Dietary contexts matter

Two papers illustrated how actions of food compounds are affected by their contexts. The first was a 2020 UCLA rodent study:

“Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), particularly omega-3 (n-3) PUFAs, have been indicated to play important roles in various aspects of human health. Controversies are observed in epidemiological and experimental studies regarding the benefits or lack of benefits of n-3 PUFAs.

Dietary docosahexaenoic acid (DHA; 22:6 n-3) supplementation improved select metabolic traits and brain function, and induced transcriptomic and epigenetic alterations in hypothalamic and hippocampal tissues in both context-independent and context-specific manners:

  • In terms of serum triglyceride, glycemic phenotypes, insulin resistance index, and memory retention, DHA did not affect these phenotypes significantly when examined on the chow diet background, but significantly improved these phenotypes in fructose-treated animals.
  • Genes and pathways related with tissue structure were affected by DHA regardless of the dietary context, although the direction of changes are not necessarily the same between contexts. These pathways may represent the core functions of DHA in maintaining cell membrane function and cell signaling.
  • DHA affected the mTOR signaling pathway in hippocampus. In the hypothalamus, altered pathways were more related to innate immunity, such as cytokine-cytokine receptors, NF-κB signaling pathway, and Toll-like receptor signaling pathway.

DHA exhibits differential influence on epigenetic loci, genes, pathways, and metabolic and cognitive phenotypes under different dietary contexts.”

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/mnfr.202000788 “Multi‐tissue Multi‐omics Nutrigenomics Indicates Context‐specific Effects of DHA on Rat Brain” (not freely available)


A human equivalent age period of the subjects was 12 to 20 years old. If these researchers want to make their study outstanding, they’ll contact their UCLA colleague Dr. Steven Horvath, and apply his new human-rat relative biological age epigenetic clock per A rejuvenation therapy and sulforaphane.

The second paper was a 2016 review Interactions between phytochemicals from fruits and vegetables: Effects on bioactivities and bioavailability (not freely available):

“The biological activities of food phytochemicals depend upon their bioaccessibility and bioavailability which can be affected by the presence of other food components including other bioactive constituents. For instance, α-tocopherol mixed with a flavonol (kaempferol or myricetin) is more effective in inhibiting lipid oxidation induced by free radicals than each component alone.

Interactions of phytochemicals may enhance or reduce the bioavailability of a given compound, depending on the facilitation/competition for cellular uptake and transportation. For example, β-carotene increases the bioavailability of lycopene in human plasma, and quercetin-3-glucoside reduces the absorption of anthocyanins.

Combinations of food extracts containing hydrophilic antioxidants and lipophilic antioxidants showed very high synergistic effects on free radical scavenging activities. A number of phytochemical mixtures and food combinations provide synergistic effects on inhibiting inflammation.

More research should be conducted to understand mechanisms of bioavailability interference considering physiological concentrations, food matrices, and food processing.”


Each of us can set appropriate contexts for our food consumption. Broccoli sprout synergies covered how I take supplements and broccoli sprouts together an hour or two before meals to keep meal contents from lowering sulforaphane bioavailability.

Combinations of my 19 supplements and broccoli sprouts are too many (616,645) for complete analyses. Just pairwise comparisons like the second paper’s example below would be 190 combinations.

binary isobologram

Contexts for each combination’s synergistic, antagonistic, or additive activities may also be influenced by other combinations’ results.

My consumption of flax oil (alpha linolenic acid C18:3) probably has effects similar to DHA since it’s an omega-3 PUFA and I take it with food. The first study’s human equivalent DHA dose was 100mg/kg, with its citation for clinical trials stating “1–9 g/day (0.45–4% of calories) n-3 PUFA.”

A 2020 review Functional Ingredients From Brassicaceae Species: Overview and Perspectives had perspectives such as:

“In many circumstances, the isolated bioactive is not as bioavailable or metabolically active as in the natural food matrix.”

It discussed categories but not combinations of phenolics, carotenoids, phytoalexins, terpenes, phytosteroids, and tocopherols, along with more well-known broccoli compounds.


Diving for breakfast

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