July 21st, 2011 by Digestive Detective
"We all know that you can truncate your own life if you smoke or overeat, but it's becoming clear that those same bad behaviors can also predispose your kids — before they are even conceived — to disease and early death." - John Cloud, TIME magazine
This is the concept behind the newly emerging field of epigenetics; the idea that lifestyle factors including diet, stress, prenatal nutrition, etc. can affect our very genes and therefore, those of our familial line. Researchers in Sweden and other parts of the world are conducting studies as we speak to determine the influence that specific environmental factors can have on the cellular material that sits on top the genome (our epigenome). Patterns of gene expression result in our genes being "switched" on or off, and these marks can make an imprint on our genes that scientists now believe can be passed from one generation to the next.
In experiments with mice, scientists have been able to produce healthier mice from mothers with a genetic disorder by applying B vitamins to the epigenomes on the developing fetus. Using subjects from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), a unique research project based at the University of Bristol, in England, researchers have found a variety of fascinating results. "ALSPAC data have offered several important insights: baby lotions containing peanut oil may be partly responsible for the rise in peanut allergies; high maternal anxiety during pregnancy is associated with the child's later development of asthma; little kids who are kept too clean are at higher risk for eczema." Even more significant, fathers in the study who started smoking before puberty were shown to have sons later that on average had significantly higher BMI (body mass index) by age 9. In this instance, researchers on the experiment noted that the collected data "supports the hypothesis that there is a general mechanism for transmitting information about the ancestral environment down the male line."
The bad news about these discoveries is that the habits of our parents, grandparents and distant relatives may have influenced how we developed and which genes, for disease and other health conditions, were expressed in us.
The good news is even though previously thought to not be the case, we have the ability to affect gene expression in ourselves and how that genetic predisposition and pattern gets passed down to our children and family. This level of influence is largely dependent upon our behaviors now and the environmental factors around us.
This new knowledge places even greater emphasis on establishing healthy habits and behaviors as they relate to physical activity, nutrition and stressors (mental/emotional, chemical, environmental) in our daily lives; not only for our own personal health, but that of our children and future generations.
- Identify the stressors in your life. Develop a plan to deal with each one at a time, eliminating the most offensive or egregious to your health first.
- Incorporate some degree of physical activity DAILY. Even a brief walk at lunch can pay huge dividends.
- Learn more about how to incorporate healthy eating habits for you and your family. Focus on eating REAL, WHOLE foods and eliminate processed foods and sugars.
For more insight into improving your healthy habits and changing your behavior, get our FREE special report: 5 Reasons Why You Can't Lose Weight (and what to do about it). Look to the sidebar to download your copy!