“Diet Affects Gene Expression” By Sarah Cooke

“We all know that our eating habits impact our health. From the proper functioning of internal organs to the appearance of our skin, in many ways, we truly are what we eat. But a new study suggests that diet has an even deeper impact upon our bodies.

The Duke University study suggests that what we eat impacts the way our genes are expressed. In the study, one group of rats was fed a nutritious diet while another was fed a diet lacking in folic acid. The former group consistently maintained darker hair, while the hair of the latter became blondish in color. What’s more, the offspring of the latter group and every subsequent generation had blondish hair, as well.

If we are anything like rats, then, what we eat may not only impact us – it may impact the health of our children and grandchildren. The study suggests that diet first impacts the way our genes are expressed in our own bodies. So eating a poor diet may influence the genes responsible for determining the appearance of skin. Someone whose diet lacks sufficient nutritional content, therefore, might have older looking skin. When those genes are passed down, then, that person’s children may be more likely to have skin that ages prematurely, as well.

The study was intended primarily to illuminate ways in which dermatologists could help their patients improve the appearance of their skin. But the implications of the study are much deeper. While more research is certainly called for, these findings are not encouraging for a country plagued with obesity.

The typical American diet is much too high in refined carbohydrates, trans fat, saturated fat, and artificial ingredients. This is the first generation of Americans predicted to die sooner than their parents. The rate of obesity and diabetes among children continues to skyrocket. There are a number of disturbing health trends in this country and, if what the Duke study suggests is correct, we might be struggling with these health epidemics for quite some time.

This is why it is so important for USDA and the FDA to be more responsible in deciding how to regulate the corporate food system. By allowing the widespread consumption of produce sprayed with pesticides and meat and dairy products treated with antibiotics and hormones, we are likely doing damage to our genetic code and the genes of our children. Not to mention the unknown health effects of genetically modified foods.

Furthermore, increased funding is necessary for organizations that provide low-cost nutrition education and work to redress the occurrence of food deserts. Our eating habits have already had a significant, negative impact on the current generation of children. It is imperative that we take action before we doom the next generation, as well.”

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