Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes – Modern Epidemics and Epigenetics

Epigenetics may have the answer to epidemics such as diabetes

The prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes has reached epidemic proportions.1 Susceptibility to these conditions is passed down from parents to children; however, the rate of increase is so great that it can’t be explained by genealogy alone. So, what’s going on? Epigenetics may have the answer – we explain why in this post.

DNA and Genes

Before we get to epigenetics, let’s first take a quick look at DNA and genes.

DNA is sometimes referred to as the blueprint of life. It makes up our genes and together they provide a set of instructions for creating and running living organisms, such as humans. It was originally thought that DNA and genes were entirely responsible for our physical body, mental make-up and character traits. However, epigenetics has changed the way we understand this.

What Is Epigenetics?

Epigenetics is the study of how the environment influences the way our bodies use our genes. This fascinating field of science demonstrates the power that surroundings and lifestyle have on health. Depending on things like activity levels, eating habits and stress, genes are switched on and off, a process called epigenetic programming. A memory of which genes to switch on and off can be inherited over several generations.

How Does Epigenetic Programming Affect Us?

If we don’t take care of ourselves, the effects of epigenetic programming can be negative – helping to explain the growing prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes.2 Dictated by our lifestyle choices and environment, as well as those of our parents, genes associated with the conditions may be switched on.

But epigenetic influence is reversible – and there are some really simple steps we can take to put the power back in our hands:

  • Sleep well – to improve rest, sleep in a dark room and avoid exposure to electronic devices around an hour before hitting the hay.
  • Eat real foods – immune system and gut health are directly related. Try to feed your friendly digestive bacteria with a broad range of fresh, wholesome foods, while avoiding overly-processed products.
  • Take a break from eating – fasting can positively affect our bodyclock, hormone levels and immune system. Avoid eating 2 to 3 hours before bedtime, then wait a minimum of 12 hours before eating the next day.
  • Power through every now and then – short bursts of intense exercise help your body produce its own cabinet of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, enabling you to take day-to-day challenges in your stride.
  • Ease back often – to help you unwind and relax, balance intense exercise with slow, purposeful forms like yoga.
  • Be mindful – meditation and breathing practices can help to lower inflammation and improve immune efficiency.

Epigenetics – Find Out More

If you found this post interesting, please sign up to my newsletter as we’ll be following up with a look at what epigenetics can tell us about other conditions.

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  1. https://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes_epidemic.html
  2. Charlotte Ling, Tina Rönn, Epigenetics in Human Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes, Cell Metabolism Volume 29, Issue 5, 7 May 2019