To illustrate what epigenetics is, imagine a giant library of about 25,000 books. Each book in the library represents a gene unique to you. You inherited this library from your parents, one copy of a book from your mother and another copy of the same book from your father. This library is your genome.
Your EPIgenome is a new area of genetics, and represents the science of not what your library is, but rather what books are checked out and being read. In essence, epigenetic is the study of how genes express themselves.
At different times in our life different books are checked out, giving rise to new traits, interestingly we are learning that not only are our books passed down to generations, but also what books can be checked out is also passed down through inheritance.
A key factor in determining which books are checked out is the methylation of DNA. This is where tiny methyl molecules are attached to your DNA, signaling to the cell to check out that particular book. Imagine a methyl molecule being a little bit like a bright orange sticker that the librarian puts on books, telling people that they are available to be checked out. We are learning more and more that environmental and nutritional factors are GREATLY impacting the methylation of our DNA…In essence methylation is determining which genes that are being turned on and off.
Our body doesn’t naturally make methyl donating molecules, we have to get it through our diet. We can find many methyl donating nutrients, such as folic acid, choline and betaine; these nutrients are prominent in a such foods as Moringa oleifera trees, mushrooms, and certain nuts.
However, there are also compounds called Anti-nutrients which can kill or sequester the methyl donating nutrients. A prominent anti-nutrient in our lives is BPA (bisphenol-A), which is used in the making of many plastics and is found in bottled water, canned foods, etc. BPA is known to prevent the methylation of DNA, by sequestering the methyl that is consumed in our diets from folic acid, choline and other nutrients. Keeping the analogy alive, BPA steals the bright orange stickers before the librarian has the ability to put them on books, preventing the books from being checked out. It is just as important to remove ant-nutrients from our diet as it is to include nutrients in our diet. Best way to remove anti-nutrients is to drink fresh filtered water (where most contaminants are found), with a NSF certified filtration system that has been certified to remove BPA and other anti-nutrients (try out the Morclēr Water Purification System).
Does methylation of DNA really matter?
Scientists wanted to determine what impact nutrients and anti-nutrients have on not only our epigenetics, but also on the diseases that rise from this.
Giving two genetically identical pregnant mice different diets they saw drastically different traits in their pups.
One pregnant mother mouse they gave her a moderate diet of BPA, the other pregnant mother mouse they gave her a natural diet of methyl donating nutrients.
Looking at the offspring of these mice we see the following:
The mouse on the left: Mother was fed a moderate amount of BPA, the mouse is obese and has a higher risk of cancer and diabetes.
The mouse on the right: Mother was fed a natural diet of methyl donating nutrients and is normal in weight with a decreased risk of cancer and diabetes.
The two mice are genetically the same and are the same age! They have the same library, but different books are being checked out.
Scientists found that just the decreased methylation of a single gene named agouti, caused this drastic change in quality of life and lifespan.
There is good news, methylation is a variable that we can change. Though the books we inherited are static and unchanging, our diet and detoxification regimens allow us to drastically improve our DNA methylation allowing us to maximize the library we inheritied. Most important, as we improve our methylation lifestyle, not only will we see the quality of our life improve, but knowing that these methylation regions are passed down, we can set our children on a course of life much better. The diets we are living now, not only impact our health, but now we know, also the lives of our future children.
Let’s get our libraries functional, and set our children off on a life with a fully functional library. Avoid anti-nutrients by filtering your water, and include natural nutrients in abundance by eating a well balanced and nutrient rich food.