Epigenetics: A New Perspective in the Nature vs. Nurture DebateOctober 15th, 2013
Many of us as kids were often told by our moms “we are what we eat.” However, in an ironic twist we are now learning from the study of epigenetics that to some degree we are what our mom ate when she was pregnant.
What is Epigenetics?
To help you understand this further let me first briefly explain epigenetics. Epigenetics is the study of how life experience cause changes within our genes. We are all born with the DNA that stays with us our entire life, but our life experiences, mental health, physical activity, even what we eat, can have a profound effect on our health throughout our life. It can even effect our children’s lives. Through epigenetics, we are learning the factors that contribute to these changes and attempting to forecast the impact – positive or negative – they have in our lives.
An Epigenetics Example
Imagine a train starting out down a track and it gets to a “fork” in the tracks. Depending upon how the switch is thrown the train can go on three separate tracks in different directions. In this example what will determine how the switch is thrown is the environment the train is in at that time.
- If it’s raining, the program sends it on the left track;
- if it’s snowing it goes on the middle track;
- if it’s sunny it goes on the far right track.
If each track was designed and built to be better suited for the specific weather condition then this program maximizes the safety of the train by pairing the best track per the weather for the train. Essentially this is what happens at a molecular level to our genes at certain critical times of our lives, some of them being early in development.
What Does Epigenetics Mean in our Daily Life?
I find the human body fascinating and complicated but it makes sense that in order to enhance survival there would be a mechanism of how the expression of genes could be changed based upon environmental clues.
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