Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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May 24, 2010

Dear Mark: Latest in Gene Expression Research

By Mark Sisson
38 Comments

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….

Mark,

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?

Stephanie

Thanks to Stephanie for the shared enthusiasm and question for today. In the last several years, research into gene expression has garnered increasing attention and dollars. Popular media outlets like the Los Angeles Times, PBS and Time Magazine have devoted features to the field. I was even quoted (although quite out of context) in a recent LA Times piece on epigenetics. Foundations and government granting agencies have increasingly supported the expansion of epigenetic research, including a mapping of the human epigenome. (So far, Europe is ahead of the game.) Among the organizations doing amazing work in epigenetics is the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.

Much of recent epigenetic research delves into prenatal exposure and subsequent gene expression. Here are some highlights of the latest studies.

  • Researchers recently compared intestinal gene expression in breastfed and formula fed infants. The intestinal tract acts as a primary site for immune response, particularly in infants whose bodies must quickly learn to adapt to foreign foods outside the sterile womb environment. Glitches in intestinal (and related immune) development can cause food allergies, asthma and inflammatory bowel disease. Of particular note, gene expression that regulated cellular response to oxygen deprivation was more pronounced in breastfed babies, suggesting a possible cause for why breastfed infants have a lower SIDS risk.
  • Prenatal exposure to common environmental toxins can induce epigenetic changes that put a child at more risk for later cancer than post-birth exposure does. The study focused particularly on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are associated with oil and coal burning.

The take home message here is that you can literally reprogram your genes to live a long, healthy, productive, happy and energetic life. You can either sit idly by and end up a victim of poor gene expression, or you can take control of the signals you send your body (through diet, movement, stress management and many other lifestyle behaviors) and become the best version of you possible.

I’ll be sure to keep covering the latest epigenetic updates. Fascinating stuff to be sure. I hope these updates have offered some food for thought. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks again for the great comments and questions, and keep ‘em coming!

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38 Comments on "Dear Mark: Latest in Gene Expression Research"

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John Solter
6 years 4 months ago

Cool stuff. I wonder what people in the past thought was causing hormonal changes, weight increases, etc. before epigenetics came along. If something gets any sort of response from your body at all, then it has generally affected gene expression.

Darleen
Darleen
6 years 4 months ago

SPAM…Something
Particularily
Alias ed as
Meat

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[…] post by Mark Sisson […]

tpmjr42
tpmjr42
6 years 4 months ago

Hey Mark,

Did you see the article in the May 17, 2010 issue of Sports Illustrated entitled, “Sports Genes”? http://bit.ly/9ez1YP

They focus on “We are because we run” and much of the article revolves around the statement, “IN OUR GENES we are all distance runners.” On its face, it would seem to contradict what you write in PB, but would love to hear your take. The PB has become my filter.

Thanks

Paul

Primal Toad
6 years 4 months ago
I thoroughly enjoy reading the studies on epigenetics. Love to see a long list of studies all in one place. As I encourage people to buy the book and live a Primal lifestyle, this will be a great reference for anyone. Knowing you can reprogram your genes to live a long, vibrant, happy, healthy life by eating delicious foods is simply awesome. I am so far having success as I have gotten a few close people to take action. I am working on my family – but they are headed in the right direction. I feel incredibly blessed to be… Read more »
norcalgal
norcalgal
6 years 4 months ago

i love all this sort of research, keep it comin mark!

Marc
6 years 4 months ago

Mark,
Great info as always.

Any good research pointing to garlic, onion, broccoli cooked vs. raw?

Marc

Hannah
6 years 4 months ago
[quote]Researchers have identified food compounds that inhibit epigenetic dysfunction. Sulforaphane (broccoli), indole-3-carbinol (cruciferous vegetables) and organosulfur (garlic and onions) compounds are among the most protective food related substances discovered so far.[/qoute] It’s a good thing roasted broccoli and brussel sprouts, and cauliflower of any sort are some of my favorite vegetables! I love your posts on epigenetics, and learned a lot about epigenetics from a recent Nova special as well. It’s definitely a fascinating new scientific front. Thanks for including so much information about prenatal epigenetics too, it’s always great to see information relating to Primals of the female persuasion… Read more »
rik
rik
6 years 4 months ago

quite interesting..thanks

Primaltarian
6 years 4 months ago

Wow! Super interesting stuff Mark. I look forward to reading your blog everyday. Love learning new things and work that grey matter between my ears!! Thanks 🙂

LeonRover
LeonRover
6 years 4 months ago

Hello Mark

Were you aware of a book called Virolution by Frank Ryan ?

It outlines how viruses may play a role in epigenetics.

Susan
6 years 4 months ago

Hey thanks for the info, Mark! I am glad to know that by telling my clients to eat more broccoli and cauliflower and relying less on the typical American diet, I am not only helping them to lose fat but to reprogram their genes for better health!

Susan

johnnyboy
johnnyboy
6 years 4 months ago
Hey – this stuff has totally turned my life around. I’ve gone from being a skinny fat vegan to a totally alive being, because of this in less than three weeks. However, I have to seriously object to animal studies being used as proof for various things. Put bluntly a rabbit can eat a death cap mushroom that would kill Mark Sissons in no time. There’s no need to subject animal to pointless testing. Most of the science quoted on this site is crap.We are not mice. we do not react the same way to stuff. Quoting this s*** just… Read more »
Johnny
6 years 4 months ago

Think of an animal study as step 3 or step 4 in a 12-step program. It’s not the final step, but a necessary step for the scientific method.

David
6 years 4 months ago

Do we have to use the S word in a wholesome website post?
Hear you with your thoughts and concerns 🙂

Required name
Required name
6 years 4 months ago

<>

This is… overly simplistic.

Required name
Required name
6 years 4 months ago

My comment above was in reply to this statement, by johnnyboy: “We are not mice. we do not react the same way to stuff.”

(Embarrassed emoticon here)

johnnyboy
johnnyboy
6 years 4 months ago

Apologies for the s word – if I knew how to remove it would! This is what comes of posting after one glass of red wine and a cube of 85% chocolate too many. But my point remains the same. The thing I like about PB is it’s instinctiveness – not the science. Using animals is BAD science – they are the wrong model – nazi doctors knew this and were more than pleased to have an excuse to experiment on human subjects.

Aaron Curl
6 years 4 months ago

Never heard of epigenetics until today. Very interesting and reasuring because of all the cauliflower and broccoli I eat.

Mikki
Mikki
6 years 4 months ago
johnnyboy – get thee some scientific education!!! Animal models are excellent ways to elucidate the molecular mechanisms occurring at the cellular level. Examining the epigenetic changes that occur in response to a specific stimulus is a far cry from feeding a mouse a magic mushroom . The study of epigenetics (and it’s slightly older sister, microRNA), is truly in it’s infancy – we didn’t know this stuff existed 10 years ago. It’s a phenomenally complicated subject from the technology used to measure it to the statistics used to extract information from the gigabytes of data points generated from each experiment… Read more »
johnnyboy
johnnyboy
6 years 4 months ago

Mikki – ok i’m sure you’re right about the value of animals as models in some areas of scientific research. However, I don’t see why we need to spend millions of dollars and experiment on animals in order to find out that eating brocolli and onions and having a positive outlook is a good thing! People have known this for millenia. I don’t want to sound facetious but that’s what it looks like to me.

Johnny
6 years 4 months ago

1. Scientific studies are largely motivated by money.

2. Bottom line is that confirmation still needs to be made. (“Yeah, let’s send a person into outer space; he should be fine.”)

3. Confirmation adds to the body of knowledge that may spur other important hypothesis.

riceball
riceball
6 years 4 months ago

that is great, Mark, thanks!

Melodious
Melodious
6 years 4 months ago

Wow – that one about children’s memory and learning affected by mother’s childhood environment is depressing. It means we haven’t yet begun to see how raising our children on TV will affect our country. The impact will be severe on their children…

Mallory
6 years 4 months ago

i LOVE epigentics and reading about it!!!! Sports Illustrated did a few articles in their last issue about epigenetics, gene expression and it’s relation to running, sprinting, and human evolution. very interesting reads. they also discuss how we went from short squatty hairy people to animal eaters and acquired the ability to sprint, got taller and leaner!!

Mikki
Mikki
6 years 4 months ago

Be careful about reading those kinds of articles – they are full of speculation based on slim threads of evidence, turned into full-blown “theories” (I’d rather call them “stories”) for the sake of a pseudo-cutting-edge article that will appeal to their readers.

JussiRiekki
6 years 4 months ago

Mark,
how funny is this, I just wrote a blog post a day before this about exactly the same subject! Here (in finnish): http://jussiriekki.blogspot.com/2010/05/muistijaljet-geeneissa-epigeneettinen.html

We even used almost identical images hah!

I’m a new reader here, so I didn’t know you were into epigenetics. Cool! This is one of my favourite subject. I’m hosting a Finnish evolutionary fitness/health/nutrition/etc blog (first one in Finland perhaps?). Primal lifestyle is still pretty unknown phenomenon in Finland. Not for long though. 😉

Steve B
6 years 4 months ago
Epigenetics means above the genes, which means we can reprogram ourselves. It seems that thoughts and perception of the world, the attitudes we hold on a regular basis, and the diets we consume should all play a part. If we were permanently programmed without any ability to change what we inherited from our parents, what type of world would this be? We all have the capacity for positive change and this would obviously be shown on a genetic level. Otherwise we’d be carbon copies of our pasts without any ability to create new lives and better experiences for ourselves.
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