Richard Bruno is a registered dietitian and biomolecular nutritionist. He is a Professor of Human Nutrition and serves as Director of the Bionutrition Core Laboratory at The Ohio State University. Dr. Bruno earned his BS and MS degrees in nutrition from the University of Delaware and his PhD in nutrition from The Ohio State University prior to completing his post-doctoral training at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. Dr. Bruno’s research, which has resulted in >120 peer-reviewed publications and >200 national/international presentations, focuses on understanding the bioavailability of phytochemicals and the anti-inflammatory bioactivities of functional foods that improve cardiometabolic health. With a focus on research translation, Dr. Bruno’s research aims to establish evidence-based dietary recommendations that improve human healthspan. Dr. Bruno is a member of the American Society for Nutrition, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the Society of Experimental Biology and Medicine, and the Society of Redox Biology and Medicine. He is an editorial board member for several leading journals in the nutrition field (Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, Antioxidants, Nutrition Reviews) and is current Editor-in-Chief for Nutrition Research.
We sat down with Dr. Bruno for a quick Q&A to learn more about his research, food synergies, and myths in nutrition.
Can you tell us more about nutritional science and why is it important?
Nutritional science is an integrated discipline that focuses on understanding how dietary constituents influence human health by improving physiological and cellular responses. The field was born more than a century ago by the discovery that the absence of certain nutrients in the diet was responsible for premature disease and death. It has evolved to consider the health benefits of essential nutrients but also the thousands of non-essential bioactive food components that reduce disease risk by regulating key physiological processes. The goal of this field is to establish the science by which dietary constituents, and by extension foods, act independently and/or synergistically to reduce the burden of chronic disease.
Let's dive a little deeper into food synergy. How can focusing on that improve our health?
Consider the old adage, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” – never more in the history of nutrition has that phrase meant so much. An apple not only contains essential vitamins and minerals, but it also contains dietary fiber that has been linked to improved gut health and other phytochemicals that help to manage inflammation. Food synergy means to obtain our nutrients from food in an efficient manner in which we can reap the benefits of all bioactive food components, and in the manner Mother Nature intended.
To expanding on the above, we often talk about nutrient synergies – the ability for ingredients to interact and work symbiotically to activate full nutrient efficiency on a cellular level. Talk to us a little bit about the science behind these molecular interactions and why it’s important to think about co-factors and co-nutrients when building your nutritional regime?
There are a number of nutrients, for a variety of reasons, that are lacking in the human diet. Some of which include vitamins (e.g. vitamin C, E, D, and K) and minerals (e.g. calcium, magnesium, potassium). For other food components, such as polyphenols that are widely present in spices, tea, and fruits and vegetables, there are no well-established recommended levels of intake despite heighten recognition that these substances promote healthspan. For example, vitamins C and E have synergistic effects when they function as part of an antioxidant network to reduce levels of damaging-inducing free radicals in the body. Higher intakes of magnesium and potassium are associated with protection against blood pressure, an early change in health status that raises one’s risk for heart disease. A strong immunity is also grounded by the coordinated benefits of antioxidants, along with zinc, and prebiotics and probiotics that improve health of the gut, which is the largest immune organ of the body. In the wake of the ongoing global pandemic, there is growing interest in understanding how improved vitamin D levels could help to mitigate high rates of infection and/or the development of serious health consequences.
Many of those nutrients you just discussed can be found in GEM and our newest products. We'd love to hear how you describe GEM and its importance in your line of work and the future of nutrition.
While the adequate consumption of nutrients is linked to health, the focus on ‘whole foods’ is central to improving health span. This is because, in addition to the health benefits of known dietary constituents (e.g. vitamins, minerals, antioxidants), foods also contain yet-to-be discovered constituents that potentially synergize with other food components to improve health. Indeed, discoveries in the field of nutrition have increased at a near-exponential rate in the past several decades. Translating these complex lines of evidence into ‘food-first’ dietary recommendations remains critical to improve health span.
How is GEM better absorbed as a whole food rather than isolated supplements in a pill or a capsule form?
Foods contain a complex mixture of nutrients and other bioactive food components important to health span. While supplements can be a “tool” to bridge the gap between inadequate and adequate nutrition, they often do not contain the complement of bioactive food components found naturally in foods. And, in many cases, isolated dietary constituents packaged in ‘pill’ form often are not equivalent in their bioavailability when consumed in their natural form present in foods.*
Lastly, what does “food as medicine” mean to you?
A key premise to healthy aging is preventative medicine, which includes the application of proper nutrition to support the complex biological machinery of the human body. Proper nutrition is a lifestyle commitment to achieve appropriate intakes of health-promoting dietary compounds from foods to thwart the small but frequently occurring biological insults that accumulate to incrementally provoke adverse effects on health span.