It was not long ago that conventional wisdom told us that our genes basically determine who we are. Having “bad genes” meant we were doomed. The concept of epigenetics – the study of how external factors turn genes on and off – has challenged this conventional wisdom and rewritten aspects of scientific knowledge on human genetics. I love it when old theories are dispelled and new information emerges.
For a brief history ….
At the end of the last century the Human Genome Project set forth to map out the human genome. It was completed in 2004 and approximately 20,500 genes were identified. This is the same amount of genes found in mice. It turns out there were non-coding proteins that were labeled as “junk DNA.” These proteins, however, were not junk and quite important. They actually modulate or regulate our genes. Simply stated, our actions (or in-actions) influence how we express our genes.
This knowledge is great power. Genes are the blueprints cells rely on to grow, repair, and rejuvenate. We have influence over our genes by what we choose to do in our everyday lives. This is the power of epigenetics. We can choose to be more physically active, eat more greens (a huge powerhouse of energy), and to rest and relax. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Science has recently shown that actions such as volunteering, being more loving and kind, spending time with family and friends and having an optimistic attitude all have a positive influence on our health.
Even in these uncertain times we have the choice to make simple decisions that have tremendous impact. Let us not forget this important truth. So as the warmer weather arrives, take time to exercise, enjoy healthy meals, be kind to one another and ourselves, and most importantly have fun!