Be happy: Your genes may thank you for it. But different types of happiness have different effects, a new University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA) study shows. Your state of mind — that is, your happiness — affects your genes, say UCLA scientists. In the first study of its kind, the researchers examined how positive psychology impacts human gene expression. What they found is that different types of happiness have surprisingly different effects on the human genome.
If you have a deep sense of purpose it’s healthier for your gene expression when it comes to having strong immune cells to protect you (like a body guard). But when you feel the kind of happiness that comes from hedonistic consummatory self-gratification, the opposite occurs to your cells, genes, and immune system.
A good state of mind — that is, your happiness — affects your genes, scientists say. In the first study of its kind, researchers from UCLA’s Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology and the University of North Carolina examined how positive psychology impacts human gene expression.
What they found is that different types of happiness have surprisingly different effects on the human genome
People who have high levels of what is known as eudaimonic well-being — the kind of happiness that comes from having a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life (think Mother Teresa) — showed very favorable gene-expression profiles in their immune cells. They had low levels of inflammatory gene expression and strong expression of antiviral and antibody genes.
However, people who had relatively high levels of hedonic well-being — the type of happiness that comes from consummatory self-gratification (think most celebrities) — actually showed just the opposite. They had an adverse expression profile involving high inflammation and low antiviral and antibody gene expression.
The report appears in the current online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
For the last 10 years, Steven Cole, a UCLA professor of medicine and a member of the UCLA Cousins Center, and his colleagues, including first author Barbara L. Fredrickson at the University of North Carolina, have been examining how the human genome responds to stress, misery, fear and all kinds of negative psychology.
In this study, though, the researchers asked how the human genome might respond to positive psychology. Is it just the opposite of stress and misery, or does positive well-being activate a different kind of gene expression program?
Looking through the lens of the human genome at happiness and well-being
The researchers examined the biological implications of both hedonic and eudaimonic well-being through the lens of the human genome, a system of some 21,000 genes that has evolved fundamentally to help humans survive and be well.
Previous studies had found that circulating immune cells show a systematic shift in baseline gene-expression profiles during extended periods of stress, threat or uncertainty. Known as conserved transcriptional response to adversity, or CTRA, this shift is characterized by an increased expression of genes involved in inflammation and a decreased expression of genes involved in antiviral responses.
This response, Cole noted, likely evolved to help the immune system counter the changing patterns of microbial threat that were ancestrally associated with changing socio-environmental conditions; these threats included bacterial infection from wounds caused by social conflict and an increased risk of viral infection associated with social contact. “But in contemporary society and our very different environment, chronic activation by social or symbolic threats can promote inflammation and cause cardiovascular, neurodegenerative and other diseases and can impair resistance to viral infections,” said Cole, the senior author of the research, according to the July 29, 2013 news release, “Be happy: Your genes may thank you for it.”
In the present study, the researchers drew blood samples from 80 healthy adults who were assessed for hedonic and eudaimonic well-being, as well as potentially confounding negative psychological and behavioral factors. The team used the CTRA gene-expression profile to map the potentially distinct biological effects of hedonic and eudaimonic well-being.
High levels of positive emotion and your genome
And while those with eudaimonic well-being showed favorable gene-expression profiles in their immune cells and those with hedonic well-being showed an adverse gene-expression profile, “people with high levels of hedonic well-being didn’t feel any worse than those with high levels of eudaimonic well-being,” Cole said in the news release. “Both seemed to have the same high levels of positive emotion. However, their genomes were responding very differently even though their emotional states were similarly positive.
“What this study tells us is that doing good and feeling good have very different effects on the human genome, even though they generate similar levels of positive emotion,” he said in the news release. “Apparently, the human genome is much more sensitive to different ways of achieving happiness than are conscious minds.”
Other authors on the study included Jesusa M.G. Arevalo and Jeffrey Ma, both of UCLA, and Karen M. Grewen, Kimberly A. Coffey, Sara B. Algoe and Ann M. Firestine of the University of North Carolina. The research was supported by National Institutes of Health grants R01NR012899, R01CA116778 and P30AG107265.
The UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology encompasses an interdisciplinary network of scientists working to advance the understanding of psychoneuroimmunology by linking basic and clinical research programs and by translating findings into clinical practice. The center is affiliated with the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. For more news, visit the UCLA Newsroom and follow us on Twitter.
You may also want to check out the news of how human cells respond to different kinds of happiness, according to the July 29, 2013 news release, “Human cells respond in healthy, unhealthy ways to different kinds of happiness.” Human bodies recognize at the molecular level that not all happiness is created equal, responding in ways that can help or hinder physical health, according to new research led by Barbara L. Fredrickson, Kenan Distinguished Professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Preventing or reversing type 2 diabetes with vegan foods in the news
You’ll find online numerous physicians lecturing in videos on how to prevent or possibly reverse type 2 diabetes by first going vegan to see whether that works. For some people, the videos give you feedback that it worked for them. Here’s how to begin going vegan in several steps in order to help reverse (and possibly prevent) type 2 diabetes. These sites are to give you educational information, but you and your health care team are the only individuals who can tell you what to eat and why or what’s best for you in the way of diets.
If you’ve not eaten vegan meals before, it helps to begin in small steps. Start at first with one vegan meal of the day. You also may want to listen to Dr. Neil Barnard’s five-part series on reversing type 2 diabetes with a vegan diet – audio lectures with video slides- on uTube. To begin check out the site, “Halting Diabetes with a Vegan Diet – Part 1, Dr. Neil Barnard.”
Then eat two vegan meals a day for a few weeks to start, until your type 2 diabetes begins to reverse itself. Tell your doctor what you’re eating and whether an adjustment needs to be made in any medication you’re taking. Get a blood test before and after you go vegan. Don’t starve yourself. Next, check out the site, “Halting Diabetes with a Vegan Diet – Part 2, Dr. Neil Barnard.”
Your main staples at first will be beans for the fiber, red quinoa for the protein and whole grains, green vegetables such as kale, spinach, and parsley for the chlorophyll, and deep purple and red vegetables and fruits for the phytonutrients. View the site, “Halting Diabetes with a Vegan Diet – Part 3, Dr. Neil Barnard.”
To focus on specific foods, your next step is to divide your food into four food groups similar to Dr. Barnard’s diet to reverse diabetes as you can see in the videos. So next, check out the site, “Halting Diabetes with a Vegan Diet – Part 4, Dr. Neil Barnard.”
The good groups would be the following:
1. Legumes – such as lentils, garbanzo beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, soybeans, peas, split peas, baked beans, and fat-free soy products such as tempeh, soy burgers, soy milk (in small quantities), black beans, or any other legumes in small amounts–about three servings daily of 1/2 cup cooked beans for fiber. You could also eat 4 ounces of tofu or tempeh or one cup of soy milk. Go to the site, “Halting Diabetes with a Vegan Diet – Part 5, Dr. Neil Barnard.”
2. Whole grains – for example, red quinoa or whole oat groats or buckwheat, brown rice, barley, or any other grain that agrees with you. (Use whole grains if you don’t have celiac disease or any autoiummune issues that prevent you eating whole grains of any type.). Eight whole grain servings per day. One serving is 1/2 cup cooked whole oat groats, buckwheat, quinoa, brown rice, or other whole grains such as millet, barley, teff, or whatever agrees with your digestive system and is whole, not processed. You soak it overnight in a jar of water, and then cook it. Buckwheat can be eaten soaked and raw topped with blueberries or cherries.
3. Vegetables – such as sweet potatoes and no white potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, kale, collards, bok choy, artichokes, and any other green vegetables such as arugula.
4. Fruits are the fourth food group, especially dark red and purple fruit such as pomegranate, black grapes, dark red cherries, blueberries, apples, bananas-slightly green, oranges, peaches, nectarines, are good and are low on the Glycemic Index scale. Stay away from fruits high on the glycemic scale that raise your blood sure too much–which are watermelon and cantaloupe. The higher the number on the Glycemic Index, the quicker that food turns to sugar once in your bloodstream.
Eat three or more fruit servings daily. One serving is one piece of raw fruit or 1/2 cup chopped fruit. Eat the whole fruit rather than just the juice. You can eat both together, the juice poured over the whole fruit. Dried fruit has too much sugar. Make your own salad dressings by mixing pomegranate juice and lemon juice with apple cider vinegar.
If you’re diabetic, don’t use fat in your salad dressings. Drink decaf green tea. Soy products are okay if they have less than 3 grams of fat per serving. That’s Dr. Barnard’s regimen to reverse diabetes. Instead of fat as a salad dressing, lime or lemon juice helps or apple cider vinegar in small amounts, or use spices and herbs tossed with minced garlic and onion.
Barnard also suggests a daily multivitamin that includes at least 5 micrograms of B 12. You need the B12 on a vegan diet. If you’re diabetic, olive oil for your cooking or salads is not on Dr. Barnard’s list to reverse diabetes because it has some saturated fat that can raise cholesterol, according to Dr. Barnard. Other health books say olive oil lowers cholesterol. So do your own research.
One source says olive oil is 13 percent saturated fat. Others emphasize olive oil’s monosaturated fats. If you’re overweight or diabetic, stay away from the oils that stimulate cravings for fats.
Make sure you find out which foods are healthy for diabetics so you can reduce and reverse your type 2 diabetes. The videos below from Google or uTube give you some guidelines on following a specially tailored vegan diet if you have type 2 diabetes or are in danger of developing it from obesity or genetics.
If you have metabolic syndrome, some doctors prescribe a specific number of fats in your diet of a special kind. So talk to your doctor and find out whether you need oils and fats, and which ones for your particular needs. You might also use this diet to possibly help prevent type 2 diabetes or for obesity issues, if this is the right diet for your individual genetic signature and expression.