Research on epigenetics continues to elicit varied interest from scholars keen on understanding how heritable shifts impact or influence genetic expression without necessarily influencing the fundamental DNA sequence. This paper reviews a research article and two videos on epigenetics with the view to developing a deeper understanding of the phenomenon and how it affects the physical and mental health of individuals.
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Understanding of Epigenetics Based on Research
A recent research article defines epigenetics as the “heritable changes in gene expression and chromatin structural changes that occur without any change in nucleotides of DNA” (Hosseni et al., 2016, p. 218). The authors of this particular article make use of primary research studies to argue the case for the role of some nutrients and micronutrients in modulating epigenetic and environmental factors which consequently bear preventive and therapeutic effects on different disorders, with a focus on cancer. This research article enhances understanding of the epigenetic phenomenon in terms of how it occurs through methylation of DNA and shifts in histones, how DNA methylation takes place in the CPG islands that are positioned inside or close to the gene promoter, and how irregular DNA methylation prototypes at the promoter site may lead to medical disorders such as cancer due to their association with the process of developing malignant cells. The article also advances deep understanding of how nutrients and micronutrients (e.g., dietary polyphenols found in most fruits and vegetables) have the potential to inhibit the enzyme methyltransferase (DNMTs) and make changes in the histones, hence acting as important factors in the prevention and treatment of various disorders, including cancer (Hosseni et al., 2016).
Relationship between Epigenetics and Physical and Mental Health
In discussing the relationship between epigenetics and physical and mental health, it is important to note that the shifts in the gene expression and activity of DNMTs due to nutritional or environmental factors have been noted in many medical disorders that cause physical and mental functional decline, such as autism, Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular conditions, type 2 diabetes, and cancer (Hosseni et al., 2016). This elucidation shows that the chemical alterations influencing the activation or silencing of genes due to environmental or nutritional variables can indeed occasion lasting physical and mental changes, particularly in terms of leading to the development of mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, mood-related issues, alcohol abuse, and depression. These disorders, in turn, affect the physical and mental functioning of individuals and their capacity to lead a normal life, hence the relationship (Hosseni et al., 2016). Inversely, epigenetics has been credited for coming up with solutions that enhance the physical and mental wellbeing of individuals through the development of preventative therapies aimed at addressing a multiplicity of medical disorders.
Main Learning point from the Videos and Changes in Lifestyle
Lastly, the main learning point from the videos is that diet, stress/depression, and existing environmental exposures can all alter an individual’s gene expression, leading to the onset of serious medical disorders such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes (Herbes-Sommers & Costa, 2011; Papenbroock, Moers, Produktian, & Fernsehen, 2009). The information learned from the videos will change my lifestyle in terms of ensuring that I take more fruits and vegetables to benefit from the polyphenols which have a protective role against such disorders by inhibiting the DNMTs known to cause the mentioned illnesses and many more.
Overall, the reviewed materials (research article and two videos) have all underscored the important role played by nutrition in either preventing or stimulating the onset of various medical conditions due to shifts in gene expression and chromatin structure. As such, individuals must lead healthy lifestyles and consume a lot of fruits and vegetables with the view to preventing such changes to gene expression.
Herbes-Sommers, C., & Costa, B. (Executive Producers). (2011). Epigenetics: The hidden life of our genes [Videodisc]. Princeton, NJ: Films for the Humanities & Sciences.
Hosseni, S.A., Shirali, S., Idani, I., Ghanavati, M., Alipour, M., & Yadollahpour, A. (2016). Role of nutrition in epigenetic modulation as a preventive and therapeutic approach for cancer. International Journal of Pharmaceutical Research & Allied Sciences, 5, 218-226. Web.
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Papenbroock, F., Moers, P., Produktian, M., & Fernsehen, D. (Executive Producers). (2009). Epigenetics: How food upsets our genes [Videodisc]. Hamilton, NJ: Films for the Humanities & Sciences.