EPIGENETICS: NATURE VIA NURTURE

Science has historically been riddled with the nature vs nurture conundrum as it relates to human development. Perhaps this riddle has been solved with the emergence of the field of epigenetics. Epigenetics suggests that it is not nature vs nurture but rather nature via nurture that shapes human development.

Epigenetics recognizes that we all are born with a heritable genetic “blue print” that predisposes our development. Like father, like son; like mother, like daughter.  Developmental conditions like height and weight are more heritable then almost any other human condition studied. However, some of these inherited genes (nature) are malleable by outside influences (nurture) that can shape or reshape these predisposition potentials and affect our development.

Having tall parentage would likely predispose for tallness. But that predisposition potential cannot be realized unless weight baring activity and optimal nutrition (calcium, protein, Vitamin D etc.) is available.

Without these “outside influences” genetic height predisposition potential cannot be fully attained and children would not be as tall as their parents.

Conversely our genetic heritage (nature), in concert with our contemporary lifestyles, abundant nutrition and social environments (nurture), has allowed us to realize our predisposition potential for weight gain (About one third of the world’s population is now overweight or obese). From an epigenetic perspective (nature via nurture) globesity is seemingly a natural evolutionary phenomenon.

The riddle now is, how does the very small percentage of people, that do not have any concerns about their weight, never weigh themselves, do not censor food choices, are intuitive eaters, somehow stay thin naturally. What is different about the nature of their genes that resists malleability of our contemporary outside influences (nurture) and allows them to stay thin?  An understanding of their natural genetic resistance to change, solving this riddle, may offer an opportunity for gene editing and future obesity interventions and prevention.  (see understanding epigenetics video below)

Dr. Courtney Griffin: Understanding Epigenetics

Is obesity in our genes? Study strengthens genetic link to body size

American Association of Bariatric Counselors