We can’t stress the importance of eating healthy enough. But can others?
Most people know that eating healthy is generally better for your organs, for physical performance, for appearance, etc, right? Probably.
What about junk food causing slower metabolisms and stiffened arteries? Maybe.
But do most people know healthy eating plays a role in how your children, grandchildren, and their children look? And that the food we eat influences our DNA? Probably not.
This interplay of nutrition and gene expression can be explained by epigenetics. Epigenetics is a umbrella term for the quickly-growing field that studies the effect of gene expression on changes in organisms.
Epigenetics: A Basic Summary
Previously, random mutations were thought to be the cause of most modern human disease and were passed down from generation to generation. Thus, as a child of someone with cancer or heart disease, you were told your genetic heritability (genes from your parents) made it likely you would get that same disease.
Epigenetic research is disrupting these common misconceptions.
Epigenetic researchers study how our genes react to our behavior. Such researchers are finding that just about anything we eat, drink, or even think about, can directly or indirectly trickle down to touch the gene and affects its performance in you, and your children too (1).
The same way fetal alcohol syndrome causes brain damage and growth problems in children whose mothers drank during pregnancy, epigenetic researchers believe poor nutrition in mothers pre-birth causes health complications in newborns, too.
What affect genes’ performance and turn the genes on and off are epigenetic tags that attach themselves to your DNA (68).
While some of these epigenetic tags are present when your born, other tags detach and accumulate throughout someone’s life. And the major causes of these tags’ behaviors (“tagging or not tagging”) are? Nutrition and exposure to toxins. Not only are they major causes of the tags behavior, the tags are made out of these basic nutrients like minerals, fats, and vitamins (2). Thus, there really isn’t any barrier between the food you give your body and what your genes are told to do (through the tags).
The epigenetic tags work by enabling an organism to quickly adapt to its environment without changing its underlying hardware (DNA). This can be for the better (good diet) or the worse (poor diet/exposure to toxins) .
Real World Epigenetics
Lets reference a study to explain things clearly.
In 1937, Professor Hale of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station compared two groups of pig litter from a mother pig.
The mother pig was fed Vitamin A before the birth of one group, and deprived of Vitamin A for the second litter. After depriving the mother pig of Vitamin A, the baby pigs were without eyeballs. But, after re-feeding the mother with enough Vitamin A, the mother pig gave birth to baby pigs with perfectly normal eyeballs. (3)
The results suggest that eyeball development wasn’t switched off from permanent mutation. Rather, the second pig litter with normal eyeballs suggests eyeball growth in the first litter switched off due to a epigenetic change (turning off the gene) (4). AKA, nutrient imbalances.
The outcomes of the study demonstrate the importance of nutrient balances for your genes health. Such nutrient imbalances can cause facial and body abnormalities, as shown above, as well as disease susceptibility.
As Berit Johansen, a professor of biology at the Norwegian University For Science and Technology, explains, “diet is the key to controlling our personal genetic susceptibility to disease. In choosing what we eat, we choose whether we will provide our genes the weapons that cause disease” (5).
Why is Healthy Eating Important for You and Your Grandkids?
Lets further emphasize the importance of eating healthy for your grandchildren and generations beyond. Consider, for instance, this study that observed significant changes in food-related circumstances from year to year and its influence on cardiovascular disease in Swedish families over three generations (6).
The researchers examined over a thousand family members in Sweden and Finland born between 1890 and 1920 and identified the times of food scarcity and food abundance (crop failure vs. good harvests) that their grandparents experienced prior to their births.
According to the study, if a “paternal grandmother experienced drastic changes, from good to poor and from poor to good, of food availability as a child, then her granddaughters had an increased Hazards Ratio (HR) for cardiovascular mortality as an adult” (7). While the effect was only observable in the granddaughters of the paternal grandmother (95% confidence interval), the results show the transgenerational impact of poor nutrition.
Facts About Healthy Eating:
Why is healthy eating important?
We’ll keep it really simple. If you’re only concerned with yourself, here’s a list of reasons to eat healthier.
Eating healthier ensures:
- clearer skin and less acne
- lowered blood pressure
- better dental hygiene (less sugar!)
- proper muscle recovery post workout (protein within 45 minutes!)
- supporting local/organic farmers/eateries
Among other benefits!
In terms of what foods to eat, or what diet to follow, we recommend our Health & Life Diet.
The importance of eating healthy cannot be understated.
But really, why is healthy eating important?
Healthy eating is important not just for your own mental and physical health but also for the health of your children and generations to come as the facts mentioned above show. Importantly, these are just some of the facts about healthy eating that should encourage you to change how you eat.
Not interested in how your children look? Then eat healthy for yourself. Avoiding vegetable oils, processed carbohydrates, and added sugar is the easiest way to clear up your skin, protect your teeth, and keep yourself fit.
Still not interested in how you or your children look? Then do it for others. The more unhealthy, processed food you consume, the more money the global food conglomerates take in. Take a stance against food corporations; eat organic and local.
The best news? It doesn’t take long to reverse your gene expression.
It all starts with changing your mindset and starting a healthy eating schedule. As Johansen asserts in the previously mentioned study, “It took just six days to change the gene expression of each of the volunteers,” she says, “so it’s easy to get started. But if you want to reduce your likelihood of lifestyle disease, this new diet will have to be a permanent change.” (8). Get starting on your healthy eating journey today!
Let us know what you think in the comments below!
- Shanahan, Catherine. Deep Nutrition. pg. 27
- Ibid, pg. 72.
- Shanahan, 83.