Altering genetic makeup for health benefits is possible. At least studies stay so. Our genes, the chemical strands of DNA found in cells that determine our physical and mental attributes can be modified with diet and lifestyle.
Supposedly, our potential is determined by the capabilities coded in our genetic material beyond which we cannot perform no matter how much we try. We blame our parents and everyone up the bloodline if we have a specific disease. A universal belief exists that our genes are immutable like our fingerprints.
It is something stamped on our fate to be carried over the rest of our lives. But concepts are changing. Scientific research shows how lifestyle and diet affect genetic makeup. It has also established the effect of environment on genes. We can at least put our best efforts to suppress the negative traits and upgrade the positive ones. Let us see how.
Changing the gene expression:
Before delving into the matter it is important to know what is Epigenetics. It is the branch of science dealing with gene expression. Some of our genes are switched on and some are switched off. You can, however, tamper this default setting in our body cells. That you can change your DNA at your will seems a wild idea but not farfetched.
Studies reveal that after vigorous physical exercise an entity in our cells known as Methylation gets reduced. This is a molecular process deciding the way in which specific chemicals are aligned to DNA. It stops DNA from being switched off by external sources.
This being said, workouts not only have the capability of lowering methylation but also can promote synthesis of specific enzymes that facilitates burning of calories. To prove this, subjects under study were given cycling exercise at either 40 % or 80 % of their capacity. Muscles biopsied after exercise indicated an inverse relation exists between the intensity of exercise and level of methylation.
How diet affects genetic makeup?
The effect of diet on the genetic makeup is now a proven fact which was tested on two groups. One was given carefully selected healthy diet of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Other group ate processed meat, sugar and refined grains. Test reports showed there was wide variation in physical attributes.
The group on healthy diet was less prone to diseases especially those related to the cardiovascular system. The group feeding on processed food was more susceptible to heart diseases. In a nutshell, what you eat determines the DNA functioning and its impact on your body.
Diet can create a better breed of human race:
Our diet is a significant initiator of epigenetic signals. Studies are being carried out to see how your dietary habits can alter gene expression in adults and their progeny. There lies a clear comprehension of the link between eating habit and gene expression in controlling diseases like obesity, diabetes, coronary artery disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and check extreme emotions like fury and depression.
Epigenetics has a say in cell differentiation and decides how cells behave in the long run. It also provides an insight into how dietary intake of a pregnant mother can shape the future generations with immediate offspring being the connecting link.
In 1944, mothers in Western Netherlands had low-calorie intake resulting from famine. Babies born showed altered lipid profile, increased obesity and cardiovascular diseases when they turned full grown.
Creation of a super baby:
Sounds like straight from science fiction? Here you get a clear idea of what is epigenetics and what it could achieve. How diet affects genetic makeup and so does the environment and physical workouts is clearly evident. Controlling gene expression thereby enhancing the power of DNA can give you healthier babies.
This was revealed in a study by the University of Pennsylvania. Male mice were subjected to stressful stimuli and were allowed then to impregnate female rodents. Litter of babies born showed less response to stressful situations.
On further exploration, it showed a rise in miRNA molecules little different from RNA molecules. It switches off certain strands of RNA by disabling them suppressing the stress levels of male mice. The function is akin to methylation.
Therefore, if by making lifestyle changes we can suppress the negative action of methylation responsible for triggering areas of disease, the bad gene is simply not passed on to our children. We will have a generation of super babies with sound physical and mental health.
Grounds of genetic testing:
Our DNA is the master cast in which our every physical detail, behavioral set up and mental capacity is molded. DNA also decides the way our body processes certain nutrients. It determines the process in which hormones are synthesized in our body and how metabolic functioning occurs inside us.
Through research and study, scientists have been able to locate specific strands of DNA responsible for chronic disease conditions and obesity. Change your DNA is the mantra to achieve a disease-free life with boosted capabilities.
It provides a gamut of fresh scopes in appraising health conditions being affected by genetic behavior. This has fascinated the world of science. Whether this is necessary or can we draw benefits from it has been an important question.
Advantages of genetic testing:
Genetic testing brings to light a lot of direction backed by facts and figures like:
- How much exercise should you do to improve your genetic material, suppress methylation and turn on energy-burning enzymes?
- How your cells metabolize certain nutrients and how much would your modified diet affect genetic makeup?
- Whether your body is demanding more of certain types of nutrients.
- Cases where an enhanced chance of getting infected by diseases or a drop in healthy functioning of insulin resistance, detoxification of body wastes, bone quality, blood pressure control and the chance of getting cancer are brought to surface. For instance, people carrying COL1A1 gene have a fair chance of bone fracture when calcium level in the body is low.
Effect of environment on genes:
If diet affects genetic makeup, the environmental impact is equally important. Height may be a physical human trait influenced by geographical locations of inhabitation. Even emotional trauma from a civil war or a suicide in the family can pass on to posterity.
The influence of positive lifestyle on genetic makeup:
Healthy eating and regular exercise can turn off gene expression responsible for heart diseases. It can influence stem cells to grow into blood and bone cells rather than fat cells. The idea is to work on a lifestyle regime that would turn off negative genes and boost the positive ones. The selected strands will be inherited by the future generation as well.
Our cells continuously are exposed to wear and tear over its functional life cycle. These slow defunct cells need replacement by healthy replicas that operate efficiently. This could be achieved by a combination of right kind of food, exercise, sleep and other physiological adaptations.