Nutrition & Epigenetics

 

nutrition and epigenetics

Ever since I learned about the concept of epigenetics about 12 years ago, I have been fascinated by the topic, and have read numerous articles and studies regarding epigenetics.  Epigenetics is “what” regulates how, when and how much of our genes are expressed.

While everyone has unique genetics handed to them at birth from their parents, the expression of our genes are highly responsive to developmental, physiological, pathological and environmental cues, and these have long-term consequences.

From the perspective of nutrition, most of us think about eating simply as a way to fuel our bodies and that it dictates body weight, which quite frankly, the world is way too focused on.  The truth is that the food we eat directly effects how our genes are regulated in our body by changing our EPIGENOME.  And this impacts the chemical reactions in our body.

According to Dr. Brad Dieter, researchers over the past decade have shown that our genome dynamically interacts with the environment through “chemical switches” that regulate gene expression, our epigenome, receive cues from stress, diet, behavior, toxins and other factors .” The field of epigenetics has revolutionized the field of genetics. In other words, our environment matters.

Nutrition 

What we eat plays an important role in our health.  Unless you have been living under a rock for the past 50 years, you know that.  Likewise, it is well known through scientific study, that our current obesity epidemic and many of the chronic diseases that are on the rise in the western world are caused by poor nutrition.

The process in which food impacts our genes (turning them on or off for expression) is called DNA methylation.  There is a lot of great science behind this, but for purposes of this article, I’ll skip those details, and focus more on practical matters, such as this:  many of the foods we eat have the ability to rapidly alter gene expression including:

  • Chicken Breast, Liver, Cashews, Walnuts, Almonds
  • Seaweed, Lentils, Spinach, Eggs, Broccoli
  • Salmon, trout, tuna, beef, milk
  • Potatoes, Bananas, Shrimp, Pistachios, Bacon
  • Lamb, Beets, Spinach, Quinoa, Kamut

The foods we eat can and do affect DNA methylation and subsequently our epigenome. In the last decade researchers have shown how powerful the results nutritional DNA methylation are in genetic expression and there are a few landmark papers on this topic.  The take home message is crystal clear – what you eat matters not only today but also tomorrow.

Here is a snippet from one of those studies, “The epigenetic variations that affect adult health and life span are probably established during embryonic and fetal development.”

Furthermore, these studies are also showing that there is a significant role of epigenetics in disease development.  Here is another snippet on this point, “Many human diseases may have significant epigenetic components. Epigenetics plays an important role in many cancers that appear late in life and may have roots in epigenetic inheritance or epigenetic variation established in early development.”

In summary, the point I am making is that what we eat not only directly affects our own health throughout our lifetime, but it also affects that of our children, grandchildren, etc…  The process of methylation alters our epigenome and genetic expression.

Thus, if you choose to eat a crappy and unhealthy diet, then you will be affecting those who come after you.  Perhaps, armed with this evidence, it’s time to think twice about what you put in your mouth, because you are not just doing it for yourself, but you are in fact, impacting the health of your children and grandchildren.

If you are interested in learning more about the link between nutrition and epigenetics, please read the source content provided below.  If you need help with your nutrition, please reach out to me here:  Contact Me.

Sources

Epigenetic mechanisms for nutrition determinants of later health outcomes

Aging, cancer and nutrition: the DNA methylation connection

Transposable Elements: Targets for Early Nutritional Effects on Epigenetic Gene Regulation

Early Nutrition, Epigenetic Changes at Transposons and Imprinted Genes, and Enhanced Susceptibility to Adult Chronic Diseases

Epigenetic mechanisms for nutrition determinants of later health outcomes

 

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