Can lifestyle choices, diet, and environmental exposures of a parent affect their children’s health and longevity? The latest research says yes.
This week my blog on this webpage and on saratoga.com focuses on specific examples of how the environment and nutritional status of parents can affect a child’s genetic expression and resultant disease risk.
I give four simple tips on my saratoga.com blog to optimize epigenetic inheritance and dive more into the science aspect of genetic variation and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) testing on this blog.
Genetic Variations and Why They Effect Health
Every month functional medicine practitioners who have a membership with the Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM) get access to their monthly Connections newsletter. This weekend I was listening to a feature audio from Functional Medicine Update with Dr. Jeffrey Bland, the “father of functional medicine,” interviewing Dr. Michael Nova, the Chief Medical Officer of Pathway Genomics. The interview was very timely because, in late 2013, the FDA issued a warning to 23andMe, a consumer-focused genetic testing company. This warning pertained to their health-related claims about disease risk given to consumers who purchased the company’s genetic test results.
I have had clients bring me their results of 23andMe in the past to discuss how certain genetic variations in enzyme pathways, including detoxification enzymes, methylation markers, and the impact of their interactions affect their wellness. The latter point is important, as only prescribing or making assumptions based on one test out of context with the whole clinical picture including symptoms, lifestyle, and health history, isn’t always the best idea.
Probably the best example and most known genetic variant is the MTHFR (Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase) single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP). This enzyme pathway is very important because methylation affects many health conditions including immune issues, brain chemistry, heart health, and blood sugar regulation. The treatment most clinicians offer is a natural form of folic acid and a specific form of B12 (Methylcobalamin) to help the enzyme speed up. Unfortunately, for some, this can aggravate symptoms if they have another variant enzyme such as COMT (catechol-O-methyltransferase), which causes issues with breaking down methyl donors.
Another important point the interview brought up is the power we have in our hands to modulate how genes express themselves. I was fascinated to learn that the BRCA gene was really mostly relevant for an increased risk of cancer in Ashkenazi Jewish population verses Caucasian woman. This is an excellent example of how it is the interaction of our environment with genetics that is most important.
Below are some examples of the role of our external environment, food choices, and lifestyle play on impacting our genetic “risk” for disease expression.
Mom’s Dietary Role on Her Offspring’s Genes (study)
An April 29th study found in Nature Communications studied the effects of methylating agents in the maternal diet on newborns in residents of the Republic of The Gambia. Researchers analyzed nutrient levels in the maternal blood during pregnancy and after birth using blood lymphocytes and hair follicles from the newborns. They specifically focused on epigenetic inheritance of methylation effects which involves the addition of methyl group (-CH3) tags to genes. These “tags” are responsible for silencing gene expression. The researchers correlated these effects on pregnant women at different periods of food availability, specifically related to harvest and famine times experienced by the residential moms.
Of the six gene loci examined, nutrients in moms’ blood were linked to rainy or harvest season and correlated to lab markers such as homocysteine, cysteine, and body mass index (BMI). This study didn’t analyze the functional consequences, but it did show how subtle differences in maternal nutrition could impact how her babies’ genes will be read through life and that it was possible to inherit epigenetic tendencies as well as genetics.
Click here to read more examples including:
1. Mom’s nutritional status of folic acid and autism risk
2. An update in iodine recommendations
3. Environmental exposures linked to autism and ADHD
4. 4 quick tips to optimize epigenetic inheritance
Essential Oil Tip: Reconnecting With Our Children with Oils
A new kit introduced at convention has been specifically formulated for little ones who are at odds with connecting to their environment and their loved ones in a meaningful, sustainable, or calm way.
You can learn about all the blends in the kit here.
These oils are high in sesquiterpenes which cross the blood brain barrier and are calming, anti-inflammatory, and immune modulating. This oil blend is a beautiful combination of fragrant influences of grounding, comfort, and calming for small yet overstimulated nervous systems.
I have seen the power of these oils first hand while working with children in my clinic. I also incorporate dietary suggestions and various supplements as needed, which seem to magnify and assist the oils in their healing capacity.
To learn more and order, please visit my website or order on YoungLiving with my member number (516126) so you will be able to work with me directly as your guide and resource in using therapeutic, healing oils.
Joel Dahms. Maternal Diet and Gene Methylation in Newborns. Institute for Functional Medicine (functionalmedicine.org). June 2014 Connections.
Waterland RA, Jirtle RL. Transposable elements: targets for early nutritional effects on epigenetic gene regulation. Moll Cell Bio. 2003 Aug;23(15):5293-300.
Dominguez-Salas P, Moore SE, Baker MS, et al. Maternal nutrition at conception modulates DNA methylation of human metastable epialleles. Nat Commun. 2014 Apr 29;5:3746.
images courtesy Anna (4 years old)
Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic, Grade A essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been AFNOR and ISO standardized. There is no quality control in the United States and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin.
This information is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness.