This evening, I had a unique opportunity to meet one of the foremost experts in nutritional research, Professor Patrick Stover, Director of the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell Univeristy. And I left with an entirely new perspective about the interplay between genetics and nutrition.
Epigenetics, or “Above genetics” is the study of how certain mechanisms can change the way that genes in the body express themselves, without altering the underlying DNA.
In normal-human language, that means that you could take identical genetic twins and, by providing different stimulus at critical times, influence their development so that they look nothing alike. Even though their genes remain the same.
For those of us that are not twins, it could mean that whatever mom ate while we were in the womb played a role in how our genes evolved into being us. Maybe we are smarter, better looking or more athletic than our genes alone would’ve dictated? If our moms were drinking Choline supplements, we certainly would be less stressed-out. And maybe we’d have a lower chance of Type 2 diabetes as an extra benefit! And, not only was that benefit passed onto us, but also to our children without ever altering the genome.
For more, check out the following from the always brilliant Neil deGrasse Tyson on Nova.