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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Epigenetics: Our Children, Grandchildren and Our Choices

After spending about four years researching nutrition, regenerative health and physical degeneration in my spare time as a mom, I have come across a curiously fascinating branch of the science world: epigenetics. It correlates and supports a lot of what I have already learned but the digestion and presentation of research I am currently reading takes it to another level. The subject is incredible, one of the unfolding mysteries of scientific study.

Having often read of Francis Pottenger's cats studies, his name in the title of my current read is what initially caught my eye. He found that cats fed poor diets would pass down genetic defects until the fourth generation. The bad effects did not disappear at the fourth generation, rather the cats did. They simply died off. There were none left to reproduce, in every test group at that generation. And up until that point, feline fertility was weakened, bone structure was off, labor was difficult- and there were a host of other health problems for these poor creatures. However, the cats eating their natural diet thrived, labored and birthed easily, and were free from the diseases and malfunction the other group experienced.

So what do cats have to do with moms? Well, it sounds an awful lot like human problems industrialized people have been experiencing in the last one hundred years or so. Weston A. Price, another unsuspecting discoverer of some causes of regeneration and degeneration predicted our current fertility epidemic, among that of heart disease and a plethora of illnesses that are now strangely normal for a society eating modern foods. He was no scientist, he was a dentist. However, his note taking records and photographs were very well kept as he studied people groups all over the world, both industrialized and traditional real foods consumers. His book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration sits on my bookshelf and it too is fascinating. It used to be studied at Harvard but our nation doesn't exactly have a history of letting truth to help the people just get promoted. The money and agendas behind that are another topic entirely.

So back to epigenetics. Science is finally catching up with those old timer's observations, though they didn't quite have the detail, knowledge or education at the time to study and explain the issues in the depth and breadth they are currently being studied with modern advances and technology. The name of the book I am reading is "Pottenger's Prophecy, How Food Resets Genes For Illness or Wellness" by Gray Graham, N.T.P., Deborah Kesten, M.P.H. and Larry Scherwitz, P.H.D. Essentially they are saying, as you might guess from the title, Pottenger was right. Now we know DNA doesn't write everything, there are changing, environmental  factors that create people a certain way, and microRNA that shape over 1/3 rd of the human genome's expression! Outside factors like stress, nutrition and the environment of not only parents, but get this!- grandparents- are writing our children's and grandchildren's pre-set tendency to illness or wellness. Even much of those pre-set tendencies can be adjusted through choices of food, environment or activity such as an in depth study with many sets of twins showed.

Here is one of my favorite quotes yet, to bring it a little closer to home for you moms:

"Perspective: A Transgenerational View

Doctors have known for decades that a mother's nutrition, especially when she's pregnant, is a powerful determinant of her baby's health. Given this, the landmark study in Overkalix, by Drs. Lars Olov Bygren and Marcus Pembrey, is especially remarkable, because it reveals a previously unknown epigenetic phenomeonom called transgenerational response (TGR). According to Bygren and Pembrey, this means that "a mother's nutrition during her childhood can influence her child's risk as an adult for cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus and hypertension."1 But the transgenerational response is even more far-reaching, because both a grandmother's and grandfather's nutrition during their pre-puberty years can, through epigenetic chnages in the germ line, influence their adult grandchildren's risk for heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure; even their lifespan.2 When are grandparent's most susceptible to nutrition that can affect the health of their grandchildren? Called a slow growth period (SGP), the vulnerable, pre-puberty time for girls is 8-11 years; 9-12 years for boys." Page 41; Paragraph 4

What this book is conveying loosely to me (in much technical language) is that the studies and observations of people like Weston A. Price and Francis Pottenger got it right, though they didn't write in all the specific terms scientists are using today. What they observed in their respective studies produced some of the same conclusions that epigenetics is revealing to us today in extreme, minute detail.

I always pray over all of our children in the womb. God is my first line of defense! But the more I learn about nutrition and regeneration or degeneration the more that makes me want to keep providing real food for my family, and finding ways to get those traditional foods in me for my baby in my belly.

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