Epigenetics: Introduction

“Epigenetics is probably one of the most revolutionarily exciting new discoveries in science in the 21st century”, says Dr. Pamela Peeke in the introduction to this BBC look at epigenetics. And I wouldn’t disagree.

It’s incredible the reach epigenetics has if you take the broader definition of epigenetics being a change in gene expression. What doesn’t cause a change in gene expression? From smoking to exercising, eating, meditating, social interaction, early life stress, and even reportedly treatment for PTSD, everything we do changes us at one or more levels.

Say we do a strenuous workout, our muscles may change on the outside, our heart may strengthen on the inside, but that only happens because of epigenetic changes to a host of genes in those particular tissues.

No longer is DNA seen as “fixed” and “static”. There’s a whole new layer of adaption possible beyond the workings on natural selection on mutations. That new layer is epigenetics and it affects the activity of individual’s genes by making the sequence of DNA for a gene more or less accessible to transcription by the machinery of the cell.

In a very real sense we are always adapting to our environment, through the mechanism of epigenetics upregulating some genes and downregulating others.

If you have the “obesity gene”, the scientific wisdom of the past would’ve said you’re likely to be obese and there’s not much you can do about it. We now know just walking for an hour a day can reduce the activity of the obesity gene by 40% after six months!

I think this claim comes from this research paper… “Genome-wide physical activity interactions in adiposity ― A meta-analysis of 200,452 adults

"We find robust evidence of interaction with physical activity for the strongest known obesity risk-locus in the FTO gene, of which the body mass index-increasing effect is attenuated by ~30% in physically active individuals compared to inactive individuals."

(my bold added for emphasis)

Note, in the video Dr Peeke says that meditation has been shown to “decrease the amount of inflammation in the entire human body”, thereby proving that our thoughts change us! She goes on to say that, “inflammation is the basis of all disease”. The inference is that we can reduce our susceptibility to disease by meditating through the mechanism of epigenetics!

Also in the video, Dr Nessa Carey says, “In the future I think we will start to understand the real links between the epigenetics system and what’s happening in our brains, particularly of our mental and emotional health”.

We can’t wait for “in the future”. It’s obvious that meditation and mindfulness affect our epigenetics. It’s time to specifically harness that power with directed epigenetic-focussed meditations. That’s what EpiCentering is all about. Welcome to the future!

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