Our poor lifestyle choices could be hurting our kids in more ways than previously known. Traces of our unhealthy habits and other external factors are passed down to future generations through our DNA.
New research has shown, for the first time, that our lifestyle and poor habits not just recode our DNA, but their ramifications are passed on to the next generation as well. This makes our children more vulnerable and prone to health conditions such as mental illness and obesity.
It has always been known that major and traumatic calamities such as drought and famine leave a very clear mark on generations. However, for the first time, scientists have been able to observe how this happens. Scientists have witnessed the mechanism behind the phenomenon which predisposes our future generations to certain conditions based on our mistakes. In simpler words, contrary to popular belief, our genetic slate doesn’t get completely wiped clean for our offspring.
Our DNA is being constantly altered, not just by internal factors, but external conditions like our environment. These factors are known as our epigenomes. These conditions are even responsible for our genes switching on and off during our lifetime. In other words, these external factors have a very profound impact on our health. What’s interesting is that previously scientists didn’t believe these external factors like diets and stress levels couldn’t influence our offspring.
Simply put, scientists thought epigenetic changes couldn’t be passed down through our sperm and egg cells. But as it turns out, the slate isn’t wiped clean and each new generation has to partially bear the burns of its forefathers, shared Azim Surani from the Wellcome Trust and the University of Cambridge in the UK, who led the research.
“The information needs to be reset in every generation before further information is added to regulate development of a newly fertilized egg. It’s like erasing a computer disk before you add new data.”
The team discovered that about 5 percent of our DNA resists reverting to the original state. These strands of DNA retain the impact of our mistakes onto the next generation. Incidentally, the epigenetic erasing process occurs between weeks two and nine of an embryo’s development.
What’s troubling is the fact that these erase-resistant genes are associated with troubling health conditions such as schizophrenia, obesity and metabolic disorders, shared Walfred Tang, the lead author of the study.
“Our study has given us a good resource of potential candidates of regions of the genome where epigenetic information is passed down not just to the next generation but potentially to future generations, too.”
What the research, which still in its infancy, suggests is that ensuring our women bear healthy children isn’t enough. We have to keep our DNA healthy too. Keeping eating habits healthy and making better lifestyle choices just became a lot more important.
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