Many individuals are concerned with the dietary components of foods they consume. However, scientists from Nanjing University in China have given us a different perspective as to what we eat, they have discovered fragments of genetic material known as microRNAs making their way from vegetables into the human bloodstream.” (Stanley 2011)

MicroRNAs are found abundantly in humans and regulate gene activity through repression mechanisms. But to find microRNAs from plants still thriving post digestion was quite surprising. Even more shocking it was identified that fragments of these plant genomes come with consequences. Scientists revealed one such microRNA molecule, called MIR168a—which is abundant in rice and plays a role in plant development. This molecule has the ability to pair up with a piece of human RNA that helps remove “bad” LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream. Studies in human cell cultures confirmed that MIR168a interferes with the production of a cholesterol-clearing protein. Studies carried out in mice found those eating rice had a higher level of LDL cholesterol in the blood than the control mice who had no rice. More studies will have to be performed to identify the overall pros and cons.
Dr. Chen-Yu Zhang of Nanjing University says “many microRNAs, of a non human source, have beneficial effects”. He has identified an herb utilized in traditional Chinese medicine that in preliminary mouse studies has provided evidence of a microRNA that aids in fight against the flu virus.

1. Stanley, S. (2011 December 22): Genome of Vegetables Remains Active After You Eat Them Retrieved on January 1, 2012 From Discover Magazine.