What is Epigenetics?

By now, we all understand that our genes play a role in our bodily responses to external factors and stimuli. Surprisingly, however, these factors can alter the way that your genes work in turn. Epigenetics is the study of how your behaviour and environment can affect your genetic make-up. These changes are not necessarily permanent; they can be reversed. They temporarily alter how your body reads a DNA sequence.

The term “gene expression” is defined by Wikipedia as “The process by which information from a gene is used in the synthesis of a functional gene product that enables it to produce protein as the end product.” Epigenetic changes affect gene expression in different ways.

Epigenetics: DNA Methylation

When a chemical group is added to DNA, it’s known as DNA methylation. Typically, methylation turns genes “off” and demethylation turns genes “on.” The process works with certain proteins. Researchers and scientists are continuously trying to determine what association exists between these epigenetic processes and the health consequences; in particular, for the metabolism.

How Can Your Epigenetics Change?

Your body changes over time, and will naturally be affected by your behaviours, habits, lifestyle, and environment. This is partly due to the changes in your genes.

Epigenetics in the Womb

A developing foetus will endure many changes before he/she is born. Each cell responds differently, and as a baby grows and develops, epigenetics will help determine which cell has which function. Every one of our organs began as a microscopic cell and changed due to epigenetics.

Diet and Lifestyle Epigenetics

Everything from lifestyle diseases, how you perform athletically, how you metabolise certain medication, to how your body responds to certain foods all rely, to a certain extent, on your genes. Factors that may trigger your genes to change, either temporarily or permanently can include:

  • diet, 
  • obesity,
  • physical activity,
  • tobacco smoking,
  • alcohol consumption,
  • environmental pollutants,
  • psychological stress,
  • working hours

For more information on genes, as well as at home gene testing, contact our experts.