“Our genes make their day-to-day decisions based on chemical information they receive from the food we eat, information encoded in our food and carried from that food item’s original source, a micro-environment of land or sea. In that sense, food is less like a fuel and more like a language conveying information from the outside world” (Shanahan 7).

Most people can agree that food and nutrition are important; they fuel us and give us the energy we need to accomplish our daily tasks. However, food is much more interactive and personal than most may realize. Food shapes us outwardly and molecularly. Our body is able to receive vital information about its environment through the food we intake, giving our genes a heads up on how to interpret our DNA in order to adapt to our surroundings. This fact is not limited to just the foods we eat. Our genes learn from our daily habits, our activity levels and even our thoughts. Most incredibly, these factors not only shape our DNA and personally affect our lives; they can also extend into our future children and affect their DNA before they take their first breath.

Vitamin Deficiency

[1] There was a study done where researchers successfully deprived impregnated pigs of vitamin A, and what they found was that the litter was born with no eyeballs. They then reintroduced vitamin A to the pigs and their next litter was born with normal eyes. “Vitamin A is derived from retinoids, which comes from plants, which in turn depend on sunlight. So in responding to the absence of vitamin A by turning off the genes to grow eyes, it is as if the DNA interpreted the lack of vitamin A as a lack of light, or a lightless environment in which eyes would be of no use” (Shanahan 32). This phenomenon shows us a couple of things: one, dietary choices can have a severe impact on our offspring and also, this illustrates how food is a language to our genes more than just a fuel for our bodies.

Smoking and Obesity

Topics more easily understood are smoking and obesity, the condition of being grossly overweight. It is no secret that obesity can lead to back pain, heart disease, diabetes and an increased susceptibility to infections and viruses due to an impaired immune system, but living a life of obesity and poor habits such as smoking can also affect your future children right down to their DNA before they are even born. These effects can range from susceptibility to osteoporosis, allergies, bone structure and even asthma. “By smoking during pregnancy, you are telling the embryo that the air is full of toxins and that breathing is sometimes dangerous. The developing lungs would do well to be able to react quickly to any inhaled irritants. Asthmatic lungs are over– reactive. They cough and spit at the slightest whiff of foreign aerosols” (Shanahan 29).

Inflammation

Inflammation has a bad name in today’s world, that’s why there’s a commercial for pain medication every five minutes. We’ve been taught that inflammation is bad and we need to get rid of it by taking pills; unfortunately this theory is flawed. Inflammation is not bad, it is inherently good. The body’s response to healing is inflammation, that’s why you get a fever when you catch a cold, and you develop redness when you scrape your knee. Other examples of this can be seen in tendonitis and low back pain. There may be an affected area due to a misalignment which triggers inflammation, hence the pain. However, instead of inhibiting inflammation by taking a pain killer, we need to understand that there is a severe imbalance between the omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in our diet. Omega 6 fatty acids promote inflammation and omega 3 fatty acids suppress inflammation; both of these jobs are important and ideally should be kept at a ratio of one omega 6 to every one omega 3. [2] Unfortunately the typical western diet holds a ratio of around 17:1. This means omega 6 fatty acids severely outnumber their inflammatory suppressing counterpart omega 3 fatty acids. Because of this, whenever your body needs to heal from damage of some sort, it’s really good at inflaming the area to promote the healing, but it does a very poor job of clearing out the inflammation when the time calls for it; so we suffer from prolonged inflammation which causes damage in itself. In order to calibrate our ratio back to normal, we should try to avoid some of these foods that are high in omega 6 fatty acids: potato chips, fried chicken, hash browns, and French fries. Some good omega 3 fatty acids to implement into our diet include: salmon, chia seeds, oysters and spinach.

All in all, I hope that you learned that your diet and habits are extremely powerful and influential to your immediate health, your genetic arrangement and can even affect the genes of your future children. For more information about nutrition and health call us for a free consultation at (352)241-4111.


 

Shanahan, Catherine, and Luke Shanahan. Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food. Lawai, HI: Big Box, 2009. Print.
[1] Hale, F., 1937. Relation of maternal vitamin A deficiency to microophthalmia in pigs. Texas State J. Med., 1937;33:228-232
[2] Simopoulos, A. P. “The Importance of the Omega-6/Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ratio in Cardiovascular Disease and Other Chronic Diseases.”Experimental Biology and Medicine 233.6 (2008): 674-88. Web.