The common refrain, “She must have good genes,” is, for all intents and purposes, an expression of surrender. After all, when it comes to our genetic makeup, the reigning wisdom is that our DNA structure arrives with the stork and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.
Every school kid learns the principles of Darwin’s natural selection theory, which explains that major evolutionary changes occur over millions of years. In other words, when it comes to genes, you’re pretty much stuck with what you get.
But what if we did have control over these complex blueprints, the factors that are seemingly set in stone and yet responsible for our predetermined likelihood of getting certain diseases, how we’ll age, and what exactly we’ll pass on to our children? The ridiculously fascinating science of epigenetics focuses on recently introduced evidence that suggests environmental conditions can affect how our genes express themselves, and even how we can pass new traits along the next generation (read: our kids), instead of waiting a millennia.
This news is kind of awesome, yet totally terrifying at the same time. Here’s why.
What Does it Mean?
Thousands of different genes make us susceptible to chronic diseases like heart disease, obesity, diabetes and cancer. According to epigenetic theory, whether or not these genes are expressed as diseases is determined by how you live your life. You may be susceptible to obesity or heart disease, but if you take the proper lifestyle measures, you may not succumb to them.
Several studies have shown that changing lifestyle causes changes in gene expression. Factors like stress, diet, behavior and toxins could activate chemical switches that turn genes on and off and regulate gene expression.
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