Epigenetics: Making the Most of Your Genes
Did you know that the story of your health doesn't just start with your personal health? It goes as far back as your grandparents. And we're not just talking about family history or hereditary diseases being passed down. In the past few decades, science has discovered that there is a way to influence how our genes express themselves to form traits--traits that can later be inherited by your children. The science behind it is called "epigenetics."
Epigenetics is concerned with the epigenome, a group of chemical compounds and proteins in our bodies found on top of our genome (which is what the 3 billion DNA in the human body is collectively called). These attach to our genes and tell them what to do, including whether to turn on or off.
How does that help your child?
Research shows that you can influence this epigenome, especially really early in life, by making certain nutrition and lifestyle choices. This can help change how genes express themselves later in life.
For example, if you or your partner is diagnosed with diabetes, your kid is genetically predisposed to diabetes. But it doesn't automatically mean your kid will develop diabetes. You can still do something about it. The right nutrition at an early age could help switch off the genes for diabetes. The right diet and exercise as your kid grows older could help keep them switched off.
Does that mean you can simply switch off traits you don't like?
Not really. Certainly not that easily.
Epigenetics gives hope that our genes don't need to dictate our destiny. Research trends point to a future where reducing the risk for certain hereditary diseases could be a matter of turning bad genes off and good genes on. Today, we're already on that path: by adjusting your kid's nutrition and lifestyle, you can help him use his epigenome to his advantage.
- "Epigenomics." National Human Genome Research Institute. April 23, 2015. Accessed May 4, 2015. https://www.genome.gov/27532724.
- Cloud, John. "Why Your DNA Isn't Your Destiny." TIME, January 6, 2010. Link http://www.ohio.edu/plantbio/staff/showalte/PBIO%203300%20&%205300/Epigenetics,%20DNA%20How%20You%20Can%20Change%20Your%20Genes,%20Destiny%20--%20Printout%20--%20TIME.pdf
- Bégin, Philippe, and Kari Nandeau. "Epigenetic Regulation of Asthma and Allergic Disease." Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology 10, no. 27 (2014). Accessed March 27, 2015. http://www.aacijournal.com/content/10/1/27.
- Tyson, Neil DeGrasse. Epigenetics. Online. Directed by Sarah Holt. USA: NOVA, 2007.