Epigenetics-We are What We Eat!!
Nutrition has always played a cardinal role in shaping our general health. Public health and other health professionals have consistently emphasized the need for good dietary habits to promote health and prevention of disease. Therefore, it is not surprising to learn that researchers in these same fields postulate that epigenetic mechanisms can mediate between nutrient inputs and long-term phenotypic changes in human beings. These phenotypic changes also seem to account for ensuing biological changes associated with aging. Nutrients from the various foods that we consume can have a modifying influence on epigenetic events such as obesity, diabetes and cancer. Consequently, scientists have concluded that there is at least an indirect epigenetic link between what we eat and our health. If this is the case, then it is also safe to postulate that epigenetics can also alter longevity. Studies in animal models as well as human studies seem to support this hypothesis, according to claims by Niculescu and Lupu (2011), in their article, Nutritional Influence on Epigenetics and Effects on Longevity. Although nutrition is not the only determinant for longevity, it plays a significant role and we can only ignore its effects to our detriment. Interactions between genes and nutrients can regulate metabolic processes that can expedite pathogenesis or development of such diseases as obesity, which is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes and other health conditions. Data supporting the knowledge of the effect of nutrients on epigenetic regulation of gene expression in organisms have increased over the years. For instance, fetal programming of epigenetic patterns have been found to be influenced by maternal nutritional choices. An interesting case involves use of synthetic folate supplementation. Synthetic folic acid use has traditionally been recommended by health care providers to mothers during conception for prevention of birth defects of the neural tube, orofacial clefts, and congenital heart defects. In the United States and Canada folic acid fortification of food has been introduced and promoted, widely. But synthetic folic acid supplementation during perinatal development has been found to be associated with epigenetic changes in the IGF2 gene of the baby. These changes can affect intrauterine programming, which is a deviation from patterns of normal development. This deviation increases the risk for development of diseases throughout the child’s life (Steegers-Theunissen, et al. 2009). Research findings claim that periconceptional folic acid use is associated with an increased risk of obstructive urinary tract defects, insulin resistance and colon cancer (Roberfroid et al., 2008). The altered epigenetic regulation of growth processes due to use of periconceptional folic acid has been linked to onset of myriad chronic diseases later in the life of the child. More research is ongoing to explore and assess the effects of a broader range of various nutrients on epigenetic modifications of various genes.
God gave ancient Israel specific dietary guidelines for spiritual purification, health-promotion and longevity. It is fascinating that, even in our day, those seeking healthy diets usually choose to subsist on kosher products, which are foods usually prepared according to biblical guidelines. Obviously, there is a need to revisit these eating rules afresh as expounded in Scripture. Maybe our need for synthetic supplements that alter epigenetic regulation will be reduced.