Word Nerd Wednesday: Epigenetics

One of the many blessings of having intelligent, well-read friends is that you often find yourself engaged in fascinating conversations about all manner of things. Topics wander deliciously from one subject to the next and before you know it, someone stops and says, “Wait. What is that? I don’t think I’ve ever heard that word before.” It was such a confabulation that lead to this week’s word: epigenetic.

Epigenetic:  of, relating to, or produced by the chain of developmental processes in epigenesis that lead from genotype to phenotype after the initial action of the genes

I’m still working all of this out, but researching an answer to the age-old question of nature versus nurture inevitably leads you to the study of epigenetics, and epigeneticists say the answer to the question is that nature and nurture have a huge impact on why each of us is the way we are. As a Christian, I am firmly persuaded that nature plays one part, nurture another, and our own free will as moved by consciences plays yet another. We are a spirit, possess a soul and live in a body.

However, it’s no accident that I am generally comfortable in 80-degree heat while my friend of Scottish descent finds it particularly stifling. African genes tend to prefer warmer climes. Or that regardless of how much I work out, my arms are weak and wobbly compared to those of a 15-year-old boy, even if he never worked out. Men and women are different. The website What is Epigenetics describes it this way:

Here’s an analogy that might further help you to understand what epigenetics is, as presented in Nessa Carey’s Epigenetics Revolution. Think of the human lifespan as a very long movie. The cells would be the actors and actresses, essential units that make up the movie. DNA, in turn, would be the script — instructions for all the participants of the movie to perform their roles. Subsequently, the DNA sequence would be the words on the script, and certain blocks of these words that instruct key actions or events to take place would be the genes. The concept of genetics would be like screenwriting. Follow the analogy so far? Great. The concept of epigenetics, then, would be like directing. The script can be the same, but the director can choose to eliminate or tweak certain scenes or dialogue, altering the movie for better or worse. After all, Steven Spielberg’s finished product would be drastically different than Woody Allen’s for the same movie script, wouldn’t it?

Now you know a little about epigenetics.


4 thoughts on “Word Nerd Wednesday: Epigenetics

  1. smkoseki says:

    The book Deep Nutrition by Shanahan ( https://www.amazon.com/Deep-Nutrition-Your-Genes-Traditional-ebook-dp-B01G1J7WEU/dp/B01G1J7WEU/ref=mt_kindle?_encoding=UTF8&me=&qid= ) really drove home epigenetics for me.

    Another deep dive on this topic? Photos of twins and siblings eating different things found in Human Nutrition and Degeneration by Price ( http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200251h.html ). There is no other rational explanation for this than epigenetics.

    My thinking of epigenetics? Everything depends on what the people that built our genes ate, most importantly the person themselves, and the closer to the source in time and genetics, the more it matters.

    It’s amazing: when we started to look it was everywhere: we can now easily see the difference in our own kids: the younger the better as our diet improved due to reading this stuff. It’s real visible: we can see it in their teeth, skin, hair, overall health. Makes me very sad how we screwed our older kids without knowing it (even when eating only home-cooked foods but lots of grains)…but at least it was nothing like how bad we were screwed by our parents re: epigenetics. Really sad how mothers have completely lost this critical component to family happiness: cooking nutritious food. Culture was lost nearly overnight, 1900-2000 for most families.

    My prediction: in 50 years we will consider kids eating processed food to be worse than our kids smoking cigarettes. Why the Japanese have low cancer rates yet smoke like chimneys. All due to what we are discovering regarding epigenetics will make these conclusions inescapable.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Elspeth says:

    My thinking of epigenetics? Everything depends on what the people that built our genes ate, most importantly the person themselves, and the closer to the source in time and genetics, the more it matters.

    Interesting.Even though I agree that this plays a major part in terms of development and health outcomes, I think it’s a little more complex than that in other areas.

    For example I believe that my husband’s Caribbean ancestry plays a role in the fact that he has a much higher tolerance for and enjoyment of very spicy foods than someone of say, Scandinavian ancestry.


  3. smkoseki says:

    I get your point. I don’t think epigentics denies genetics proper; it merely recognizes we are mostly “junk” DNA and what genes get expressed depend on the environment applied over many generations: or as the bible warns consequences may pass on to the third and the fourth generations…

    One check: important genetic fixes are strangely not overly forthcoming even with the human genome mapped (look at male pattern baldness or male birth control, both that have a LOT of money behind them, yet show no progress). These clearly genetic issues cannot easily be fixed likely because it’s all about gene expression, which makes what should be a simple genetic fix incredibly complex.

    I worked at a facility at the forefront of the Human Genome Project back in the day and many were shocked how fast it the genome was developed yet how slow the fruits from this data have been arriving. IMO it’s all because of junk DNA and dietary expression. My fav example I gave above, how Japanese don’t get much cancer from smoking, yet American Japanese do. Same genetics, different expression, probably due to diet. And I’m guessing the science to this will become overwhelming soon. But I’ve been wrong before…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. hearthie says:

    Rando comment about smoking… I was doing research at work the other day and came on a gov’t study of vitamin C serum levels. Seems that smokers have *half* the serum levels of C as non-smokers. Of course C is an antioxidant, cancer-fighting vitamin. Maybe the traditional (not current!) Japanese diet is higher in C than is ours?
    (I had read years back that smokers need more C than non smokers, which is why, when I’m being virtuous about my allergies instead of efficient, I megadose C to deal with the smog, which is what irritates me enough to have allergies. I didn’t know about the serum C study though).

    Patterns. Patterns interest me. If you know someone raised on an old-school farm, they tend to be SO much healthier/more resilient than city folk. (Someone raised in a heavily sprayed farm might have some of that oomph, but it gets used up in the garbage and the cancer.) The microbiome affects way more than we are currently aware, IMO. I think as continued studies come out in this area, we’re going to see a lot of habit change … for those who can afford to do so. SMK you’re definitely ahead of the curve here.

    Whyyyy do we have so many more food allergies now? It’s not all people being lolo. Those peanut allergies… they just didn’t exist when we were kids. Or it was “poor Judy, the cousin of my neighbor’s hairdresser”, not someone you actually *knew*. I know people who were affected by the water problems at Camp Lejeune – it caused a lot of nasty stuff. -shakes head- Why are we so intent on destroying what we were to steward? -sigh-

    Interesting stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

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