Epigenetics is a fascinating topic that looks into how genes and the environment interact. This episode explores some of the research in the field of epigenetics involving mice, cats, humans, and honey bees. Lessons from this research can help guide us to make changes for better health and build genetic wealth for our family.
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Episode 2 Transcript
0:13 Hello, and welcome to the hungry for truth podcast. I'm your host, Brigitte Factor, a truth-seeker, researcher, scientist, nutritionist, teacher and truth-teller, and awakening is coming. Get ready for it.
0:45 Welcome to Episode Two of the hungry for truth podcast. Today's episode is all about how you can control your genetic destiny. The scientific term is called epigenetics. But before we dive into that, and what that means I want to start off by telling you a story of giving birth to my firstborn son. And for moms listening, maybe you can relate to this. Picture being close to your due date, you're as big as you can possibly be your think you can possibly be to the point where it's not cute anymore, right. And I'm laying in bed and I've got all of these pillows around me propped myself up to make sure that I'm comfortable and can get a good night's sleep, and it's in the middle of the night. And of course, I need to go to the bathroom. I roll out of bed, waddled myself to the bathroom, finish emptying my bladder. But then I realized my bladder is empty, but I'm still leaking fluid. And I had felt this little twinge in my side. And it felt like the baby had kicked me and hit when the when he did this, my water had broke. So at that point, you know, you start you have this mix of anxiety and excitement. And what do I do next, and I wanted myself to wake up my husband, tell him what's going on. Of course, he's in dead sleep, trying to make sense of what I'm saying to him. We call our doula and grab our bag and head to the hospital. And after many hours of wonderful, glorious, painful, challenging, amazing unmedicated labor, we give birth to our firstborn son, and it's, you know, the joy and excitement is just overwhelming, something that you can't explain unless you have been through it.
2:43 And you're staring at this perfect, beautiful baby, and you're thinking of all of the potential that child has, and you feel so blessed to be able to bring that child into the world, right. And you're looking at the baby, and you're saying this, you know, he looks kind of like grandpa on this side, or kind of like my dad on this side, he's got a blend of Jason and a blend of myself. And you know, this beautiful baby is a is a genetic combination of mom and dad, that you're so thankful that God picked all the right pieces to put together, right. And so we understand that genes are what helped build or put together the features of a human, right. And then we, you know, a few years down the road, we have a second child. And this second child is another beautiful combination of mom and dad, but a different combination of Mom and Dad, this one, you know, my second child looks a little bit more like me, and you know, a little bit more like my side of the family, but has the personality very much of a factor my husband's side of the family. So again, another wonderful but different combination of mom and dad's genes. And as you as we watch our children grow, and they start to mature and their appearance starts to change. And that's just the expression of those genes manifesting in their outward appearance.
4:22 Okay, now, picture a story of twins being born, maybe you know, somebody that has twins, genetically identical twins, and they're born and they look the same and you can't really tell them apart. But over time, their appearance may be slightly changed a little bit. And you can see this in twins that are grown or have different inputs or different things happen to them throughout life or are in different environments, their appearance, can start to change and you can start to tell them apart over time. This, again is the expression of those genes. And the expression of those genes is called epigenetics. Whereas our genes are the code that are the blueprint for building humans, we call that the genotype. And the phenotype is the expression of that blueprint.
5:25 So if you think of this in terms of building a house, the blueprint for building a house is the genotype. And then you hire a contractor. And that contractor looks at the blueprint gathers the material hires the labor to put that house together. And the finished product of that house is the expression of that blueprint. And we call that the phenotype. Now, depending on the contractor and the materials available, that expression of the original blueprint may change just a bit, let's say that they have to make substitutions or the contractor has to make some changes to the original design, then the expression of that blueprint is going to be slightly different, but the blueprint is still the same. So what we've learned recently, in the scientific realm is that our genetic expression can be influenced by environmental lifestyle and dietary factors in food is the biggest epigenetic factor. So food is the biggest source of environmental influence on our genes. And we're going to talk about that today. I remember being back in grad school 20 years ago, and the big science of the day was mapping the human genome. And the goal was if they could figure out what genes lead to what disease, but they finished mapping the human genome. And what they discovered is it wasn't that simple. It wasn't one gene equals one disease, there were a multitude of genes that might or might not lead to different diseases. So it wasn't as simple as they had originally hoped. And in fact, only 30% of disease is due to genetic inheritance, and 70% of disease is related to the environment, including the physical, chemical behavior, energetic and social environment.
7:38 So epigenetic modification of genetic expression is related to all disease. So the analogy used here is that genes load the gun, and the environment pulls the trigger. So just because you have a certain gene, doesn't mean it's going to be expressed, there has to be certain environmental inputs that turn on or off that gene. And there was a review article posted in advanced nutrition in 2010, which I will post a link in the show notes, called epigenetics, a new bridge between nutrition and health. And this review article is looking at how nutrients from our food can change the expression of our genes. And I find this field so fascinating. It just drives my passion and curiosity for learning more about this and sharing this information. But here's an excerpt from that article. It says nutritional epigenetics has been viewed as an attractive tool to prevent pediatric developmental diseases and cancer as well as to delay aging associated processes. In recent years, epigenetics has become an emerging issue in a broad range of diseases such as type two diabetes, obesity, inflammation, and neurocognitive disorder disorders. So we are still in the beginning of our understanding exactly how these environmental inputs from our nutrients are impacting our genetic expression or turning on and off certain genes that either promote health or promote disease. One of the ways that this happens is these inputs from our environment, whether it's food, whether it's air, water, and toxins, whether it's stress or trauma, any of those things that what can happen is a tag can be placed on that gene, or on that DNA code, and we call it epigenetic tagging. And so this tagging occurs in response to chemicals that result from nearly everything we eat, drink, breathe, think and do. These external forces can disturb the normal ebb and flow of genetic function.
10:06 And so I want to talk about how this tagging happens, how do these tags get placed on to the gene that turn them on or off, and you can think of them like little switches. And one of the primary ways these tags happen is called DNA methylation. And so what this is referring to is a methyl group getting attached to the DNA code. And a methyl group, if you remember back to your science class is a carbon with three hydrogens attached. So if you make the shape of a C with your hand, now, you've got your fingers curling over the top and your thumb on the bottom, and you've got this C shape with your hand, think of Lego hand right now you have Lego hand. And that is acting, that is your going to be your methyl group. Now you take your Lego hand and you attach it to the throttle of your Lego spaceship. Now I have boys, I have lots of Lego spaceships in my house, and I've got this Lego hand and attaches to the throttle of that spaceship. That is the same thing as a methyl group attaching to your DNA. And when that attaches, it is either making the spaceship go or stop, right, you're either turning a switch on or off without attachment. Okay, and so that is how those tags happen at the molecular level.
11:37 And there are two substances in our food supply that are incompatible with normal genetic function or interfere with proper genetic expression or this DNA methylation. And those are refined sugars and hydrogenated oils. So processed food is really getting in the way of healthy epigenetic expression of our genes. Sources of foods that help us have good genetic expression, which are going to be foods that have sources of these methyl groups are going to be things like leafy greens, kale, you know, you hear so much about kale, they're being the superfood, this healthfood kale is a good source of methyl donors. So are cuciferous vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli, other leafy greens like spinach, then you can have asparagus and rosemary, eggs, lentils, tumeric, berries, all of these nutrient dense whole foods are going to be good sources of methyl donors that help us have good gene expression, which is what we want. So research is showing is that the food we eat, can change our gene expression, not only for ourselves, but for our children and our grandchildren. So when I look into this, I am so fascinated by how what we do now can impact our future generations. And I've had people say to me that I don't have any health problems, I don't need to worry about my diet. But that is not the only reason to worry about your diet. What you are eating now is actually impacting future generations that I'm going to share some research that demonstrates that.
13:37 The previous article I mentioned continues to explain the importance of DNA methylation during early embryonic development. And as mom's listening, you know, the importance of taking folate during pregnancy that gets emphasized during our pregnancy in the importance of taking folate to prevent neural tube defects. And what we know is that folate is a methyl donor. Folate is a water soluble B vitamin that has been studied for its effect on DNA methylation and we know the importance of having adequate folate levels before and during pregnancy to prevent the risk of neural tube defects. And this goes back to the ability to do DNA methylation or to do that tagging, to allow for proper expression of our genetic programming to build healthy babies. And it's important to note the difference between folate and folic acid here as they're not the same thing. The form that our body needs to build healthy babies is methylfolate which is different than folic acid. Most supplements over the counter supplements even some prescription supplements that are sources of folic acid are actually synthetic. versions that aren't the best for our body, and studies have shown that elevated amounts of folic acid in the blood can actually get in the way of this DNA methylation process.
15:12 So there was another article published in epigenomics, in 2010, called epigenetic programming by maternal nutrition shaping future generations. And again, I'll post the link in the show notes. That says children born to overweight mothers are epigenetically, programmed to build adipose tissue and unhealthy amounts. This predisposition to being overweight can be passed down to that child's children as well. So what happens is as the child is forming in the mother's womb, if the mother has an unhealthy diet, and she tends to be overweight, that is actually changing the gene expression or creating some epigenetic programming, that tells the child's genes to build more fat cells or create more fat cells in unhealthy amounts. So before the child is even born, now this child is genetically programmed to be a higher weight. And this new programming can be passed down to that child's child as well. So I think this is also what is playing into our ever increasing weight problem as a nation is that these things are being passed down from generation, it's not just now what someone is eating, it's also what their parents and grandparents have eaten.
16:43 I want to give another example about how what we eat or what we're exposed to, can cause epigenetic changes that passed down through multiple generations. And this is a particular classic example from the Dutch winter hunger famine. So this study uses the historical event of a way of studying epigenetic changes. During the Dutch hunger winter, which occurred from November of 1944, to May of 1945, the Dutch in Germany, occupied Netherlands lived through a severe famine. So food was being rationed. And they were actually tracking who was getting what amount of food during that time, so that they could go back and look about which families received what amount of food, then when the famine ended, the rationing stopped, and everybody went back to eating what they wanted. So what they noticed happen was two things. We have the health information, because of the registries, and the health care records that were maintained during that time. And we know when the famine stopped and started in because the rationing was also tracked as well. And they did a study where they looked at three groups from the study people that were born or conceived during the time of the famine, same sex, siblings that were born before or conceived after the family famine. So you've got members of the family that were either born before or after this famine compared to members of the family that were born during the famine. And then you have unrelated people as controls. And they were looking at a specific gene tracking that gene called IGF2 that is involved in human growth and development that can be methylated. Or it can be tagged like the the, you know, the Lego hand tag we talked about before. And the researchers compared the the methyl groups in this tagging for six decades. And what they discovered is that six decades after being conceived during the Dutch famine, people had less methylation on there if IGF2 gene compared to their unexposed, same sex brother or sister. And so other studies from this group have found that people can save during the famine had impaired glucose and glucose tolerance. hypercholesterolemia, so high cholesterol levels, raised blood pressure and higher rates of obesity adult in adulthood. So there were things because of the conditions that were present during the time of conception during this famine, caused changes to the gene in the terms of these methyl tags that were passed down. Not only were they passed down, but they persisted for multiple decades as well. That had an impact on their health in different ways. So you can check that out if you want. The whole point is to is that we do have demonstration of how this works.
19:49 Another one study that I find completely fascinating is one looking at trauma, and how trauma causes epigenetic changes. As well, and this one is looking at study of Holocaust survivors. And this study is the first to demonstrate an association between preconception paternal trauma with epigenetic changes in showing how that trauma can have intergenerational effects, or that trauma can cause changes to gene expression that get passed down as well. So, again, multiple studies that we have that demonstrate how, what we eat, what we think what we're exposed to, is changing our gene expression.
20:38 And I want to tell another story about cats. Now, my dad owns a farm and he has lots of cats. He likes to rescue cats or taken cats and he refers to his farm as his cat sanctuary. And I love cats in this particular story is about a study on cats. So you may feel sad for these cats. But when you hear their story and you understand how the lessons learned have a profound meaning to us. So this story is about the pod injures cats study. Dr. Pottenger was a physician in California in the early 19 hundred's and in his clinic, he was specializing in tuberculosis. And he was doing a specific study looking at tuberculosis and its relation to the adrenal gland. And to test his hypothesis, he experimented with the cats. He fed, the cats that were in his study both cooked and raw meat, he was getting scraps from the local food markets and butcher shops to feed these cats. And what he observed is that the cats eating cooked meat versus raw meat had very different health outcomes. And so out of curiosity began a new study on the cats and variations of the diets and cats and the impact that that diet those diet changes had on their health. And the variables in his experiment included either raw milk versus cooked or pasteurized milk and raw meat versus cooked meat. And throughout the entire study of four generations of cats, Pottenger recorded the his observations and monitored the health of the cats. And he found the differences between the different types of diets and the impact on the health of the cats. In short, the cats that were eating the raw products, the raw meat and the raw milk maintained excellent health. Mother cats carry their babies to full term first approximately five kittens to a litter and experienced no difficulty in nursing in the kittens had consistent skeletal structure and no dental issues or infections. However, when he compared that to the health of the cats that were fed cooked meat or pasteurized cooked milk, he noticed a striking difference between their health and even within a short period of time from transitioning their diet to the cooked diet, dental infections in the cat started to arise. And mother cats were having difficulty birthing and were suffering miscarriages. And there was an increase in infant mortality rates among these cats as well. And then the kittens were born with changes to their skeletal structures, weaker bones, they were more prone to infections. And these changes were being passed on from generation to generation with each new litter of kittens. And by the fourth generation, all the cats in the cooked meat cooked milk or pasteurized milk groups were unable to reproduce. He then tried to see if he could reverse these negative health effects. By switching the cats back to their original raw food diet, he was able to see some success with reversing their health. And this study really demonstrates the importance of what we eat and the impact it has on our health and future generations. It also demonstrates that we do have the ability if we decide to change and start eating healthier and incorporating healthier lifestyle habits. We can reverse those changes that are occurring and head in a new direction. pottenger study was the beginning of what scientists call epigenetics.
24:33 And I want to share another classic example of epigenetics that's more recent that was done in mice. This is a story about agouti mice and agouti mice are a breed of mice that have the obesity gene, and so they're born yellow and they grow to become obese. So they're yellow and fat mice. And what they did in this particular study was they took these agouti mice with the obesity gene and they change their diet, they fed them lots of leafy greens, which are sources again of methyl donors. And lo and behold, they began to give birth to lean brown mice. And what they found is that by switching them to this healthier diet, they were able to suppress that obesity gene.
25:22 Another example is honeybees. Queen bees and worker bees have the same DNA. But queen bees have the ability to reproduce and worker bees do not. This is because Queen beads feed on royal jelly and worker bees feed on honey. And scientists have discovered that bees can use honey to control gene activity through DNA methylation. Who knew bees were so smart? So I mean, it's amazing what nature can figure out on its own and paying attention to that wisdom? And how can we apply that wisdom to ourselves?
25:59 I use these examples to demonstrate how important it is to pay attention to the nutrients that we were are putting in our body, what are we putting in our body? What nutrients and toxins are we putting in our body that are having an effect on how we can express our genes and how that gets passed on. So if we can reorient our priorities around healthy eating, we can help build our family's genetic wealth. If we can eat real nutrient dense whole foods most of the time and avoid the foods the processed foods that lead to less healthy outcomes. You know, eating both plants and animals and avoiding environmental toxins like glyphosate and GMOs. Those things dirty our genes or cause negative changes.
26:50 Also, mindset and movement also play a role, again, in how our genes are affected. I didn't go into that as much this time, but I will spend a future episodes talking on that. I will also dive into specific genetic snips in future episodes. So snips stands for single nucleotide polymorphisms. So these are individual genetic changes that people can have that can get passed down, and you can actually test for them and determine how that's playing a role in your health. I didn't dive into that topic today. But if you want to discuss this topic further, I invite you to my free online community called the authentic table, you can find that at authentictable mn.co. So this is a place where I share resources, we have discussion topics. And I host online events as well. So check that out. I will post a link to that in the show notes. And all the links and articles and resources mentioned can be found in the show notes on my website at Brigittefactor.com/hungry for truth. Now, I want to encourage you that you have this information you know that it makes a difference on what you eat, and how that information is being passed on to go become guardians of your epigenome and build genetic wealth for your family. It's important. I hope you've enjoyed this information, please subscribe to this podcast. There's a lot more great shows coming up. And thank you for listening. Until next time, Grace and peace to you.