Are We A Product Of Our Environment?
Throughout this post, I shall talk about the epigenome and the Human Genome Project, why our outcome of performance can be decided upon the environment we surround ourselves in, genetics, and nutrition, and how these 3 rely upon one another. Your DNA is like your own blueprint, and it remains the same. However, you can change the way your DNA reacts in ways such as nutrition, and how certain parts of your DNA can be read and implemented. Further on we look into scientific studies carried out by the WWF on breast milk and pesticides found in the human body from external factors.
The Human Genome Project is a research group from UK, Japan, France, Germany and China to identify the DNA of 20,000 to 25,000 humans.
The epigenome is similar to the genomic hardware of the human system.
All of our cells contain the same DNA and genes, but it is the epigenome that decides how these genes are expressed and determines how a cell becomes a an organ or a strand of hair etc etc.
Only 5% of the population have a genetic defect. The other 95% are genetically healthy.
Your DNA changes how your genes are expressed.
Your epigenome reacts to your diet and factors from your environment, which changes throughout your lifetime.
The way your body expresses your genetics is modifiable. You can change it by the chemical environment you surround yourself in. The foods you eat, the supplements you take, the air you breath and how stressed you feel.
As you can see in the chart, your health/performance state depends on your environment, and your genes.
Your environment is problematic ie, if you eat badly, live in a heavily polluted place, you exercise too little, and suffer with acute psychological stress, you are less likely to exceed your ability to achieve your potential and you may eventually develop health issues.
Whatever the health issue you have (allergies, Diabetes, metabolic disorders), it is seen as what happens when your total environmental capacity exceeds your particular genetic ability to achieve your potential.
At any one time you have millions of genetic expressions that are determined by a huge range of epigenetic factors.
You can change your genetic expression by changing the environment that you are in. Methylation is a way in which your body functions at 100%. When you don’t methylate correctly, this is when your body can run into problems. By adding or subtracting methyl tags, you either activate or suppress the expression of the genes.
A fault in the methylation process occurs when free radicals or oxidants occur. These are molecules that are being created constantly by the food we eat, smoking, sunlight, and pollution.
How to combat oxidation and free radicals in our body? Vitamins A, C and E from our foods are all good sources of anti oxidants. As well as our diet, our bodies can detoxify these oxidants and free radicals. Humans have always lived in a toxic environment, ie stress and pollution, however, we have still evolved. The problem comes when we stay in these toxic environments and pump ourselves with oxidised foods that our body just can’t handle. Hence the rise in cancer and metabolic disorders in recent years. We have forgotten that our body needs a bit of a helping hand with nutrition. Boosting the intake of B6 and B12, and folic acid is another way of keeping your DNA methylation on target.
Another way in which we can help our body methylate oxidise efficiently is activities that relax the response such as yoga and meditation which has been proven to reduce oxidative stress.
Anti-oxidants as mentioned before, especially EGCG (epigallocatechin 3 gallate) which is found in green tea, has shown to prevent cancer in a study back in 2003 (see here). The research proved how EGCG inhibits faulty methylation and reactivates cancer fighting genes.
Environmental damage that we are constantly being exposed to is significant in our health. Pesticides and other toxic chemicals are in everyday foods, which is why reading up on
(see chart) is important. (NOTE - this chart does not take into account the foods that are GMO. So lets take it that each food on here is non GMO)
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) published a report in 2004 showing that 47 members of the European Parliament that were tested, 41 of which has synthetic chemicals in their blood. Synthetic chemicals such as a banned pesticide from Monsanto called DDT. A suspected chemical in the cause of breast cancer.
WWF report also found the 350 contaminants in breast milk included DDT and flame retardants. Chemicals such as nonylphenol, which is found in paints, detergents, toiletries, agricultural chemicals etc, have an effect similar to oestrogen, which is a hormone that encourages growth. An overgrowth of cells is cancer.
Because everyone is so different at a DNA and cellular level, we can’t always listen to experts opinions saying we need X number cups of water a day, or X number of fruit and veg a day. What can work for you, may not work for somebody else. This is why it is so important to have an individualised program, be it for exercise or for diet.
So, are you a result of nature (your DNA) or nurture (your environment)? The answer is you are both.