Friday, January 29, 2010

What Science Says About The Sins of the Father

There are certain verses in the Bible that state that the choices of the parents will be inherited by their children. Not only the "sins" (Exodus 34:7) but also the "blessings" (Psalm 112:2). It states it can go to the children and the children's children up to the fourth generation.

When I read through these verses, I have always thought that this was solely restricted to the spiritual and psychological realm. I was a bit curious why the Bible was so specific though down to the fourth generation. Perhaps at some point, people realize stupid choices create stupid consequences.

For instance, an angry father would sometimes impart a tempermental attitude to his children. A loving family environment might create happy children. You know the stereotypes.

Yet what I read the other day and what you will find out today might shock you. The principle of "sins of our father" is not only restricted in the spiritual or psychological realm.

Lifestyle choices affect your children and future generations at a genetic level

Science has revealed recently that the lifestyle choices that we make in our lives today not only has a psychological or spiritual impact to our children but also a physical, genetic impact. When you smoke cigarettes or eat with no fruits or vegetables in your diet, you are not only affecting yourself physically and hurting your body's ability to fight off heart disease or cancer, you are also doing that to your future descendants.

Over the past 20 years, scientists have been studying something called the "epigenome" and it has given birth to a new science called epigenetics. Sitting right above your DNA are epigenetic markers that tell your genes to switch on or off. It is a biological response to the environment that you are in and it is transmitted in your egg and sperm. To all of you computer geeks, the best explanation is as follows. Your DNA is the hardware, but your epigenome is the software. Don't misunderstand me. You don't evolve. Your DNA or your children's DNA doesn't change by your choices, but it does affect the epigenome markers.

Mistreating your body now through mutation-friendly environments such as cigarette smoke can have long lasting effects not only on your body but through your children and their children. Their genetic markers will be more susceptible to cancer.

Eating unhealthy foods, especially those individuals inclined to eat red meats and no vegetables or fruits in their diets, will pass negative epigenetic responses where your children and their descendants will have more suceptibility to heart disease.

Consider one experiment highlighted in TIME Magazine's January 18, 2010 article, "Why Your DNA Isn't Your Destiny". One generation of fruit flies were exposed to a chemical called geldnamaycin. It has created eye growths yet their DNA remained the same. That same trait were seen in 13 future generations -- yet the drug was only applied to 1 generation.

Now these are fruit flies. How about environmental effects and the choices that humans make on their body (ie: smoking)? A study published in 2006 in the European Journal of Human Genetics noted a peculiar incident with 14,024 fathers. About 166 fathers smoked in their youth. By the time they grew up and had children, it turned out that their boys had a higher body mass index than other boys by age 9. What does that mean? The fathers' sins were pronounced 'epigenetically', affecting their children and giving them more susceptibility to obesity, heart disease, and other problems.

Friends, these discoveries are shocking. It isn't about "your life" anymore that you are affecting, but you are affecting generations upon generations based on your life choices. Thankfully, the evidence that we do have is that epigenetic markers are temporary, things can still change for the better. Eat right, stop smoking, get good rest, and exercise. Easier said than done, but as we have learned, the stakes are now slightly higher.  Lastly, if you ever want to learn about new health topics, access Medical Health Discoveries.



Unknown said...

This is heavy stuff. I've read about a study done on two families and their progeny, one good couple had successful descendants, the other couple who were felons, had descendants who also became felons. But this evidence on the effect of dietary choices on later generations is new to me.

Mrs. Bannworth said...

Great article, Don. I enjoy the Biblical interplay. I would like to further read about epigenetics. Another food for thought for me is the verse including there is nothing new under the sun. It could mean the same old sins and treachery have and always will be around, or it could be a proof of the falseness of evolution.