While it is true that our genetic heritage largely determines who we are, our genome also reacts to the environment and all the epigenetic changes that can be transmitted to future generations, considering that epigenetics encompasses any inheritable change in the expression of genes that is not Due to a mutation, the question arises: how can our lifestyle affect the alteration of our genes?
That is why, taking the Genome article as a reference, we share this example to better understand epigenetic patterns: “in the winter of 1944-1945, Germany had blocked the food supply to the Netherlands, and the population suffered a terrible famine. The effects of the "Dutch Hunger Winter" could be seen in the children born from women who were pregnant during the famine.
The babies from mothers who were malnourished only in the beginning of their pregnancy, but then had normal levels of food later, had a greater frequency of obesity throughout their lifetimes; they also had higher risks of chronic diseases like diabetes when compared to their siblings who were born before or after the famine. In a striking finding, the children of these babies were also found to have higher risks for the same chronic diseases. So it seemed like something could be passed down through generations, but not changes to the DNA sequence itself.
"Sure enough, research has shown that the methylation patterns in the DNA were altered in these children, and the altered patterns were inherited by their own children, changing their health outcomes.” By www.genome.gov
In the course of time it has been observed that there are several factors that can affect the epigenetic mechanisms, such as: nutrition, physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption, environmental pollution and even stress and schedule changes. These alterations in the epigenetic mechanisms can influence the appearance of cardiovascular, respiratory and neurodegenerative diseases.
The good part is that epigenetic patterns can be modified in a positive way as long as we carry healthy habits in our day to day and this way we will be taking care of our genes and those of our future generations.