You Are What Your Father Ate

Attention all fathers to be!!!

Researchers from the U of Mass have found that the food you eat is going to make a big difference upon the health of your future children.

So, before you inhale another bucket of popcorn chicken, be aware that your diet will influence the genetic makeup of your children.

In the UMass study, researchers found that adult mice fed a low protein diet produced offspring with an increase in the production of cholesterol synthesis genes.

And while this doesn’t mean that the wee baby mice are doomed to a lifetime of high cholesterol and prescriptions for lipitor, it does mean that a parent’s diet has a big impact on their kids –  in the form of changed epigentic information.

In the UMass experiment, scientists fed two different diets to two different groups of male mice – a standard diet and a low-protein diet. All females were fed a standard diet.

And as nature took it’s course and little mice babies were born, the researchers observed that the low-protein offspring showed an increase in the genes responsible for lipid & cholesterol production in comparison to the standard diet mice.

The observations are consistent with two human studies (1 & 2) which showed that a poor adolescent diet in one generation resulted in an increased risk of diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease in second-generation offspring.

However, since these previous human studies were retrospective and involved dynamic populations, they were unable to completely account for all social and economic variables.

Hence this study with lab mice.

According to lead researcher Oliver Rando, “Our study begins to rule out the possibility that social and economic factors, or differences in the DNA sequence, may be contributing to what we’re seeing. It strongly implicates epigenetic inheritance as a contributing factor to changes in gene function.”

Co-author Hans Hofmann continues by saying that “the results also have implications for our understanding of evolutionary processes. It has increasingly become clear in recent years that mothers can endow their offspring with information about the environment, for instance via early experience and maternal factors, and thus make them possibly better adapted to environmental change. Our results show that offspring can inherit such acquired characters even from a parent they have never directly interacted with, which provides a novel mechanism through which natural selection could act in the course of evolution.”

So, what does this mean?

According to Dr. Rando, “we often look at a patient’s behavior and their genes to assess risk. If the patient smokes, they are going to be at an increased risk for cancer. If the family has a long history of heart disease, they might carry a gene that makes them more susceptible to heart disease. But we’re more than just our genes and our behavior. Knowing what environmental factors your parents experienced is also important.”

What’s next for this research?

Drs. Rando et al will begin to explore how and why this genetic reprogramming is being transmitted from generation to generation. “We don’t know why these genes are being reprogrammed or how, precisely, that information is being passed down to the next generation,” said Rando. “It’s consistent with the idea that when parents go hungry, it’s best for offspring to hoard calories, however, it’s not clear if these changes are advantageous in the context of a low-protein diet.”

What does this mean for you?

It means that not only will that bucket of popcorn chicken screw up your health, it will probably screw up your kid’s health as well.

Reference

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Obesity: Insulin trumps Genetics

I have said it before and I will say it again. Genetics isn’t Destiny. Even when it comes to obesity.

And if you don’t believe me:

Purdue University scientists have uncovered evidence that genetically identical cells store widely differing amounts of fat, depending on subtle variations in how the cells process insulin.

They said identifying the precise mechanism responsible for fat storage in cells could lead to methods for controlling obesity.

Although other studies have suggested certain “fat genes” might be associated with excessive fat storage in cells, the Purdue researchers confirmed such genes are expressed, or activated, in all of the cells. Yet those cells varied drastically — from nearly zero in some cases to pervasive in others — in how much fat they stored.

Their findings indicate that the faster a cell processes insulin, the more fat it stores.

It’s the insulin…it’s the insulin…it’s the insulin.

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Reference

Fat Babies become Fat Kids become Fat Teenagers become Fat Adults

You are not going to believe this but, according to some startling new research, there is a direct connection between an adult’s propensity to put on weight and our early childhood diet.

I know, I know. Who would have guessed that feeding your baby Big Macs and washing them down with Super Big Gulps could result in them having a “weight issue” as an adult?

Who could have guessed that?

Certainly not the parents of the kids in this video. (sorry about the music)

The Research

University of Calgary researcher, Dr. Raylene Reimer is a leader in the growing field of epigenetics. Her personal area of expertise is the developmental origins of health and disease. “Researchers in this area believe our pre-natal and early childhood environment influences our future risk of developing conditions like cardio-vascular disease, obesity and diabetes”.

“My research has shown that the food we eat changes how active certain genes in our body are – what we call genetic expression. In particular we believe that our diet has a direct influence on the genes that control how our bodies store and use nutrients,” says Reimer.

“There’s a growing body of work that indicates a relationship between our health as adults and our early diet, and even our mother’s diet. This research shows for the first time that our early childhood diet may have a huge impact on our health as adults.”

This research dovetails nicely with the previous studies which showed that:

  • baby_smokingBabies who smoke cigarettes are more likely to develop lung cancer
  • Babies who do shots of tequila with their parents are more likely to become alcoholics, and
  • Babies who drive automobiles without wearing a seat belt are more likely to be involved in traffic accidents

Reference

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Why Do We Get OLD?

Harvard researchers may have just found the “root cause of aging”: A group of proteins called sirtuins.

For a decade or so, scientists have known that these sirtuins are somehow involved in the aging process. But their interest in these sirtuins only took off when they discovered that…

…would stimulate the sirtuins into having a positive effect on aging.

So What Exactly Do Sirtuins Do?

sleeping-guardSirtuins are like a genetic watch dog.

They keep an eye on select genes to see which are turned on and which are turned off. Kind of like a security guard keeping an eye of the security video monitors.

Here’s why:

  • While all genes are present in all cells, only a select few need to be active at any given time.
  • If the wrong genes are switched on, this can harm the cell.
  • For example, in a kidney cell, there are liver genes present, but they are switched off. If these liver genes were to become active, that could damage the kidney.

The sirtuins guard the genes that are supposed to be off and ensure that they stay that way.

To do this, they help preserve the molecular packaging—called chromatin—that shrink-wraps these genes tight and keeps them idle.

But that’s not all. Sirtuins have another important job.

When your DNA gets damaged by UV light or free radicals, sirtuins stop their security guard duties and rush to the site of the damaged DNA and join in on the repair.

All of this leads us to…

The Latest Research

In this stnew udy, the researchers found that when the sirtuins left their guard posts and rushed towards the damaged DNA, the chromatin wrapping (or shrink-wrap) covering the sleeping genes could start to unravel, and the genes that were meant to be inactive (or regulated) could in fact become active (or un-regulated).

Apparently, this isn’t a good thing to have happen.

spider-web-prey-sirtuins-genes
A Sirtuin re-wraps a Gene and puts it back to sleep

Luckily for us, the sirtuins are usually able to return to their post in time to get the awakened genes back under wraps before they cause any permanent damage.

However, in this latest study, the researchers found that as their little lab mice age, their rates of DNA damage increases.

This means that the sirtuins are being pulled away from their guard duties more and more often.

As a result, more and more sleeping genes wake up, break out of their shrink-wrap and break free before the sirtuins can return and put them back to sleep.

Once again, not a good to have happen. And it gets even worse,

  • Scientists found that many of these haplessly activated genes are directly linked with aging, and that
  • They also found that older mice had higher numbers of these unregulated genes.

But don’t despair, my news eventually gets better:

The Good News

Discovery of the mechanism behind all of this bad news has led to a hypothesis on how to reverse this action and potentially reverse signs of aging.

Scientists began wondering what would happen if they put more of the sirtuin back into their aging test mice.

They believed that with more sirtuins on the job, DNA repair would be more efficient, and the aging mouse would maintain a youthful pattern of gene expression into old age.

And that’s precisely what happened.

Using a mouse genetically altered to model lymphoma, researcher Philipp Oberdoerffer administered extra copies of the sirtuin gene, or fed them the sirtuin activator resveratrol, which in turn extended their lifespan by 24 to 46 percent.

Conclusions

Because of this research, we now know that while DNA damage increases the rate of aging, it isn’t the actual cause of aging.

Un-regulated genes are the cause of aging.

And, because of this research, we also know that if we can help the sirtuins keep regulated genes from becoming un-regulated, the elements of aging can be reversed.

Big news people, big news. At least for the little lab mice. Tests on humans have yet to be scheduled.

So, for now, you can either wait for the science to come to a proper conclusion, or you can load up on some resveratrol.

Related Posts

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References

EurekAlert

Genetics Isn't Destiny

  • You’re 20 pounds overweight.
  • You have been trying to lose that weight for years and years.
  • Not matter how hard you try, the weight just won’t come off.

Sound familiar?

Maybe it’s your genetics?

In the last few years, study after study has have linked genetics to obesity. Here are just a few of the studies:

And here’s the latest scientific gem:

In this latest study, scientists from the University of maryland looked at the common FTO (fat mass and obesity associated) gene variants that have recently been associated with high Body Mass Index (BMI) and obesity in several large studies.

Specifically, they investigated the effect that physical activity can have in those people born with the FTO gene variant.

Can Exercise Trump Genetics?

A little background on the FTO gene variant:

  • Carriers of this gene variant are more likely to be obese.
  • In fact, people with two copies of the FTO variant are on average 7 pounds heavier and 67 percent more likely to be obese than those who don’t have it.
  • Carriers also have higher rates of type 2 Diabetes.
  • The International HapMap Project estimates the number of FTO carriers as:
  • 45% in the West/Central Europeans population
  • 52% in Yorubans (West African natives) population
  • 14% in Chinese/Japanese population

The Study

Researchers looked at a population of Old Order Amish in conducting this study.

The Amish were used because:

  • Their day to day activities provide a high level of physical exercise. This is due to the fact that the Amish don’t drive cars or have electricity in their homes, eschewing many of the trappings of modern life. Most Amish men are farmers or work in physically demanding occupations such as blacksmithing or carpentry. Women are homemakers who work without the aid of modern appliances and often care for many children.

The researchers tested the particpants for:

  • The presence of the FTO gene variant
  • Their BMI scores
  • Their levels of physical activity

The participants’ activity levels were measured with the aid of accelerometers, worn on the participants’ hips.

The researchers gathered measurements of their physical activity over seven consecutive days.

Participants were classified as “high activity” or “low activity” depending upon their accelerometer readings.

The “high activity” group burned 900 more calories per day than the “low activity” group. This total translates into 3 to 4 hours of moderate intensity activity, such as brisk walking, housecleaning or gardening.

The Results

The researchers found that the Amish people with the FTO variant were no more likely to be overweight than their non-FTO carrying cousins….as long as they got their three to four hours of moderate activity every day.

Conclusion

Genetics isn’t Destiny

Being born with a FTO gene variant does not guarantee a lifetime of obesity and diabetes. Your health and physical appearance is up to you and the lifestyle choices you make.

obesity-genetics-health-healthhabits

Epigenetics & Obesity

Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine have made a groundbreaking discovery – Overweight moms give birth to children who become even more overweight and who in turn have children who become even more overweight and so on and so on.

And as we know, you can’t beat bad genetics. Those pudgy little kids are doomed.

Or, maybe not. According to this study, researchers found that by supplementing an obese mother’s diet with folic acid and other methyl supplements, they were able to reverse this form of inherited obesity.”

The Hypothesis

Lead researcher, Dr. Robert Waterland, designed this study to test the hypothesis that maternal obesity before and during pregnancy affects the body weight regulatory mechanisms in her offspring. In layman’s terms, does a fat mom produce fat babies?

In regards to reversing this cycle of inherited obesity, Dr. Waterland believes that “DNA methylation may play an important role in the development of the hypothalamus (the region of the brain that regulates appetite).”

The Method

Waterland et al tested this hypothesis on three generations of genetically identical mice, all with the same genetic tendency to overeat. (agouti viable yellow [Avy] mice)

The mice were divided into two groups:

  1. Standard diet group
  2. Standard diet supplemented with folic acid, vitamin B12, betaine and choline. This special ‘methyl supplemented’ diet enhances DNA methylation.

With this special diet, they were attempting to reduce or silence the effect that the inherited gene had over the development of the baby mice.

Can mice that are genetically predisposed to obesity be spared from a life of stretchy pants and motorized scooters?

The Results

  • The mice on the standard diet piled on the body-fat, as expected, and subsequent generations were progressively more obese.
  • Those on the methyl supplemented diet did not gain weight through successive generations.

So what does this mean to me?

Well, according to Dr. Waterland, “the effect of methyl supplementation on body weight was independent of epigenetic changes at the Avy locus, indicating this model may have direct relevance to human transgenerational obesity”.

In layman’s terms, obese mothers who supplement with folic acid, vitamin B12, betaine and choline before & during their pregnancy might help their kids resist the scourge of childhood obesity.

NOTE:  This is only one study, performed on mice. There is more work to be done and just because this study is positive, moms-to-be should check in with their doctors before they start mega-dosing supplements in order to produce babies with six packs.

fitspiration

Health, Fitness, Obesity and Genetics

Health, Fitness, Obesity and Genetics

As a kid, I was always ‘husky’.

Growing up , I threw myself head first into a hardcore fitness lifestyle… involving a ton of research, sweat, discipline and hard work. With all of this, I was able to transform my body from fat to fit. And since 1989, I have passed on my knowledge and perhaps more importantly, my confidence to hundreds of people that came to me and asked me to help them re-shape their bodies.

Not too surprisingly, while most of these people already had a pretty good idea of what they had to do to become lean, fit & healthy; they had never been able to turn their goals into reality.

It took the experience of seeing their friends transform their bodies with the help of a “personal trainer” to truly believe that this magical “personal trainer” was the solution to all their health and fitness dreams. Even after they had done all the hard work, all of them believed that I was responsible for their transformations.

fitspiration
An example of “stick” motivation

Years of being fat and out of shape had become normal for them. They were fat. Even when they had lost the weight, there was still this little voice in the back of their heads telling them that this was just temporary. If they stopped working with me, they would re-gain their original shape.

  • They believed that their obesity and genetics were inextricably linked and had doomed them to a life of obesity and poor physical fitness.
  • How wrong they were.

While it is true that our genetic makeup does have a profound effect on every aspect of our lives, we still have a role to play in how our genetic potential is expressed.

  • Where we live
  • How much money we make
  • What food we eat and which food we don’t eat
  • Our relationships with family and friends
  • Etc, etc, etc…

The impact that our environment has upon our genetic coding is currently being researched by a branch of science called Epigenetics.

  • How is it that one identical twin can develop cancer while the other twin does not?
  • Was the life-long smoking habit of one of the identical twins responsible for their diagnosis of cancer?
  • Did the healthy lifestyle of the second twin prevent their potential diagnosis of cancer?

While the science is still new, I think down deep, we all know that how we live our lives has a strong impact on our health.

Where we live. Our friendships, or lack thereof. The air we breathe. The water we drink. The amount and type of exercise we perform. The food we eat.

Genetics isn’t Destiny. We have the power to make the best or the worst with what we have been given.

Believe that.

Reference

  • Bruce Lipton is currently the biggest ‘name’ in Epigenetics. The following two video clips serve as an introduction to Lipton and the science behind Epigenetics.