Epigenetics: Why Your Lifestyle Choices May Leave Your Family a Legacy of Health

by Carra Richling
Photo Credit: Juhan Sonin, via Flickr Creative Commons
Pin it 
Link to it 
Comment <>
Dr. Dean Ornish and his colleagues broke ground with their research showing 
that genes are not your fate. They found our lifestyle choices could turn on or 
off more than 500 genes <> 
that affect your health. Now new research in the emerging field of epigenetics 
is finding that a healthy diet and lifestyle may not only changes your genes 
and improve your health, but these choices will set up your children and 
grandchildren to have healthier lives.
Imagine if you could influence the genes you inherited 

Consider heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States for 
both men and women. Nearly 610,000 Americans die from it every year—that’s one 
in every four deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control 
Genetic predisposition and lifestyle choices are contributing risk factors for 
developing cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. So imagine if you could 
influence the genes you inherited that might place you at risk for such 
diseases? How would you change if you knew it would not only improve your own 
health, but also the health of future generations?
Reading Our Genes

A July 2016 study published by scientists at Tufts University in the journal 
Advances in Nutrition found that epigenetics (“epi” means above), a mechanism 
that directs our DNA, is far more influential on our health than we thought. By 
changing our our diet, epigenetics may affect how our genetic code (DNA) can 
influence our health <> and 
that of our children and grandchildren.
All of our cells have coding information in the form of DNA, but our genes 
alone don’t know what to do without direction. Epigenetic markers―think of them 
as sign-post tags―tell our cells how to read our genetic code. We pass our DNA 
and these markers onto our children. But while our genetic code stays the same 
throughout our life, epigenetic markers can change based on our life 
Over the years, studies have shown how epigenetic alterations may influence our 
health from inflammation, obesity, and metabolic syndrome, to heart disease, 
diabetes, cancer and aging. This research 
 has found that certain plant phytochemicals promote antioxidant and 
anti-inflammatory activities. These phytochemicals can influence how our DNA 
determines our body’s response to stress, metabolism, and immune function. 
These responses, in turn, can affect whether or not we develop certain cancers 
and diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The Case for Healthy Lifestyle Choices

There’s little doubt that unhealthy lifestyle choices can alter how genes 
behave in a way that promotes disease. For example, when Dr. Ornish and his 
colleagues followed a group of men to learn how intensive diet and lifestyle 
changes affected prostate cancer, they learned that these changes affected 
certain genes <> that 
impacted the progression or regression of prostate cancer.
How Our Choices Affect Future Generations

What’s more, research has shown that the lifestyle choices you make now are so 
important because of how they affect your genetic legacy, including the 
prenatal impact they can have. A June, 2016 study published in Cell Reports 
found that a mother’s obesity can impair the health of at least three later 
generations <> 
by causing genetic abnormalities which influence obesity-related conditions, 
such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
An earlier 2011 study published in the journal Circulation examined the role 
epigenetic changes play in heart disease 
<> and the impact of 
nutrition and environmental factors on inherited traits. The researchers found 
a poor prenatal diet, such as inadequate intake of protein or folate during 
pregnancy, can result in low-birth weight. These factors can influence the risk 
for metabolic and cardiovascular diseases later in life.
The takeaway? By making healthy choices now in what you eat, how much you 
exercise and how you manage stress and relationships, you may be able to leave 
a legacy of health. Now that’s a game changer.
Do you think about how your diet and lifestyle choices are affecting your 
future generations?

Reply via email to