Can the environment affect your DNA?

In 2007, before I started my journey to eat better and take care of my health, I watched this program on PBS and tucked the information away in the back of my mind. When I started drastically changing my diet my mind kept returning to this program and I began to wonder about the affects of the chemicals in and on our food. I began to think about our genes as our "hardware" and the epigenome as our "software". You are born with the genes you have, but can the environment affect your software, the signals that turn those genes on and off? This PBS special completely changed my opinion about food and our environment. I have watched people drench their lawns in chemical sprays and days later their children are rolling through the grass. How is this affecting our children? I've heard people claim chemicals are safe, only to be recalled, or banned after a problem occurs. Take a look at history. You had DDT, PCB's, BPA, and now atrazine. Boric acid was a food additive until it was found to be toxic. There are now links to hyperactivity and artificial food dyes, and a link to nitrates and cancer. Recently in California manufacturers of soda were going to be required to put a cancer label on their soft drinks, because the "caramel color" is a known carcinogen. Instead of reformulating the soda and removing the coloring agent, they decided to lower the level and make it within the legal limits, thus not requiring the cancer label. Why not remove it, or find another option? I'm still shocked that the caramel color was not produced by the heating of sugar! 

I spoke with a doctor at the University of Minnesota and she told me that during conception there is an average of 20 to 30 genetic changes, or mutations that occur in utero. Without these genetic variations evolution would not occur. These can be things as simple as the size, or shape of your ear, to things that are far more serious that affect your health. Researchers are finding that many environmental factors can cause these changes. The things you eat while pregnant, whether you smoke, or drink, your exposure to chemicals, etc.

Here is an excerpt from the transcript 'The Ghost In Your Genes':

MOSHE SZYF (McGill University): We have this very, very static genome, very hard to change. It could be only changed by really dramatic things like nuclear explosions or, you know, hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. On the other hand, we have the dynamic environment that changes all the time. And so what there is here is an interface between the highly dynamic world around us and the highly static genome that we have. Epigenome is an in-between creature, built in a way, to respond to changes around us.

Here is the link to the transcript put out by PBS in 2007. I must warn you, if you don't find this fascinating it will be a very, very slow read, but I did touch on a few of the highlights above.
Here is a link to a video by the same name, but it is a BBC production about Epigenetics.

On a side note, I recently found out about a startup that will map your DNA for $299. The site is and the co-founder is Anne Wojcicki who is married to Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google. I've been poking around the site and it is really interesting, including the work they've been doing on Parkinson's research. I'm not sure what implications it may have psychologically to know what risks you may have, but it may give a person the power to make lifestyle changes. Maybe I'll have the courage to do it someday.

I was talking to someone that works as a personal trainer and she was drinking something in a cool, blue, water splashed terra pack. It looked very tropical and made me think of sitting on a beach in Honolulu, with the cool, salty air blowing through my sun bleached locks... ;-)

Back to reality. I asked her what it was and she was so excited that it was coconut water! I remember drinking coconut water as a child, but we referred to it as coconut milk, which I now found out was wrong. I decided to go home and check out this new super drink.

As far as I can tell, coconut water seems to have the same benefits as Gatorade, but without all the artificial stuff. Coconut water also appears to be something that I wouldn't need. I heard a Doctor recently talking about the fact that most people, when exercising, don't need Gatorade, but they need water for hydration instead. He said the average person does not exercise long, or hard enough and I would definitely fall into that category of people that do not need coconut water.

Here's a quick run down I found on WebMd: 
It has fewer calories, less sodium, and more potassium than a sports drink. Ounce per ounce, most unflavored coconut water contains 5.45 calories, 1.3 grams sugar, 61 milligrams (mg) of potassium, and 5.45 mg of sodium compared to Gatorade, which has 6.25 calories, 1.75 grams of sugar, 3.75 mg of potassium, and 13.75 mg of sodium.

Gatorade also contains things like wood rosin, vegetable oil and artificial colors. So, if I were running 90 minutes a day and running in marathons then I think my choice would be coconut water, but for people like me who participate in light workouts then I think I'll stick with the best hydration method on the planet...water! I am going to talk to my Doctor about the possibility of using it during a virus when you're dehydrated. In the past I've been told to use Gatorade, so the coconut water would probably be a better alternative.

Just as a side note, this post I found is worth reading and highly entertaining. The title is 'Gatorade is Stupid' and he refers to Gatorade as, "...a fecal bomb disguised as a health drink...". Good stuff  and well said. ;-)
Just over a year ago, I decided to stop buying any food with high fructose corn syrup. I never realized how many products contain this instead of cane, or beet sugar. I decided to make the switch, because I had been reading about research that was finding that our bodies process the corn syrup differently than regular sugars. I also watched a documentary showing the process to make the high fructose corn syrup and it looked difficult and dangerous. It made me wonder when the switch was made from sugar to high fructose corn syrup. Did the soda of my youth have a corn sweetener? It seems that Coke began using high fructose corn syrup in the eighties and that is also the time that the use in all products sky rocketed. The good news is that you can still buy Coke with cane sugar! It comes in glass bottles and is made in Mexico. The price is much higher, but I consider soda a treat now, so the extra expense is worth it.
I decided to err on the side of caution and just avoid the high fructose corn syrup. I don't even use table sugar anymore. I like to use raw cane sugar in EVERYTHING. I know this will be a long debate, but why bother when it's something that's so controversial. And, I always remember that too much of any sugar is never a good thing. With obesity on the rise, mostly since the eighties, it just makes me wonder...



I just watched something on the news that I found extremely irritating. A USDA study was just released and it claims that it can be cheaper to eat healthy vs. eating junk food. I'm not sure where they are shopping, but when I've looked around the store it seems to be the opposite. Not too long ago I was complaining to my DH that it was far less to purchase soda compared to a natural fruit juice. The boxed dinner kits, you know the little glove guy, was far cheaper to feed a family than the fresh produce.
But I the news story had a table full of fresh and processed food. The reporter picked up the bananas and stated the cost was roughly $.19 a piece. She then picked up a name brand chip and said the cost was $.30 a serving. Now, if you're like me, I could not eat bananas all the time and you can easily buy good generic chips and then that would bring the price per serving down drastically. I do know that the fresh produce that I love certainly isn't $.19 a piece. Next, she pulls out some tomatoes and talks about how the box of donuts is far cheaper...aaah haaaa! Far cheaper than a tomato! This study seems a bit off to me. Does anyone remember the $.10 package of ramen noodles that everyone you knew was eating in college?? I suppose if you ate bananas and head lettuce all day then it could be possible to eat for less, but I think I'd prefer to eat an old shoe.
 So, my next question is why is high fructose corn syrup subsidized, but  fresh fruits and veggies aren't? I guess someone will figure that out eventually, or not. ;-)
Have you ever had real fresh homemade fried chicken made by a true Southerner? And by that I mean by someone who doesn't call themselves "The Colonel"! I have and it is goo-oood! I was talking to someone that CAN make a mean fried chicken, but they haven't done so in a long, long time...they get their chicken from a chain restaurant now!
 Of course, being a label reader, I had to check this out. What I found really didn't  surprise me.
This chain chicken has monosodium glutamate, maltodextrin, corn syrup solids and calcium silicate. The calcium silicate is also used as a safe alternative to asbestos for high temperature insulation. Hmm, so good.
Here's a few from the long list of ingredients for the biscuits:
Dimethypolysidoxane, TBHO, "artificial" flavor, and sodium acid pryophosphate.
Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia about the latter:
Other uses
In leather treatment, it can be used to remove iron stains on hides during processing. It can stabilize hydrogen peroxide solutions against reduction; it can be used with sulfamic acid in some dairy applications for cleaning, especially to remove soapstone. When added to the scalding water, it facilitates removal of hair and scurf in hog slaughter and feathers and scurf in poultry slaughter. In petroleum production, it can be used as a dispersant in oil well drilling kids.
Alright, we put chemicals in our bloodstream to alter the way our body functions. By this I mean medications, which can be helpful to treat problems, although these medications come with their own side-affects. To me it seems that these chemical additives in our food could very possibly be affecting our system in an adverse way.  Who knows...
I was watching a documentary on Netflix about the obesity problem in America. There was a scene with a mother and daughter discussing their difficulties with losing weight and their health problems that go along with it. They were sitting at a kitchen table talking about their struggles and I watched in disbelief as they pulled out a bottle of some sort of creamy dressing and then used a LONG squirt on a HUGE bowl of salad! This was the entire dinner! As she's squeezing the bottle I'm pleading in my head, "Pick up the bottle! Pick it up and read the label please, pleeeeeease!" I have picked up those bottles and read the label...EDTA, artificial ingredients(??), monosodium glutamate, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate...guany-what? How does our body know how to process this stuff?
I don't know how many times in my life I've heard people say, "I'm not eating rabbit food." Eating well doesn't have to mean sitting around eating lettuce all day. You just need a variety of "nutrient dense" foods. This is a term I learned recently and I've been throwing it around a lot lately ;-)
I have to admit, I do like salad, but I rarely eat it. When I do, I usually pour a little olive oil, squeeze on a little lemon or lime and throw on a pinch of salt. Yum! The first time I tried it I couldn't believe how something so, so simple could taste so, so good! Sometimes the simplest things ARE the best things.
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