Epigenetics is the study of long term alterations of DNA that do not include changes in the DNA sequence itself. Studies have shown that genes only aren’t in charge of the start of many human ailments.
Epigenetic processes happen at the interface of our genes and our surroundings and, unlike mutations, these changes are not irreversible. The aim of much of the research that’s being carried out in this groundbreaking medical area would be to find means to reverse pathological epigenetic events, like lifestyle or environment associated sicknesses, e.g. obesity and cancer.
The lifestyle of our ancestors has its marks on our epigenome, for the record of the chemical changes to our DNA, and what they ate, drank, smoked, whether they worked out or not, their anxiety and well-being degrees, their dispositions and outlooks, all of these have changed our DNA. But the genetics is not sufficient in describing disease status and our well-being. The wellbeing of people is the combined net effect of environmental factors and genetics. Surroundings and the lifestyle introduces a sort of code that is second in addition to the DNA, which can turn genes off or on. We’re not slaves of our DNA, it isn’t our destiny; we can empower our DNA through favorable changes in our lifestyle.
As the reality TV show “The Biggest Loser” has shown us, even the morbidly fat can lose weight when they follow a healthful eating strategy and participate in fairly intense exercise on a regular basis. It is not their genes that made them overweight in the first place but their lifestyle choices that are poor.
Research into identical twins has also shown how siblings select different lifestyles and who share the very same DNA can have completely different health consequences when they live independent lives. It is what they do to their genes to express them (i.e. epigenetic alterations) that matters, not what their genes are made up of at birth. Identical twins would always be completely identical in every manner, if the DNA sequence were all that mattered.
Identical twins can be indistinguishable in the way their genes are exhibited. Among old sets of twins, however, important differences in the gene expression portraits are clear. Additionally, twins who spend the most time tend to have medical histories that are divergent. Environmental factors, including diet, physical activity levels and smoking habits, may help clarify the same genotype can be interpreted in different manners and can affect epigenetic patterns.