Originally posted on May 14, 2009
In an earlier post on epigenetics I mentioned that foods high in methyl groups may be capable of altering epigenetic programming in adults, leading to alterations in stress responsiveness.
A recent study on cabbage looper caterpillars found here shows that gene expression is indeed responsive to changes in diet. In this insect, the consumption of plants containing bacteria alters the expression of genes related to immunity AND these changes in gene expression are passed onto their offspring. Although they haven’t identified the exact epigenetic mechanisms responding to diet in this system, this study provides good evidence that diet is indeed impacting adult epigenomes.
We now have evidence that the epigenome’s sensitivity to diet can have significant impacts on numerous traits, including behavioral and endocrinological stress responsiveness, immunity and metabolism. As we learn more and more about these mechanisms I imagine that we’ll use this information to reformulate our thoughts on what makes a healthy diet. Perhaps we’ll even have epigenetically trained dieticians who will prescribe individual diet plans for people dealing with anxiety issues, metabolic diseases, etc. Lots of possibilities exist for how this information can be used and epigenetics research seems to be churning out new and exciting findings at an increased pace!