Epigenetics, the science of ‘gene expression’, is one of the most exciting medical developments of today. No longer is it true that the genes we are born with are our destiny and that disease ‘runs in the family’.
Epigenetics demonstrates that we have more control over our health then we think. Where does the control lie? We can’t change our genes, however we can change the way our genes express themselves. With 98% of our genes that can be ‘turned on’ or ‘off’; the other 2 percent that control eye and hair colour for example are fixed.
Diet is fundamental in this process: The nutrients extracted from food enter metabolic pathways where they are manipulated, modified and moulded into molecules the body can use. One such pathway is responsible for making methyl groups, which are vital epigenetic tags that ‘silence’ genes.
By better understanding the connections between diet and the epigenome, clinical applications become possible. As mapping gene variations shed light into personal medical needs, so might a profile of one’s unique epigenome.
Our epigenome unveils a wealth of information about how to eat better. Enter the future field of Nutrigenomics, where nutritionists study one’s methylation pattern to design a personalised nutrition plan to keep disease away. We can already tell a lot about disease risk by looking at individual family health history patterns and eat in a way that helps silence that gene.
If you have diabetes in the family, even though you have not yet shown any signs of it, it is advisable to keep sugar and simple carbohydrates in the diet to a bare minimum from a young age.