How Our Lifestyle Affects Our Genes28/03/2022, Dr Liza Osagie, Solice Health
How often do we hear that “running is in my blood”, or simply easy weight gain “is in my genes”; but an unspoken truth may be the very opposite, that our lifestyles and diets are affecting our DNA.
Of course we are all born with a certain genetic code, but the programming of these genes is in part nurture as well as nature. The term biohacking is truly en vogue and for good reason, our lifestyle, habits and daily activities all play a role in modifying how our genes are expressed; and indeed, although we may not be able to alter the genes themselves, the 12hrs on zoom, afternoon Pilates session or the habitual morning double espresso-all effect which gene is “turned on”.
Importantly, these changes can last longer than a lifetime, studies have suggested BPA found in the plastics of food containers and water bottles can rapidly affect estrogen levels and eventually lead to alterations in our actual DNA for up to 2 generations. Similarly, studies of those born during times of famine, have found their offspring six decades later had increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, an effect put down to the way later generations are programmed to store and react to food.
Put simply, our day to day activity and diet choices have an impact on our bodies now and for generations to come.
Epigenetics and Lifestyle
While of course we can alter our lifestyle to improve not only our physical and mental function; inherently our body knows which genes are turned on and turned off. Diet, exercise and mindful choices all impact which genes are shouting the loudest-a phenomena known as epigenetics. Epigenetics is the study of how your behaviours and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work. Unlike genetic changes, epigenetic changes are reversible and do not change your DNA sequence, but they can change how your body reads a DNA sequence. Common epigenetic modifications are reversible through lifestyle choices, iv therapies and nutrition, suggesting the ability to halt the effect on gene expression and stop the passing on of undesirable characteristics and traits.
With advances in our understanding of epigenetics and the impact of lifestyle, we can not only track our ageing but also monitor which genes are most active. DNA methylation is the most studied epigenetic factor and involves a chemical compound, the so-called methyl groups, attaching to genes and regulatory regions of the DNA, thereby affecting which genes are turned on and off. Simple home blood tests now provide answers to exactly how our daily activities are impacting our long-term genetic health, and guide changes to fully optimise mind and body. Genome and exome testing such as Scopious, aid in identifying lifestyle factors and genetic factors-highlighting how we individually respond to medication, our environment and susceptibility to diseases.
In addition to our environment, nutrition clearly plays a central role to our health, this is true of our genetic function too. Nutrigenomics is the study of the effects of food constituents on gene expression, and how genetic variations affect the nutritional environment. A holistic approach, nutrigenomics examines the relationship between what we eat and our risk/response to disease and genetic expression; with studies investigating the specific relationships between nutrition and genes that code for gut health, obesity and mental health. While nutrigenetics is the converse, providing information about how our personal genome should inform what and when we eat to maximize health. In combination nutrigenomics and nutrigenetics add to our armoury of knowledge to empower our choices and mediate lifestyle impact on our gene expression.
Whether its biohacking, diet modifications or simply being mindful of your movement-every aspect of our lifestyle affects your genetics and those of your children and grandchildren to come
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|About The Author|
Dr Liza Osagie MD PhD, is an award winning surgeon and the founder of Solice Health, an international medical concierge redefining personalised medicine. With offices in London, New York and LA, Solice is leading the way in bespoke wellness, with an individualised and discrete approach to client care supporting them through every aspect of their health journey.