Life adapts when necessitated by changing conditions that impact survival. These are evolutionary pressures, with nutrition being probably the strongest. Flora bend toward the sun and plunge rooty tendrils deep into soil in search of moisture and minerals, while mobile organisms walk, run, fly, crawl, scrounge, or swim for food. Herbivores prefer to go where the vegetation is the densest and most nutritious, while predators follow close behind. Life is in constant flux, then, with food availability as the invisible hand directing traffic.
One of my favorite topics, as many of you know, is epigenetics. It’s the burgeoning area of science that has blown apart the traditional nature-nurture dichotomy by examining the lifestyle-induced activation or dampening of genes. Epigenetics is increasingly filling in the gaps for understanding and monitoring degenerative disease risk. If you’re relatively new to MDA, take a look-see at my past articles (Gene Expression, What I Mean By “Reprogramming Your Genes”, Gene Expression: Location, Location, Location, Environmental Toxins and Gene Expression, Epigenetics and Depression) for a good Primal introduction to the concept. That said, when it comes to science there’s always more to read and know. New discoveries. Bold initiatives. Elegant correlations. Confirmed expectations and unexpected wrinkles. It’s what gets me up and roaring in the morning. Gladly, I’m not the only one….
I’m fascinated by the idea that all the signals I send my body through diet and exercise and other environmental conditions can, as you say, literally reprogram my genes. I’m always on the lookout now for research that shows how lifestyle factors are related to gene expression. Have you seen anything new in your studies?
The following reader email brought to mind a NY Times article I read a few weeks ago. The article discusses a fairly new field of research that is uncovering the surprisingly fundamental and intricate ways our bodies influence our thinking and vice-versa. We’ve discussed the mind-body connection in the past, but embodied cognition puts the relationship in a new cast. Think motion-emotion, action-thought. It’s all integrated in ways you wouldn’t expect….
I’ve been a PBer for a couple years now and feel better than I ever have. I’m at this point interested in digging deeper into new areas of the PB. I’m intrigued by the mental-physical connection some of your posts and book refer to. Other than the relaxation and stress influence, what kind of sway does the mind-body thing really hold? How do you suggest harnessing it? Thanks and Grok on!
From time to time I’ll get a comment from a skeptical reader that says something like, “I don’t think it’s possible to reprogram your genes through diet/lifestyle. Of course our genes are set at birth and our DNA, or program, is copied into every cell of our bodies. You cannot modify or reprogram your genetic code.” I’d like to address this misunderstanding.
One of the best ways to illustrate what I mean by “reprogram your genes” is to use the analogy that Duke University’s Randy Jirtle, Ph.D., uses in the following videos. Think of your genome as being like computer hardware. If you were to program your computer you wouldn’t be changing the hardware, rather, you would be changing the software that tells the computer what to do. So just as we talk about reprogramming or programming a computer and don’t suggest that the hardware itself has changed we likewise can talk about reprogramming our genes without suggesting that the genes have changed. In the case of genes what we are really changing is the epigenome. To quote Dr. Jirtle, “the epigenome would be like the software that tells the computer when to work, how to work and how much.”
Luckily for us our genes are not our destiny. We have immense control through lifestyle behaviors to turn some genes on and other genes off for desired physical results. Watch these videos for it to all come together if it hasn’t already.
Effective, healthy weight loss isn’t only due to the simplistic calories in, calories out paradigm. Nor is it solely reliant on diet and exercise. It’s everything – it’s all the various signals our body receives from the environment that affect how our genes express themselves and thrive. How we approach the subject matters, too. Our mood, our methods, our temperament. Our conscious decisions and our willpower. It’s setting good habits and expunging bad ones. Most of all, it comes down to keeping our genes happy by providing an environment that approximates evolutionary precedent.
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