Diet adjusts which genes are active and inactive


English: This image shows a DNA molecule that ...

English: This image shows a DNA molecule that is methylated on both strands on the center cytosine. DNA methylation plays an important role for epigenetic gene regulation in development and cancer. The picture shows the crystal structure of a short DNA helix with sequence “accgcCGgcgcc”, which is methylated on both strands at the center cytosine. The structure was taken from the Protein Data Bank (accession number 329D), rendering was performed with VMD and post-processing was done in Photoshop. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The turning of a gene ON or OFF is called epigenetics. Many environmental changes can cause these subtle switches on our DNA. The results of having a gene turned on can for example be cancer or a gene being turned off like our tumor suppressor genes. Genes control us and make us who we are. Our liver cells differ from our heart cells due to epigenetic switches. Mammals differ from one another because of epigenetic switches. Learn.genetics says: “Nutrients from our food are turned into methyl groups along a pathway: the pathway is made up of many players that manipulate molecules into methyl groups and ultimately put them on our DNA”. Diet is so important to our health and well-being but is not considered by most Americans when dealing with health issues.


Will we ever cure anything?

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Diagram showing upregulation of antisense tran...

Diagram showing upregulation of antisense transcripts and cancer progression (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Medical News Today (MNT) says scientists are hard at work developing new drugs to turn tumor suppressor genes back on. Although this work is important we should be looking at what environmental conditions are causing the body to turn these genes off in the first place. This is like replacing your car brakes often because to drive hard on the brakes. It would be better to learn how to drive with less brake usage and save your brakes for an emergency. Drugs are useful for extreme cases but we need to understand the causes and help teach people to live healthier. Learning to stop smoking is far better than continuing to smoke and taking a drug to prevent cancer.

Our Environment can allow Tumors to grow or fight them


Granular cell tumor

Granular cell tumor (Photo credit: Pulmonary Pathology)

Pharmaceutical Intelligence says if DNA is our alphabet, epigenetics is our spelling, language and grammar. Dr. Esteller, who did this study, has been crucial to show that all human tumors have in common a specific chemical alteration: the hypermethylation of tumor suppressor genes. Remember methylation causes genes to be silenced (turned off). Turning off tumor suppressor genes disables our bodies abilities to fight tumors.

We need more investments in Epigenetics


Figure I. Tissue stain (immunohistochemistry) ...

Figure I. Tissue stain (immunohistochemistry) for the PTEN tumor suppressor gene showing loss of the PTEN protein in the round and tubular glands which are clustered tightly within an EIN lesion. Brown color indicates the PTEN protein is present. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Environmental Health Prospectives (EHP) says epigenetics is in forefront of research today. Epigenetics is not easy because it manifests itself through many mechanisms. It can turn genes ON or OFF. What the gene does determines the significance of activating or deactivating it. For example turning a cancer gene on is a bad thing but turning a tumor suppressor gene on is a good thing. One problem is investment in this critical area is relatively small. Hugh profits can be made with the correct investments in this relatively new field. Biology has never had such an important area of study.

Epigenetic Silencing



Health (Photo credit: 401K)

An article on Epigenetics and Health in Natures Remedy says our lifestyle and diet can affect our genes. These effects can either be turning a particular gene ON or turning it OFF (silencing it). We have tumor suppressor genes that fight tumors and can prevent cancers from taking hold. When these genes get silenced it usually results in cancer being allowed to grow. We are in tune or out of tune with nature, our environment and our food. If we stay in tune (much like being toned in a gym) we remain healthy. If we allow ourselves to get out of tune, we allow sickness to take control. We are what we eat and how we live. Choose wisely!

What are your DNA Volume Settings?


The human genome, categorized by function of e...

The human genome, categorized by function of each gene product, given both as number of genes and as percentage of all genes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Epigenetics is not just the turning ON and OFF of genes but also how much they are turned ON/OFF. This is similar to a stereo were we can turn it ON and OFF but we can also adjust the volume. The volume of methylation in our genes is significant and a new area of study. It is not so simple. “An epigenetics BLOG, says “Experiments with agouti mice have shown that feeding methyl-supplements to pregnant mothers can affect the volume settings of genes in their offspring.” What was eaten during pregnancy can have a profound influence on your babies health just like smoking and drinking does.

Too Much or too Little of something can be Bad!


This image shows a DNA molecule that is methyl...

This image shows a DNA molecule that is methylated on both strands on the center cytosine. DNA methylation plays an important role for epigenetic gene regulation in development and cancer. The picture shows the crystal structure of a short DNA helix with sequence "accgcCGgcgcc", which is methylated on both strands at the center cytosine. The structure was taken from the Protein Data Bank (accession number 329D), rendering was performed with VMD and post-processing was done in Photoshop. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first human disease linked to epigenetics was cancer in 1863 says Scitable a collaborative learning space for science. The study found: “Researchers found that diseased tissue from patients with colorectal cancer had less DNA methylation than normal tissue from the same patients (Feinberg & Vogelstein, 1983). Because methylated genes are typically turned off, loss of DNA methylation can cause abnormally high gene activation by altering the arrangement of chromatin. On the other hand, too much methylation can undo the work of protective tumor suppressor genes.” So once again we see that too little of something or too much of it can be bad. Finding the right balance is what health is all about.

Virtual Reality or Real Life?


sensesWe are inseparable from our environment. It is like being on a virtual reality video game. You are in and part of the game. We are connected to this world through our 5 senses. They give us a sense of what this world is all about. Our genes interact with these inputs via epigenetics. Our environment causes changes in our epigenetics which in turn cause different genes to be activated or shut down. Everything we know is through our 5 senses. Without them we would have no knowledge of this world.

I was thinking the other day of a small charge electric wire people use to keep a dog within the yard. The dog senses the electric field and backs away. It learns not to go to the edges of the yard. We learn and our health and well-being are influenced by our senses. We become happy or sad, healthy or sick, mentally healthy or mentally ill all from how our epigenetics interact with our environment. We have all heard the phrase “You are what you eat”. We really are what we eat, think and believe. Decide today to change your diet, change your attitude and believe in yourself. Give your epigenetics a fighting chance and they will help make you healthy and happy.

An Epigenetics Primer on Health


English: Molecular surface of histones is show...

Image via Wikipedia

The Sci-Show has a fun and informative video on epigenetics. It basically talks about the two forms of methylation (turns genes off) and how genetics and epigenetics get passed between generations. Epigenetics is controlled by methyl groups and histones. Methyl groups bind to genes and turn them off like a light switch. Histones cause the DNA strands to bind tightly around spools or loosely. Tightly bound turns off several or many genes. This is similar to a knob. In this fun video a guy clones himself (identical person and meets back up 50 years later. Although their DNA is still the same, their epigenetics is very different. One may be sick and have cancer while the other is healthy. One may be taller, have better skin, etc. Epigenetics is the software and our genes are the hardware but our environment is the data that controls the software. Enjoy!

How Does Our Environment Program US?



Image by AJC1 via Flickr

SCITABLE by Nature Education says the first disease to be linked to epigenetics was cancer. It was found that loss of DNA methylation (Switches genes ON) allowed cancer genes to activate and do their thing. Adding methylation was not the answer because it did stop the cancer genes from running but also turned OFF the Tumor Suppressor Genes. We must look at epigenetics as a programming language. The answers are easy. No simple generic solution will work. We must understand which epigenetic triggers turn ON or OFF which genes and in combination with what other genes. The language will be a lot more complex than the genome project was! Just as software programming is much more complex than the simple instructions in a computer’s hardware. These instructions can be viewed as human genes and the software can be viewed as the epigenetic programming. We are a creature made up of trillions of cells that are alive and communicate with each other to form a network that makes us human. We live in an environment that influences this society of cells. The resulting changes from these influences can end up being good or bad to the human entity. My new book, Food for Thought – An Epigenetic Guide to Wellness discusses this in more depth.

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