Updated: Mar 5, 2018
Fascinating isn't it? In 1990 a project called the Human Genome Project was launched to identify the 25,000 genes in human DNA. Researchers successfully identified the genes, known as our genome, but were still unable to explain why a person had brown eyes or blue eyes just by looking at their DNA. They concluded that DNA was controlled by something that existed outside and above our genome. This study became known as epigentics - it means control above your genes. It is the science of how environmental signals i.e. what you eat; what you drink; etc affects your gene activity and makes you who you are.
Your gene activity is constantly being changed in response to your unique environment and your food choices. In the 1960s scientists started cloning cells and created the first stem cell cultures. When they put stem cells in culture dishes with conditions that support muscle growth the cells evolved into muscle cells, however if they changed the environment in the petri dish then the cells morphed into different types of cells. The results are fascinating. While every single cell was genetically identical and contained the same DNA, the destiny of the cells was controlled by the environment. The epigenome decides how our genes are expressed and determines if a cell becomes a nerve cell, liver cell, hair cell etc.
All cells in your body have the same DNA code. But the same DNA in different conditions results in different types of cells as shown in the diagram below, which illustrates how different cells can evolve from the same stem cells depending on certain environmental conditions and factors such as nutrition.
The Central Dogma, the theory that cells control life, has now been replaced by these new epigenetic discoveries. It's been proven that genes cannot turn themselves on and off alone and that they require a set of instructions which are written by external factors such as the food we eat.
Even if you have genes that predispose you to certain health problems from cancer to obesity you can keep them dormant or counteract their activity by improving your nutrition and how you live. Nutrition can switch on or switch off your genes. It's therefore incredibly important to eat well because we know that poor food choices can negatively impact our gene behaviour.