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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Hattemer

Epigenetic Science Explains Hereditary Change

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.”    –Helen Keller

The science of epigenetics helps us to understand the mysterious inner layers of the genetic onion that is our brain. While DNA variations are permanent, epigenetic  changes over time can turn our genes on and off like a light switch, therefore controlling the way our genes behave. They can affect not only our emotional well being, but such things as how much we eat, even the diseases we develop. The mother’s diet can determine whether a gene is switched on or off.

We have all seen families where excessive weight seems to be a problem for grandparents, parents and now is showing up in their children. But we know that for any individual in that family, changing his or her eating and exercise habits can help that individual break out of that mold. Similarly, depression often runs in a family, but this new science is confirming that an individual can change that dynamic. Biblical faith explained this process long ago. When a person finds a passionate faith in God, he becomes a “new creature.” The old man dies and the new man emerges with a new self image, a more positive attitude that frees him or her  from being a victim of circumstances to one who,  through prayer and a changed lifestyle, can look forward to conquering old negative attitudes and leading a much more victorious life.

Epigenetics explains it in scientific terms. The word epigenetics means “above genetics.” They are like tags or beacons that sit on top of the DNA. What we eat, how we live, and how we love alters how our genes behave. Science Daily reported in 2005 that “single nutrients, toxins, behaviors or environmental exposure of any sort can silence or activate a gene without altering its genetic code in any way.” It explained that the process is like putting gum on a light switch. The switch is not broken, but the gum blocks the function.

“We’ve always known that the genes of our ancestors are passed on through generations, but could they pass on more than their genes?” Scientists now believe that epigenetic changes can also be passed down from one generation to the next. Dr. Maryanne Demasi suggests that “our children might be able to selectively erase the epigenetic memories shaped by our lifestyles.”  We know that the quality of maternal care can affect many later behaviors of a child. It is, therefore, quite possible that our behavior can affect the chemistry of the DNA.

This new science offers so much hope to people who experience recurring problems through generations of their families. They are not helpless to repeat the problems in their own lives but can actively seek to alter what has happened to preceding generations. “The way our lives unfold and the quality of life that we experience individually is directly related to cellular-memory which we have both the ability and the choice to change.” Previous understanding was that we could not change what was passed down to us, but scientists now believe that we can change cellular memories that are counterproductive to living the quality of life desired.

When it comes to generational disease, epingenetic science affirms that “if diseases are passed down through your hereditary tree, you do have both the ability and the choice to shift that ‘probability’ from becoming a ‘reality’ to you.” Those who believe that nothing is impossible for the God of the Bible, believe that “miracles” of change are possible. Now modern science is explaining that when we pray, we can be an intentional co-creator with God by deliberately choosing a path that will enable us to overcome the tendencies of our hereditary make-up and experience the kind of life that Jesus came to offer us: a life filled with love, joy, fulfillment and inner peace.

Ideas taken from Catalyst—ABC Television discussion among scientists of epigenetics reported by Dr. Maryanne Demasi and edited by Chris Spur

Science Daily, October 27,2005—Materials provided by Duke University Medical Center

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