular body measurement scale, it is important to answer the following question:

  1. What is the purpose of assessing the body fat percentage?
  2. How frequent is the body fat measurement going to be?
  3. How accurate should the body fat measurement be? Will a regular BMI calculation solve the purpose?

FTO gene and BMI 

FTO or Fat mass and obesity-associated gene, as the name says, have been linked to obesity, increased body fat, and an increased BMI.

A particular SNP rs9939609 has been linked to an increase in total body fat levels.

According to a study conducted, the presence of the AA allele of the FTO gene has shown to contribute to obesity and increased BMI, irrespective of how the adipose tissue distribution is.

Factors influencing an individual's BMI like insulin sensitivity and plasma cholesterol levels are also associated with the SNP rs9939609.

The FTO gene has been observed to be associated with calorie intake.

Handpicked content for you: Does Your FTO Gene Variant Pave The Way To Obesity?

SEC16B and BMI

Over 90 genes affect an individual's BMI.

One such gene is the SEC16B gene.

The exact function of the gene remains unknown.

It is said to play an important role in packing and distributing fatty acids, proteins, and cholesterol within a cell and through multiple cells.

How this function helps in BMI is yet to be studied. 

But, it was found that people having a C allele of the gene are at a risk for high BMI.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4890841/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2493033/

What is type II diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus type II is a long term metabolic disorder that results in high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and/or lower insulin levels.

According to the American Diabetes Association, 9.3% of the US population has this disorder. 

Formerly known as adult-onset diabetes, it occurs most often in middle-aged and older people. 

Over time, high blood glucose can cause serious complications with the heart, eyes, kidneys, nerves, gums, and teeth. 

What causes type II diabetes?

The special cells in the pancreas, called the beta cells produce a hormone called insulin. 

Insulin moves blood sugar or glucose into the cells. 

In type 2 diabetes, the fat, liver, and muscle cells respond incorrectly to insulin. 

This is called insulin resistance. 

The glucose is incapable of entering the cells, and a high level of sugar builds up in the blood. 

This is known as hyperglycemia. 

Insulin resistance is the most common cause of type 2 diabetes.

But sometimes, type 2 diabetes can be caused by decreased production of insulin by the beta cells.

What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes can cause serious complications, so it is essential to identify the symptoms as early as possible.

Most of the symptoms are a result of increased blood sugar levels. These include:

  1. Increased thirst
  2. Increased hunger
  3. Frequent urination
  4. Fatigue
  5. Dry mouth
  6. Unexplained weight loss
  7. Blurred vision
  8. Headache

Other symptoms of type 2 diabetes include:

  1. Slow-healing sores or cuts
  2. Velvety dark skin changes of the neck, armpit, groin
  3. Numbness and tingling of hands and feet
  4. Decreased vision

What are the type 2 diabetes risk factors?

Chances of developing type 2 diabetes depend on a combination of risk factors, including genes and lifestyle.

While the genetic risk factors cannot be changed, making the required changes in our lifestyle is very much within our hands. 

You are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you

Hand-Picked article for you: Have Your 23andMe Raw Data? Use It To Get 500+ Health-Related Genetic Traits!

The genetic component to type II diabetes

Research has identified at least 150 genetic variations associated with the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

Each person possesses variations that can either increase or decrease the risk. 

The combination of these variations determines a person's likelihood of developing the disease. 

The genetic variations may directly or indirectly affect the following:

However, for many of the variations associated with type 2 diabetes, the mechanism by which they contribute to the disease is unknown

Gene 1: IGF2BP2

IGF2BP2 gene encodes a protein that binds the 5’ UTR of insulin-like growth factor 2 mRNA and regulates its translation.

It plays an important role in metabolism, and variation in this gene is associated with susceptibility to diabetes.

Studies have shown an increased risk of T2D for those with the rs4402960 polymorphism.

In the case-control study, the carriers of TT genotype at rs4402960 had a higher T2DM risk than the G carriers (TG + GG)

rs4402960

[table id=90 /]

In conclusion, the analysis suggested that rs4402960 polymorphism in IGF2BP2 is associated with elevated T2D risk, but these associations vary in different ethnic populations. 

Gene 2: PPARG

Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma (PPAR-gamma) plays a critical role in regulating insulin sensitivity and glucose homeostasis and can be associated with improved insulin sensitivity.

Research has shown that PPAR-γ directly activates GLUT2 and β-glucokinase (important to glucose homeostasis)

Additionally, PPAR-gamma has been implicated in the pathology of numerous diseases, including obesity, diabetes, atherosclerosis, and cancer.

Inactivating mutations of the gene encoding PPAR gamma are associated with insulin resistance type 2 diabetes.

rs17036314 is an SNP in the PPARG gene found to increase the chance of type 2 diabetes.

rs17036314

[table id=91 /]

Gene 3: SLC30A8

SLC30A8, a zinc transporter gene, is associated with type 2 diabetes.

It is involved in the accumulation of zinc in intracellular vesicles.

This gene is expressed at a high level only in the pancreas, particularly in the islets of Langerhans.

The common polymorphism rs13266634 was associated with lowered beta-cell function and a 14% increase in diabetes abundance per risk (C) allele.

This variant encodes a tryptophan-to-arginine switch at position 325 in the protein.

This results in reduced zinc transport activity and, consequently, decreased intragranular zinc levels. 

The SLC30A8 polymorphism is found associated with reduced insulin secretion, but not with insulin resistance.

rs13266634

[table id=92 /]

Gene 4: HHEX

HHEX gene encodes a member of the homeobox family of transcription factors. Its polymorphisms show association with type 2 diabetes.

The major role of HHEX protein is interacting with signaling molecules.

It plays a role in embryonic development of the pancreas, liver, and thyroid.

A study linked that polymorphism rs7923837 is associated with impaired insulin response.

The risk allele of rs1111875 and rs7923837 in the HHEX gene are associated with reduced beta-cell secretion capacity.

rs1111875

[table id=93 /]

rs7923837

[table id=94 /]

Gene 5: TCF7L2

The TCF7L2 gene plays a role in controlling blood sugar levels.

It is involved in adipogenesis (formation of fat cells) and is associated with glucose intolerance and impaired insulin secretion.

The SNP within the TCF7L2 gene, rs7903146, plays a role in this association.

The risk allele results in the overexpression of the gene in the pancreatic beta cells, thus reducing insulin secretion.

The reduced insulin secretion explains the increased hepatic glucose production. 

In conclusion, the increased risk of T2D conferred by variants in TCF7L2 involves the enhanced expression of the gene in islets and impaired insulin secretion.

rs7903146

[table id=95 /]

Gene 6: KCNJ11

KCNJ11, in tandem with several other genes, mediates the regulation of insulin released.

Reduced expression of KCNJ11 may increase the risk of type II diabetes.

The rs5219 A allele plays a crucial role in insulin secretion by decreasing the ATP sensitivity of the Potassium ATP channel and suppressing insulin secretion. However, the mechanism involved is still unclear. 

rs5219

[table id=96 /]

You may also be interested in Diabetes: A Genetic Overview

What do I do with my genetic information?

Type II Diabetes is a complex condition with several contributing factors, genetics included.

Certain genetic predispositions increase the individual's risk of developing the disorder; however, it is not a guarantee that the person will go on to develop that condition.

This is because other factors play a role in its onset.

Knowing your genetic makeup empowers you with information to reduce the risk of developing type II diabetes by altering the factors that are in your control.

How to prevent the onset of type II diabetes?

Research such as the Diabetes Prevention Program shows that you can do a lot to reduce your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Here are some things you can change to lower your risk:

You may be able to prevent or delay diabetes by losing 5 to 10 percent of your current weight.

For example, if you weigh 250 pounds, your goal would be to lose between 12.5 to 25 pounds.

Insulin resistance reduces with regular exercises and better utilization of glucose by the cells. 

Choose foods that have lesser fat content.

If losing weight is the goal, a high-fiber, low-fat diet may help you.

Drink water in plenty and stay away from those soft drinks!

Hand-picked content for you: Drinking 2 or more sugary drinks per day doubles diabetes risk

Diabetes-friendly diet:

Altering one's diet is one of the best ways to prevent type 2 diabetes, and this can be done by including and excluding a few items in the diet.

Foods to eat:

A diet of beans, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fresh fruit can prevent type II diabetes.

High nutrient, low glycemic load foods are the best food for diabetics and those looking to prevent it.

An analysis found that leafy vegetable intake was related to a 14% decrease in the risk of type 2 diabetes.

They have close to no effect on blood glucose and are rich in fiber and phytochemicals.

Beans have low glycemic load due to their increased fiber and resistant starch (carbohydrates that are not broken down in the small intestine).

Eating three servings of fresh fruit each day results in an 18% decrease in the risk of diabetes.

Foods to Avoid:

Foods that increase blood sugar levels or reduce sensitivity to insulin increase the risk for type 2 diabetes. These include:

Fibers slow down the absorption of glucose into the blood.

However, these foods are devoid of sugar and can cause a sharp increase in blood glucose levels.

They increase the chances of getting type 2 diabetes in the long run.

This leads to increased glucose levels and a greater risk of diabetes.

A meta-analysis conducted concluded that:

You can use your 23andMe DNA raw data to learn about your type 2 diabetes risk

Xcode Life Gene Health Report analyzes the genetic variants for type 2 diabetes, anxiety, heart disease, and more than 45 categories of health-related traits.

What can trigger a migraine?

The exact cause of the migraine has not yet been fully understood. However, doctors and healthcare providers claim that there are a set of common culprits that can trigger a migraine in a wide range of people. Here are some of the well-understood triggers associated with migraine attacks :

Unlike most other lifestyle diseases, migraine is more common among teenagers and goes on to intensify during the thirties. Certain studies have found that women are three times more likely than men to be affected.

Food recommendation

What are the foods that trigger migraines?

Certain types of foods and intermittent fasting are reported as possible triggers for migraine attacks. Paying attention to your diet is one of the ways you can reduce the frequency of migraine triggers. 

Foods to watch out for: Chocolate, onions, citrus foods, tomatoes, cheese

Stay away from these additives: Chemicals added to the food to enhance the flavor or keep the food stay fresh for a long time may bring a headache. Some of these include MSG-enhanced tasty treats, aspartame, nitrates, and nitrites.

It has been reported that certain ingredients in alcohol cause chemicals and blood vessels in the brain to act differently. In the case of certain people, one shot may be enough to trigger a headache. Apart from alcohol, caffeinated drinks could also lead to a headache. Instead of complete withdrawal, try to limit the intake of coffee to about one cup a day.   

Do bananas cause migraines?

While bananas do not ideally appear in the type of food that triggers a migraine, some studies report otherwise. They induce the release of certain molecules that increase the sensitivity of nerve endings. This predisposes an individual to severe sensitivity during a migraine attack, thereby magnifying the existing pain. However, it is healthy to consume bananas in limited quantities, say about half a cup a day.

Does ice cream help with migraines?

Some people experience a stabbing headache, often termed as brain-freeze after having ice cream. But, ironically, they claim it helps relieve the intense pain after having a brain freeze. Although this is not scientifically backed, it does serve as a tasty treatment option. The ‘brain freeze’ that people experience while eating ice-creams may temporarily desensitize the nerve endings. Unless you are adhering to a strict diet or lactose intolerant, there is no reason not to try it out. 

What should you eat if you have a migraine?

Most of us experience migraines now and again. More than 75% of the people between 18-65 age criteria claim to experience headaches over a year. Surprisingly, more than 30% claim to have migraines. 

Recent research has shown hope that tweaking the diet can help reduce the frequency of migraines. Some of the food that can help with migraine are:

Also, including vitamin B2 or riboflavin as part of the diet has shown to reduce the migraine attacks. Some of the vitamin B2 rich foods include mushrooms, salmon, and certain grains. 

What are the symptoms of migraines?

Some of the common symptoms of migraine include:

How long does a migraine last?

A migraine can last anywhere between four hours to three days. The frequency is also highly variable, where some people may get it once or twice a week while others get it once a year. 

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What is happening to the brain during a migraine?

The starting point is the excitation of a nerve called the trigeminal nerve, which is responsible for facial sensation. Activation of the trigeminal nerve causes the release of a load of neurotransmitters. This causes pain sensation in the temple and near the eyes. When untreated, this results in the blood vessels around the brain exploding. This goes on to trigger the central nervous system (CNS), where the pain becomes omnipresent. Here, it becomes very difficult to control the pain, and it lasts for as long as a few days.

Do migraines damage your brain?

It has been studied that migraineurs have more brain lesions and white matter abnormalities compared to non-migraineurs, which poses them at serious risk of brain damage. 

Can migraines change your personality?

Severe mood changes are noticed before the migraine sets in, during a period called the ‘prodrome.’ This leads to individuals showing hyperactivity, anxiety and elevated mood, or inability to think and concentrate, depression, quietness, and other mood disorders.

What is the difference between a headache and a migraine?

The pain felt during a headache is more diffused, spread around the back of the head and near the neck. A migraine attack imposes a more pulsating pain in the front and sides of the head and is indefinite. A headache merely causes pain, but migraines cause dizziness, nausea, increased sensitivity, and flashing lights in the eyes.

What is aura migraine?

An aura migraine is a condition where a migraine attack causes symptoms affecting vision. People often complain of seeing flashing or shimmering spots of light, zigzag patterns, and blind spots. The fact that the number of people reporting this is high does not make up for its unpredictability. Some of the other temporary disturbances associated with aura migraine include muscle weakness, numbness, and difficulty in speech.

What causes migraine in females?

The extreme fluctuations in hormones during a menstrual cycle predisposes women to suffer from migraines frequently. Additionally, oral contraceptives and other medications used by women often affect their hormonal balance. These lead to an increased number of women reporting migraine attacks compared to men.

How do you diagnose migraines?

MRI and CT scans are the go-to diagnostics for a suspected migraine activity. Doing blood tests and a spinal tap procedure might help the clinician to identify any infection or bleeding in the spinal cord or brain. Family history mapping and neurological assessments are also done for a comprehensive diagnosis.

Can migraines be mistaken for a stroke?

Migraine and stroke both happen in the brain, and in certain cases, the symptoms shall mimic a stroke. However, the triggers for both of these conditions are different. Migraine has been studied to prove as a risk factor for stroke. A stroke occurs as a result of decreased oxygen supply to the brain, and a migraine arises from a completely different body condition. Thus, it is quite difficult to confuse the two conditions.

What is the best way to prevent migraines?

Doing the following could relieve migraine pains :

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Is there a permanent cure for migraines?

For a condition like a migraine, there are barely any permanent cures. Essential oils like lavender, peppermint, and foods rich in magnesium are useful to thwart migraines.

How can I stop migraines from re-occurring?

The key is an early diagnosis. Understanding the cause and eliminating it from your lifestyle can go a long way in preventing further migraine attacks. Migraines usually begin with a dull ache, which will suddenly turn into severe, pulsating pain. The best way to avoid them is by ensuring that your eating and sleeping cycles are proper, staying hydrated, and indulging in regular exercises.

Are there pressure points to relieve migraines?

For those of you with a leaning towards acupressure, here are some ideas for you. Applying pressure on certain points can be highly effective in alleviating headaches. Pressing the region between your thumb and forefinger, called the Union Valley, relieves head and neck pain. Drilling bamboo points (the sides of the bridge of your nose) and the Third Eye (between the eyebrows) will help relieve eye-strain and sinus pain when massaged.

Can exercise cause a migraine?

With increasing awareness about fitness, another point to be noted is that while exercising, there is an increase in blood pressure as a result of which individuals with compromised arterial systems are at risk. This can be combated by staying hydrated and eating properly before exercising.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20147657
  2. https://thejournalofheadacheandpain.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s10194-019-1025-9
  3. https://n.neurology.org/content/74/8/622

Xcode Life's Gene Health Report analyzes the genetic variants for migraines. Our Gene Health Report covers type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, obesity, and more than 45 categories of health-related traits.

Updated 12 May, 2020

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