t's genetic! is a statement we all know. But is it really the case that genes are set in stone? No, it is not. Well, technically they are, but the expression of genes is not. According to Dr. Berg, only 5-10% of diseases are genetic and therefore inherited from parents. Epigenetics can positively influence gene expression and prevent diseases. You can inherit a favorable gene expression and pass the gift on to your children. So the next time you eat that cake or have that cigarette, think of your grandchildren. Here is your guide to make it work in your favor.
This short animated video by TedEd describes it beautifully:
TLDW (too long didn´t watch) version:
So the big question is, what switches on optimal health & wellbeing and what switches off disease & unease?
The epigenetic markers are influenced by our environment. Dr. Berg mentions nutrition (and the nutrients in it), time of food intake, temperature (hot/cold), stress, sleep, fitness, mood and age. It is difficult to say, what environmental factor contributes how, but some common sense can surely help to determine positive or negative effect. Example: Too much caloric restriction (e.g. anorexia): Not good. Sensible caloric restriction (e.g. intermittent fasting): Good. Here is a graphic to give you an overview, for which environmental factors you should filter:
Even a single training session can trigger epigenetic changes. The more consistently you train, the more intense the effect. These changes on the genes are then also passed on, which means that the offspring either benefit from epigenetics or are burdened by it. Sport is especially important in old age, as the DNA methylation changes. AURUM 6 Minute Strength Training can help reverse the gene expression of the mitochondria of ageing muscle cells and reduce the biological age of the cells. This paper is especially interesting as it gives a good outline of the many positive effects of exercise as we age or as we try to age in style: "Towards ageing well: Use it or lose it: Exercise, epigenetics and cognition."
Notably, energy production in the cell is upregulated through regular intense exercise via an epigenetic adaptation. Which in turn has a lasting effect on cognition and synaptic plasticity. So you better finally book that free trial @AURUM than having forgotten your wallet in the fridge or your family dog in the motorway the other day.
Sebastian Dietrich, sports scientist and founder of INEX and Live Better, divides the noutritious part of epigenetics into methyl donors (e.g. Foods rich in Vitamin B12: Low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese) - one can think of them as the building blocks for the afore mentioned chemical tags (methyl tags) - and nutrigenomic modulators, which directly interact with gene expression, without the detour via chemical tags.
Methyl donors are essential for a healthy body: they help to provide the body with methyl groups. We need those to produce and transport neurotransmitters, excrete and detoxify hormones, support the immune system, repair our DNA and place DNA methylation on our genes. This is important from an early age on: The lack of methyl during pregnancy can lead to insulin resistance and thus to diabetes in the later life of the child. These are some of the foods that provide the body with methyl: fish, spinach, leafy vegetables, meat and egg yolk.
Nutrigenomic modulators send information directly to our genes. This enables the direct modification of gene expression. Some can be found in these foods, among others: green tea, red wine, soy and garlic.
Now it is your turn: With what you have read here, how will you influence your genes in your favour?