APRIL 2014. Let’s get some definitions straight – Epigenetics is the branch of biology that studys changes in the gene that are not attributable to DNA changes. From an every day definition, it means that there ways to change one’s genetic profile. In fact, it’s done on a daily basis. One way to look at this would be to say that the specific bands of protein in a DNA strand (the four components – Adenine, Guanine, Cytocine, and Thymine) may be altered through a specific mechanism that is not a pre-determined pattern.
One way is nutrition. This is becoming a hot topic in biology, because for one the average person can understand that they may INDEED have some level of control over their biological destiny.
With that said, a new article published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer a few months ago (see reference link) discusses the link between nutrition and cancer from an epigenetic standpoint. Here are the highlights:
The main mechanisms of epigenetic control in mammals are DNA methylation, histone modifications, and RNA silencing. The potential reversibility of epigenetic changes suggests that they could be modulated by nutrition and bio-active food compounds. Thus, epigenetic modifications could mediate environmental signals and provide a link between susceptibility genes and environmental factors in the etiology of cancer.
What does this mean? First it states that DNA is controlled in a certain way through specific pathways. However – with nutrition it is possible to reverse or change some of these pathways that could change signals in those pathways that may lead to cancer.
Let’s take an example – protein powder. Many body builders and athletes supplement their diet with protein powder that supplies not just specific amino acids, but many types of other vitamins and minerals in one glass. The use of this over time may repair or cause changes in DNA bonds which in turn may lead to specific metabolic “signals” being created (or expressed). It would be something like – a person who is chronically protein deficient (or not able to use protein efficiently), may over time express certain signals that would lead to cancer. Whereas the person who is active and takes protein powder may change the expression of those protein chains, and over time reduce or eliminate a particular metabolic expression that leads to cancer. Over time the authors call this “Transgenerational Epigenetic Changes” - which means they may happen over time. There are about five specific biological changes detailed in this report – and I won’t comment on them specifically. However – the conclusions of this (and other) report(s) is that what we’ve been told about genetics in the past 30-40 years (you can’t change it – it’s genetic), may not be true. It takes a cancer article to point us in the right direction – that environmental factors such as proper nutrition (and I will add supplementation) may have a huge impact on the initial development of a cancer tumor, or the speed of development of those tumors within the body.
We have a ways to go before we know the true impact of epigenetics on health – and how it gets translated to everyday language. However – this report gives us a start on what may be one of the most important types of biology papers that has a public HEALTH impact!. This article is produced by European researchers, so the interest in this area is now international.
What impact does this have on Cancer Wellness? It may show that nutrition could be the most important lifestyle intervention that could prevent or alter the course of cancer. Over the past 30 years holistic health practitioners have screamed that fast food, dietary sugars, fats, and plain old overeating may be one of the main culprits in cancer development. With the science of epigenetics to confirm their bellows – we may find out that they were right all along. More information on this in future posts.
In health – Eric
Wallach, JD, Lan, M, Schrauzer, GN. Epigenetics. The Death of the Genetic Theory of Disease Transmission. 2014. Select Books, New York.