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The Health Benefits of Epigenetic Testing

  •   Danielle L’Ami

Epigenetic testing reveals the methylation of DNA. Subsequent and targeted lifestyle changes can positively affect ageing and wellness.

An image of epigenetics mobile app to illustrate the health benefits of epigenetic testing.

Epigenetics is the interaction between your genes and your environment. Epigenetic changes can impact how your genes work. Our genes are a unit of heredity. They are transferred from a parent to a child and often regulate the characteristics of the child; this is known as epigenetic inheritance.

We are born with a set DNA sequence that cannot be altered. However, you can change the way a DNA sequence expresses itself; this is where epigenetics comes into play. But before we get into the health benefits that epigenetic testing can give us, let’s gain a better understanding of our genes and how they work.

Our Genes

In all likelihood, we are often told how much we look like one of our parents, or even how one of our children looks like us. These physical features have been passed down through our genes. But genes can also be passed down as personality traits.

For example, in a family of five, if the parents are both introverts, chances are the children may also have this trait. That’s because the genes that came from our parents contain specific information to specify this particular shared trait. Additionally, the environment we grow up in also plays a part in acknowledging and perhaps amplifying this trait.

Scientists have long been curious about how much the environment plays in impacting our personality traits. This is often referred to as nature versus nurture. In one particular study researchers used to help determine how much of our DNA influences personality, was the study of twins.

According to verywellmind.com, 350 pairs of twins were studied over 20 years, including identical and fraternal, those who were raised together and those raised apart. The results showed that regardless of where they were raised, the behavior of the identical twins were similar, thus highlighting the impact genes have over our personalities.

Our personalities can without question also be influenced by our environment, as is shown in the following insights here. So, while we know how our genes relate to our physical characteristics and personality traits, our genes also play a fundamental role in our health. This is where epigenetics and epigenetic testing comes into play.

Epigenetics

As discussed, our genes are passed on to us through our parents. But our gene expression, that is, what you see or measure, is dependent on epigenetic changes, and in turn the epigenetic changes also affect expression. Essentially, they can determine whether or not a gene is turned on or off by changing the number of methyl chemical groups attached to a gene. You can further learn how the “signals from the outside world can work through the epigenome to change a cell's gene expression.” 

Does it still sound confusing? It can be, so let’s look at the following examples from scientificamerican.com. The first, a 2016 study conducted by Mount Sinai hospital that suggests that children of Holocaust survivors showed evidence of an increased probability of stress disorders.

Another example relates to pregnant women and their nutrition during their pregnancy. During the Dutch Hunger Winter of 1944, pregnant women were forced to survive on 400-800 calories per day. Studies on their children showed increased rates of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and altered lipid profiles in adulthood.

In these two studies, we can see how the environment caused an inherited gene through the struggles the parents faced in their lifetime. The resulting children of these parents would have to acknowledge these genes and change their lifestyles accordingly to address the stress or obesity concerns they are now forced to live with.

The Health Benefits of Epigenetic Testing

The genes we inherit from our parents are ours to keep for our lifetime. They make us prone to be a higher risk for some conditions or even the reverse. Think of it as being tagged. For example, you may have a gene that tags you as being at a higher risk for heart disease.

Now, for those who eat nutrient rich foods and choose exercises that work with their genes, there is a higher likelihood that the expression of genes that may lead to chronic disease will be decreased. (What are nutrient rich foods? Check out our post on processed food vs. whole foods to find out more.) For others, they may believe they are leading a healthy lifestyle but it works against their genes. This is where epigenetic testing greatly helps.

By receiving an epigenetic test, you are gaining access to your genetic health. Your results are tailored to the expression of your personal DNA. The data you receive will focus on 5 health aging insights, and can help you better understand how your aging genes are expressing themselves. Essentially, epigenetics is a peek into the future and what your health trajectory might look like.

So, as was mentioned before, if you are at a higher risk for developing heart disease and your lifestyle is accelerating your aging, epigenetic testing will make you aware of this. Using an app such as mytoolboxgenomics.com, will give you personalized reports that include recommendations, workouts, and nutrition plans.

The reports you receive will also help to correctly identify your biological age over your chronological age. The latter is your exact age, whereas the former is the reflection of how your cells are aging. Your biological age goes beyond to include that of your eye age, memory age, hearing age, and inflammation. The health benefits from receiving this information include knowing whether or not you need to make changes to your lifestyle, from the food you consume to the type of exercise you practice. 

Further to receiving one test, you may decide that you want to retest after you have made appropriate health changes. By doing this, you can see if your changes are having a positive impact on your inner health. This offers a great motivating factor to keep going as you see your results improve. Often feel like you are learning health secrets too late? Check out our post on health secrets I wish I knew when I was 20.

Final Thoughts

So often we go through life not paying attention to what our body is trying to tell us. In many ways, we ignore the whispers it gives us. For example, maybe we ignore how our stomach feels after we consume a latte. Or maybe we brush off the dizzy feeling we get when we stand up when our body is telling us we need more iron.

We all tend to have a gut feeling about our health. Over time, we learn to trust that gut feeling. For example, many people give up caffeine after dinner because they know they won’t sleep otherwise. But having an epigenetics test that confirms your suspicions takes the guesswork out of your aging journey.

Maybe your parents both have bad hearts and you highly suspect you too could be at risk for heart disease. But with the guidance of an epigenetic test, you can put your inner health back on track. And knowing that you can alter and improve upon these genetic concerns, is more than peace of mind: it’s priceless.

Author
Danielle L’Ami

Danielle L’Ami is a logophile who writes her passion and loves to connect with others through her thoughts and personal experiences. When she is not writing, you can find her watching hockey with her husband, torturing her children with new recipes, or practicing yoga to keep herself balanced.

My Toolbox Genomics empowers individuals in their healthcare journey by creating reports focused on genetic predispositions derived from published research. Test results and suggestions are intended to lead to consultation with one’s healthcare practitioner. MyTBG reports do not diagnose disease or medical conditions. Any lifestyle changes should result from consultation with qualified healthcare practitioners.