Beyond Genetics: The Epigenetic Advantage

It makes perfect sense when you think about it. Every cell in our body has identical DNA in it’s nucleus. How does the body know how to make finger cells in our fingers and eye cells in our eyes? Something must be controlling the DNA, to determine which genes get expressed in each cell. Something must turn off the genes that express finger cells in the eye, and the ones that express eye cells in the fingers. Indeed there are regulatory mechanisms to control gene expression.

Regulatory mechanisms not only distinguish between types of cells to be produced during the growing process, but they control the production of proteins that carry out our metabolic processes such as digestion, healing, and immune response. They are also vital in maintaining our DNA. There are mechanisms that constantly crawl along the strands of DNA checking for, and repairing damaged nucleobases. This maintenance function helps to eliminate mutations that can result in the production of cancer cells.

The science of epigenetics is the study of external effects on our DNA, from the normal life processes to the damaging disruption of external agents such as carcinogens. Discoveries about the role of such things as methylation, histones and post transcription RNA modifications are teaching us the details of how regulatory mechanisms do their work. RNA modifications in particular are a dramatic demonstration of the powerful role that epigenetics plays.

A single transcription of a segment of DNA can be modified by RNA, by deleting and fusing segments in various configurations, to produce several different protein molecules. Half a dozen different products all from the very same segment of DNA! Obviously, DNA plays a vital part in the processes of life. It contains the code from which our bodies are created and maintained. But equally significant are the controlling mechanisms that protect, interpret and repair the code.

We can assist our regulatory mechanisms in their battle to fight off damage by avoiding carcinogens like tobacco smoke, pesticides, asbestos, and the nitrosamines found in processed meats. We can limit our exposure to radiation from ultraviolet radiation from the sun, X-rays, or gamma rays. What we cannot do is avoid all damaging agents, since many of them are as much a part of nature as sunshine. Even our normal metabolic processes produce free radicals that can damage DNA.

The one thing that we have the greatest control over is what goes into our mouths. The controlling mechanisms need a full range of nutrients in order to function properly. If the mechanisms that control DNA are not supplied with everything they need then illness will be the result. Therefore, in addition to avoiding whatever damage that we can from external exposure, we must proactively assist our regulatory mechanisms in their effort to maintain health by eating plenty of vegetables and fruits.

Fresh vegetables and fruits are rich in antioxidants and other phytochemicals that our regulatory mechanisms require to monitor and repair our DNA, to convert free radicals to harmless substances, as well as to produce the normal mechanisms by which our body functions. We cannot be healthy without supplying them with proper components, and those components are found only in plants.

Eat a whole food plant based diet in order to ensure that you are doing everything in your power to stay healthy.

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