For many years it has been know that ‘you are what you eat’ but is it also true that our children will also be affected by our dietary and life style choices. The field of epigenetics is a new field with was only realized in the early 1920’s. It deals with the control and activation of the genes in our DNA. A resent study by researcher Dana Dolinoy from Duke University found that the addition of certain chemicals into the diets of pregnant rats caused noticeable changes in their off spring. The chemical used in the experiment was called bisphenol A and is used in many different sorts of plastics, many of which are used in the production of plastic bottles which also include bottles intended for use by infants.
In the experiment by Dolinoy, agouti mice were feed the chemical bisphenol A through a controlled diet and feeding pattern, researches found that of the rats which did not receive the chemical their offspring had a 10% chance of being obese. Where as the offspring of the rats which were feed the chemical over 21% of them were born obese and maintained their body size throughout their life. Further tests were also performed to examine the levels of DNA methylation present on certain genes in the genome of the offspring. The results found that their was a 31% decrease in the methylation of many of the genes in the offspring. This methylation has a profound affect on the genes of an animal as it regulates the transcription of a particular gene and if the methylation on a gene is reduced the gene is expressed more in the individual. These finding confirm previous beliefs that habits such as smoking and drinking can place your children at higher risk of diseases like heart disease and cancer as genes which give them a predisposition to such conditions which may be lying dormant could be activated or their synthesis increased by the reduction of these methyl groups.
These finding fortify the claim that manufactured chemicals in our daily lives are having an affect on not only our lives but the lives of our children. These finding have massive implication on the way in which we conduct our lives. The field of epigenetics is continuing to show us that many of the artificial chemicals which we are introducing into our lives are having a profound affect on our health. More and more we are seeing that a greater number of our children are being born obese or with ADHD, asthma or allergies and only now are scientist starting to identify the cause of these ailments which have risen in frequency in the past few decades. Although these findings are of small scale tests and other external factors are still to be ruled out of the picture it is clear that who we are and what we have done really do get passed to the next generation and many of the times with harmful side affects.
- Adams, J 2008, Obesity, Epigenetics, and Gene Regulation, Scitable, viewed 18/03/2011, http://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/obesity-epigenetics-and-gene-regulation-927.
- Dana, D, Huang, D & Jirtle, R 2007, Maternal nutrient supplementation counteracts bisphenol A-induced DNA hypomethylation in early development, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America, viewed 18/03/2012, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1941790/.
- Reece, B, Meyers, N, Urry, L, Cain, M, Wasserman, S, Minorsky, P, Jackson, R & Cooke, B 2011, Campbell Biology, 9th edn, Pearson Education, Sydney.