Just got back from the 6th International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition held in Loma Linda, CA. This is a conference where research papers about vegetarianism are presented. It happens once every 5 years. So, those famous studies such as the EPIC-Oxford study, Framingham study, Nurses Health study get a chance to state their updated data with regards to veggie life.
The most interesting one I saw was Dr. John Kelly speaking about epigenetics. Here is part of the definition of epigenetics by John Cloud from a Time Magazine article, “epigenetics is the study of changes in gene activity that do not involve alterations to the genetic code.” What does that mean?
Ok, as oppose to what most people think, your genes and the work they do is not set in stone. Your genes have on and off switches. There are some basic biological actions that can turn the switches in one direction or the other. One example of a flipping of a switch is the beginnings of a beard as a young man . . . or an old woman.
In epigenetics, we don’t get rid of the on/off switch or change the wall it is attached to. Rather, we see that lifestyle factors alone can flick a switch, such as food you eat. Dr. Kelly demonstrates this in the Agouti mouse. This was a female mouse programed with a genetic code for obesity and fed a diet during pregnancy to turn off the gene. The Agouti mom gives birth. The offspring doesn’t look fat like mom, however, it carries this gene. And unlike mom, the gene is turned off.
What this says is that what mom ate changed the gene in the offspring. What is more is that they found the gene switch change held for another few generations. This type of gene switch expression was also seen in humans, although in a different type of study.
Okay, so you may be understanding how you can get stuff from mom, but here’s a fact I had completely forgotten about with regards to anatomy and physiology of a human. You, at least in some faction, were created inside your grandmother’s womb. Yep. Your mother’s ovaries and eggs were created while she was still a fetus. So if grandma was chowing down on the beer and potato chips that just may explain you. Or if grandma was munching the greens on the farm that could have led to a different outcome.
I’m left wondering if the processing of foods in the 50’s and 60’s, then eaten by pregnant women, added to host of allergies that seem to plague every dinner party. Which switches do the current typhoon of added chemicals to our diets get pushed in the other direction?
Ladies, I don’t mean to lay the ills of the world at your feet. Rather, I’m excited knowing that you can truly change it.