The Pulse of Natural Health Newsletter

Stay informed about what is hot in Washington and the states about natural health

If You Care about Your Health, You Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Epigenetics


Nurses Helping ElderlyIt sheds important new light on diseases such as Alzheimer’s, and on all your diet and lifestyle choices.

We are all born with the genes we inherit from our parents. But how our body expresses the genes we already have isn’t fixed: it can change based on the activities we pursue, the foods we eat, even our emotional state! We are learning more and more about this from the emerging science of epigenetics.

We are even learning that, in some respects, what we are depends on what our grandparents ate or did. And just as the food our grandparents ate can affect us, so will the food we eat affect our grandchildren. This is called transgenerational epigenetic inheritance (TEI).

A December 2013 study conducted at the Emory School of Medicine illustrates how TEI works: mice were trained to avoid the scent of cherry blossoms (the smell was linked with an electric shock). The mice’s offspring and “grandchildren”—with no prior exposure to the scent of cherry blossoms and no training from their parents to avoid it—exhibited a similar aversion to the smell. This and similar experiments mean that our anxiety, fears, and phobias may be shared with at least two generations.

A 2010 study showed that overfed male mouse pups that developed metabolic syndrome passed elements of the disease on to their offspring—even if the offspring weren’t overfed.

Some of the studies showing how the behavior of one generation clearly affects the next generation’s DNA chemistry are in human populations. For example, a mother’s diet during pregnancy can increase her child’s risk of obesity. Findings from a Swedish study spanning three generations suggested that diet can cause epigenetic changes affecting several generations’ risk of heart disease or diabetes.

New research released last week reveals an epigenetic link to Alzheimer’s. This heartbreaking disease may not simply be a factor of age or genetics—it may also be caused both by family history and by your own lifestyle.

Alarmingly, some scientists are beginning to believe that TEI may be responsible for rising rates of anxiety, obesity, diabetes, and other epidemics. For example, a University of Texas experiment hinted that increases in the rates of autism and bipolar disorder could be a result of epigenetic damage stemming from previous generations’ exposure to new chemicals and fertilizers—and that these detrimental effects may be passed on “without any further exposure.”

The message here should not be that our past has locked us into a tragic future. It should instead be to look more closely at the mistakes we are making right now and what they might mean for ourselves and future generations. For example, please see our related article on GMO and epigenetics. With respect to autism, we also need much more research on the overloaded infant vaccine schedule and use of toxic vaccine preservatives and adjuvants, research which governments working closely with vaccine manufacturers are blocking.

In thinking about changes we need to make right now, we should keep one thing in mind: negative epigenetic changes appear to be reversible.

Animal research by Duke University found that B12, folic acid, choline, and betaine supplementation during pregnancy lowered their offspring’s susceptibility to obesity, diabetes, and cancer (are you listening, Dr. Offit?).

Despite media noise to the contrary, epigenetics research suggests that maintaining sufficient nutrient levels will significantly affect your current and future health, including the likelihood that you’ll develop cancer as you age. For example, healthy levels of selenium and vitamin D can reduce the accumulation of epigenetic changes that can drive cancer. One study showed that patients with higher levels of vitamin D and selenium experience fewer epigenetic changes associated with cancer.

Our fitness and emotional well-being can also affect how our genes are expressed.

A Harvard School of Public Health study showed that a sedentary lifestyle can amplify the effects of genetic tendencies towards obesity, while a brisk one-hour daily walk reduced genetic influence towards obesity by half.

In addition to its many other health benefits, meditation can epigenetically influence thousands of genes. In fact, one study found that 2,209 genes were significantly different between long-term practitioners and healthy individuals who didn’t meditate. Meditation can suppress genes responsible for inflammation, and therefore help you physically recover more quickly from stressful situations.

The deeper we delve into the newly hatched field of epigenetics, the more reasons we find to approach health naturally—through lifestyle changes, a wholesome diet free of GMOs and pesticides, the appropriate use of dietary supplements, and the avoidance of chemicals and contaminants. It also means it’s more important than ever before to protect consumer access to the integrative practitioners who can help us lead healthier lives.

Help your genes “express themselves” in a healthful way. Future generations will thank you!

  • “…our anxiety, fears, and phobias may be shared with at least two generations.” 3 to 4 generations according to Book of Exodus Chapter 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before[a] me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,

  • Ashen

    This is fu&*ing awesome!!

  • I have often suggested this indulgence in pesticides, chemicals, and even recent GMO’s, as the reasoning behind our increased diseases and afflictions ranging from acute allergic reactions to obesity, and even many cancers.
    I grew up on a farm in Nebraska where pesticides were introduced in 1959.
    Still to this day I can walk past any home or business and smell the chemicals (bleach and other ‘cleaning’ products) which strike rapidly and many effects irreversible.
    My best friend (only 65) is exhibiting signs of Alzheimer’s which his mother recently suffered with for more than 5 years prior to passing.
    I applaud those who will vigorously walk an hour a day, eat healthier, and increase their supplement’s (especially vitamin D). I first meditated successfully in 1968 at the age of 17 and have never stopped. I accredit all my successes and pleasures throughout life to this one activity which has it’s own healing powers.
    Good health be with you.

  • Jannette Naiken

    Thank you for sharing this valuable information. Although am aware of much of this it is nice to see studies on this very subject without interference from the Pharmaceutical Companies and Monsanto.

  • Suzanne

    Excellent article!

  • Stanley

    thank you for the article. very informative. i will share it with others.

  • Where the h have you been. Epigenetics is hardly “emerging”. See Bruce Lipton’s “The Biology of Belief”

    • ANH Reader

      The term “emerging” in this context does not mean that the knowledge did not exist before. It means that it is becoming more easily accessible.. Anyone who knows how selective news and mainline health information services are in dispensing information knows that natural health information is often distorted or omitted if it is not in corporate best interests. And self-health is not.

      I am relatively self-educated. My knowledge is in direct relationship to how much interest and effort I can generate on a particular subject, and how lucky I am in finding reputable sources. I only found out about ANH a while ago, by accident, while searching for something else. I do not have courses or curriculae or resources to guide me. I have to stumble onto important and believable resources. Practice makes … maybe not perfect, but a little more efficient each time. The result is that I am made aware in each search of how vast the gaps in my knowledge, even in methods of researching. To me, much of this is personally emerging. I do feel sorry for those who have sold themselves to the strict “scientific” methods that restrict them even from speculating or searching. But thinking of self-limiting behavior, I have read Eric Hoffer’s True Believer. It is not necessary to be a fanatic or bigot to keep an open mind, and I find the occasional treasure that way.

  • candice Howren

    Well I think this also explains why all living mammals from rats to humans have cannabis receptors all over. The plant has been used as medicine for many thousands of years we know, and is far superior and safer than many of the synthetic substances currently being prescribed and doing a great deal of damage to individuals and our collective health as well.. It’s only common sense to see the correlation.

  • Margaret Saxton

    Lunasin is the first epigenetic superfood. I remember hearing Deborah saying, many times, it isn’t only your genes, it’s what you “put in the closet.” Now substantiated by the new field of epigenetics. It’s what I’ve always believed.

  • Sharon Peterson

    This is fascinating! I have a good history of my family that includes several generations back of family traits and have been wondering about the beliefs and talents of my ancestors continuing down through generations and seeing a lot of the same traits and beliefs being strong in my grandchildren. I’ve always thought it was in the genes! This article backs it up.

    Wonderful article! Fascinating! I love this site!

  • Shane

    Good article. In the USA we need to get away from highly processed foods with trans fats and high fructose corn syrup in them. The government should ban trans fats as they are the worst fats that people can eat. Saturated fats from dairy, coconut, and palm kernel oils are much better for your health than trans fats.

  • Crucial information to maintaining and promoting wellness…
    Any suggestions as to where continuing education on this topic can be found – online or otherwise?

  • Totally amazing stuff but I’m sorry animals had to suffer to learn what seems to be common sense. I keep hoping the world will become less cruel to animals and humans but the cruelty inflicted and carelessness towards others only gets worse. Meanwhile no one seems to care that our earth is heading towards another ice age with the extreme climate changes and the wealthy buy tickets to mars to escape the desolation that will be left here. In the next two hundred years mankind will begin to die out.