Thinking of getting one of those DNA testing kits? Aside from the Ancestry tests, the tests for your future health risks may be questionable and at this point you may want to save your money. Here is why.
Is Your DNA Your Destiny?
The Short Version
Gene Expression: the process by which a cell converts the genetic code into RNA and protein
Epigenetics: the study of heritable changes in gene function that occur without a change in the DNA sequence
To fully illustrate the epigenetic process, one must tell the story of the agouti gene.
Both these mice have the gene that tends to produce fat, yellow pups. The mom of the brown mouse was fed B vitamins which silenced the gene. This produced brown pups with normal appetites resulting in a thin, healthy mouse.
Without altering the genomic structure, agouti moms were then able to produce healthy brown pups of normal weight and less prone to diabetes.
How did this occur? Some nutrients silence genes by providing methylation (adding a methyl group (CH3); others activate genes by inhibiting methylation. The B vitamins acted as methyl donors that caused methyl groups to attach more frequently to the agouti gene in utero, inhibiting its expression. Silence or inhibiting depends on what the gene does: e.g., silencing a gene that stimulates cancer growth is beneficial; silencing a gene that suppresses cancer growth would be harmful.
The Longer Version:
Is Genomics the Future?
The Human Genome Project was completed in 2003 that identified all of the genes in the human body.
The new field of Nutritional Genomics suggest that lifestyle factors influence how nutrients influence gene activity and expression.
Although genetics can play a sizable effect on our future, lifestyle factors and the environment can often play a role in the outcome (expression). As you can see, epigenetics may show us that genes alone are not necessarily our destiny.