Epigenetics is a hot topic right now and appears more in news articles as science makes further associations. It is becoming more obvious that our lifestyle and experiences can affect our genes and can be passed down to our children and grandchildren through genetic pathways.
Factors that can influence epigenetics can include: Diet, physical activity, sleep, stress, inflammation, chemicals products, UV rays, and environmental pollution.
DNA is the blueprint for the instructions for the entire body, but chemical tags called methyl groups make up what is called the epigenome to decide which genes are active – this is called methylation or gene expression. It is often referred to as an “on and off switch” that turns on or off certain genes. It is what makes identical twins different over time. Although our DNA code does not change, the epigenome is flexible and reacts to our environment. Our experiences help shape how genes are expressed.
DNA methylation works by adding a chemical group to specific places on the DNA as “tags” where it blocks the proteins that attach to the DNA to “read the gene”. This chemical group called a methyl group can be removed through a process called demethylation. Typically, methylations turn genes “off” and demethylation turns genes “on”.
Women are not solely responsible for the health of their future children. Science is finding that the health of a man’s unborn children can be affected by things like the man’s diet, life experiences and trauma, exposure to toxins and how old he is at conception.
DNA is not our destiny. Epigenetics is the study of how your behaviors and environment can cause changes that affects the way your genes work. Through epigenetic tags, parents’ experiences and lifestyle can affect the genes that are passed down to their children and grandchildren.
A proper lifestyle “turns on” protective genes and “turns off” disease-producing genes by their positive impact on the epigenome.
Why Should I Care About Epigenetics? Utah Valley Pediatrics, September 30, 2013