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DNA is no longer your destiny: 'New frontier' of epigenetics research explores Transcendental Meditation
by Global Good News staff writer
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8 February 2013
Another important and timely angle Pamela Peeke, MD, explored in her conference talk on the role of Transcendental Meditation in treating food addiction, is that of epigenetics—'probably one of the most exciting new frontiers' of research today.
Dr Peeke, a distinguished physician and author in the fields of nutrition, stress, fitness, and public health, was addressing a conference of medical professionals at the University of Maryland on The New Science of Meditation and Self-Healing: Transcendental Meditation and Mind-Body Medicine.
Epigenetics is currently a focal point of research at the National Institues of Health (NIH) in the USA, in the epigenome project, she said.
Dr Peeke feels that 'what we're really seeing here is something quite fascinating: the ability to utilize modalities—like Transcendental Meditation for instance, like better nutrition, like physical activity—to actually change gene expression to be able to do things like: heal the prefrontal cortex and reclaim the brain.'
Scientists now feel that the DNA we are born with is a blueprint; however, contrary to the understanding of genetics up to now, it does not dictate our destiny.
Dr Peeke reviewed the 'birth of epigenetics' in groundbreaking research with agouti mice several years ago at Duke University, which opened up this new field of scientific understanding and exploration. Agouti mice are a strain of mice with the 'agouti gene', a gene associated with obesity and a distinctive yellow fur colour. They are known to be prone to many diseases and premature death.
Dr Randy Jirtle wanted to see if he could change gene expression in the mice, simply by changing their diet. He added leafy greens and B vitamins to the original mix to see if this dietary change would 'dampen down' the offending gene, Dr Peeke explained. In the first generation the researcher saw that the biomarker for the yellow fur had been turned off. The mice were born brown, lean, healthy, and lived a normal life span. This study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, took place in 2007. Thus began the science of epigenetics.
Epigenetics gives us 'a phenomenal opportunity: What if we were able to meditate, does that change gene expression?' Current research is investigating this. 'Stay tuned,' Dr Peeke said.
In the field of epigenetics many interesting things can be accomplished. For example, the brain can increase in size through neurogenesis, the growth of more neurons. Transcendental Meditation is a potential way to stimulate neurogenesis, she said. Physical activity also has been shown to increase the size of the brain. Dr Peeke described one research study which found that simply adding daily walking to the routine was successful in 'damping down' a gene responsible for obesity by 40%.
The accumulating research sheds new light on the importance of lifestyle choices including eating well, physical activity, meditating. Researchers have realized that 'DNA is no longer destiny.' Lifestyle plays a critical role in determining one's destiny. 'You write your own script in many respects,' Dr Peeke said. 'This is a huge game-changer.'
Scientists are now particularly emphasizing the importance of epigenetics, because they have also discovered that genetic expression imprinting, which comes from our lifestyle choices, is passed on to the next generation. Many variables would affect to what extent this happens, Dr Peeke explained. 'But this is very exciting. It's also revolutionary.'
Looking at the whole issue of epigenetics, Dr Peeke likes to break it down into three categories: 'mind, mouth, muscle'. Every thought we think, every bite we eat, and every step we take is imprinting and changes gene expression, which then influences one's own destiny and potentially even that of future generations.
She went on to discuss the significant role in this process played by histones—proteins that make up the epigene surrounding every gene—which she described as 'speechwriters for the genes'.
See related articles:
∙ Are your histones happy? Epigenetics and the role of Transcendental Meditation in recovery from food addiction
∙ Role of Transcendental Meditation in overcoming food addiction: Pamela Peeke, MD
∙ Pamela Peeke, MD, explains why she learned Transcendental Meditation
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