Our underlying “genetic” make up determines how our bodies function, what they look like and how they develop. It is what makes us individual. Our DNA codes our genetic make up. It can be thought of as a set of building blocks, paired then twisted together, hence its nickname the “double helix”. An uncoiling of these strands occurs for the information to be “read”. Just like letters that form words, construct sentences, then paragraphs, chapters and ultimately a book, our DNA tells the story of our entire body.
Although our DNA sequence is inherited from our parents, the way in which this information is read can be altered. How the DNA is packaged, processed and expressed can ultimately determine how it is “interpreted”. Think of this like altering the comas, full stops and grammar in your work; it can change the entire meaning of your sentence. Environmental factors can influence this DNA “read”. Just like a switch that turns light on and off, certain factors have been shown to activate or silence certain genes that would have otherwise remained dormant or active. This can affect how that DNA ultimately functions despite it being made up of the exact same building blocks. This phenomenon is known as “epigenetics”.
Research is now emerging that the changes that occur to our DNA expression, or “read”, by epigenetic factors can be passed on to our children and even their children. Diet has been closely associated with epigenetic variance. Scientists have made links on how diabetes and fat intake in a pregnancy, for example, can affect the unborn fetus, their subsequent risks in developing conditions later in life and their risk of passing these traits onto their children. What we choose to expose ourselves to affects not only our bodies but those of our children and even grandchildren! Food for thought.