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#13 What is epigenetics?

If our genes are not active, it is as if they were not there, so each of us has the ability to turn them on or off. Some of the factors that will condition us the most are environmental.

Thus, epigenetics, “above the genes“, is defined as the study of the mechanisms that regulate the expression of genes without a modification in the DNA; in other words, when we talk about epigenetics we refer to certain changes in the genetic material without affecting the order of the genes, and which can be caused by external signals, such as food or sport.

These epigenetic changes remain as cells divide and, in some cases, can be inherited from generation to generation. Environmental influences, such as a person’s diet and exposure to pollutants, can also affect the epigenome.

One common type of epigenetic modification is known as DNA methylation, which, roughly speaking, allows small molecules called methyl groups to be added to a particular gene and turn it on or off, and no protein is produced, so it is not being expressed.

It is important to take care of our environment

For example, it has been proven in scientific studies with humans that a diet high in trans fats and refined sugars will set in motion a series of internal and complex mechanisms that will end up giving rise to epigenetic modifications, in this case, negative modifications. Stress and environmental pollutants also follow the same dynamic.

In contrast, dietary fiber and healthy fatty acids exert an optimal effect on gene expression and promote optimal health, as they are directly involved in the synthesis and regulation of molecules and receptors related to the reduction of carcinogenic and inflammatory processes, among many others.

These lifestyle changes and habits help determine whether genes are activated or deactivated and can influence the final production of certain specific proteins, which will be essential for the type of response that will occur at the cellular level.

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