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Spinach, Cooked Meat and microRNA

SpinachOnly discovered in 1993, microRNAs are short noncoding nucleotide sequences that regulate gene expression. Research now shows that microRNAs influence which areas of DNA get expressed or silenced. People with cancer and other chronic conditions have microRNAs altered from those of their healthier counterparts.

An animal study now shows that a carcinogen formed in charred red meats alters microRNA, and that spinach may normalize part of the tumor pathway. The study was published in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research.

For the study, researchers monitored 679 microRNAs in rats. The animals were given a known carcinogen in cooked meat, a type of heterocyclic amine. After 18 weeks, some of the rats were switched to a diet containing baby spinach. At the end of 52 weeks, the researchers saw that dietary spinach reduced the incidence of colon tumors compared to the non-spinach eating animals.

The spinach-consuming rats had microRNA levels that were either higher or lower – depending upon the microRNA – compared to the control animals. Yet eating spinach partially recovered a microRNA that was one of the most altered in the colon tumors.

Source: Mansi A. Parasramka, W. Mohaiza Dashwood, Rong Wang, Amir Abdelli, George S. Bailey, David E. Williams, Emily Ho, Roderick H. Dashwood. "MicroRNA profiling of carcinogen-induced rat colon tumors and the influence of dietary spinach." Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 2012.

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