Epigenetics is the study of how your behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work.
Epigenetic research is bringing forth the incredibly powerful knowledge that contrary to what we may have been taught, it’s not our genes that cause health or lack thereof, but rather it’s the behaviors and environment to which we subject our cells, that determines how our genes react or adapt.
The study of epigenetics offers us great hope in the reality that we are not victim to the genes we were born with, but instead the choices we make, the things we eat, the way we think, the actions we make, and the ways we choose to live our lives actually matter and make a difference in the expression of our genes.
One of my favorite books for beginning to understand the power of epigenetics is The Biology of Belief, by Dr. Bruce Lipton.
Below are 10 summaries with the linked corresponding epigenetic preconception research compiled from The Schaefer Protocol and Dr. Marcia Schaefer.
Inadequate Protein and Metabolic Disorders
- It’s known that parents who eat diets inadequate in protein or high in fat, lay the foundation for future metabolic disorders in their offspring once they reach adulthood. This current study in mice adds to the knowledge of the molecular mechanisms that cause this to happen.
Placenta Dominated By Father
- New Cornell research shows that the placenta, which is an organ only the mother and fetuses share, actually grows according to the blueprints given from the father. This 2013 study shows that paternal genes dominate in the placenta, which is the temporary organ integrating mother and embryo until birth. This basic biology revelation could help breed better offspring and explain crippling developmental diseases.
Insulin Resistance and Insufficient Milk Supply
- This recent groundbreaking study by Lemay, Ballard, Hughes, Morrow, Horseman, & Nommsen-Rivers in 2013 revealed that when a mother is insulin resistant, a particular gene is expressed more prominently than in insulin-sensitive individuals. This genetic expression suggests a relationship between insulin resistance and insufficient milk supply. While not always comorbid—an individual can be insulin resistant and appear lean and thin, just as a person with a higher BMI may be appropriately insulin sensitive and healthy—insulin resistance and high BMI are often seen together. But, does high BMI impair the ability of the existing glandular tissue to lactate properly, or was insulin resistance during puberty to blame for inadequate and incomplete development of the breast glands?
Cesarean Section and Immunological Diseases
- This new study from Karolinska Institutet indicates that the mode of delivery (birth) could make an imprint in the stem cells of the newborn infant. These findings may be of interest for understanding why individuals born by cesarean section statistically have an increased risk of immunological diseases. These results show specific epigenetic differences between the groups in almost 350 DNA regions, including genes known to be involved in processes controlling metabolism and immune defense.
Sperm Quality and Father’s Health
- As sperm traverse the male reproductive system, they acquire non-genetic cargo that fundamentally alter them before ejaculation. This study shows that these modifications not only communicate the father’s current state of wellbeing, but can also have drastic consequences on the viability of future offspring.
RNAs and Early Development
- RNAs delivered to the zygote at fertilization can affect early development. This study tested the hypothesis that small RNAs are trafficked to mammalian sperm during the process of post-testicular maturation in the epididymis.
Fertility Treatments and Epigenetic Disorders
- Though epigenetic disorders—diseases caused by faulty gene expression—are still rare overall, babies born using fertility treatments have up to an 11-fold higher risk of inheriting them. According to this new mouse study from the Magee- Womens Research Institute (MWRI), the problem likely lies with the technology, not the mother’s age.
Epigenetics and Control of Our Outcomes
- The periconception period starts 6 months before conception and lasts until the tenth week of gestation, but epigenetic effects potentially last a lifetime. This study helps us understand how epigenetics shapes us, and how we have more control over the outcome, than we previously believed.
Fertilization and Glycans
- This study shows that most proteins are glycosylated, with glycans being integral structural and functional components of a glycoprotein. In contrast to polypeptides, which are fully encoded by the corresponding gene, glycans result from a dynamic interaction between the environment and a network of hundreds of genes. Our epigenome is made up of our communication of both outside the cell and inside the cell. Fertilization is a results of glycans from egg and sperm combining.
Prenatal Environment and Preterm Delivery
- The prenatal environment has become increasingly recognized as an important predictor of immediate and long-term risk for chronic conditions, but there are few biological markers that identify those at risk for common pregnancy complications, such as preterm birth (PTB). This study shows that early identification of mothers at increased risk for preterm delivery or of children at risk of developmental consequences resulting from preterm birth may facilitate effective prenatal or postnatal interventions.
The Pathogenic vs. Salutogenic Models
BONUS: We make decisions in health based on what our foundations tell us. The pathogenic model looks to treat the disease, whereas the salutogenic model looks to understand the person and situation. This article is a great read to introduce a new way of thinking about your health.