Epigenetics and Eating Disorders

Hello everyone!

I suppose I will be the first to post in our class (English 101), as I haven’t seen posts from anyone else in our class (though correct me if I’m wrong!*UPDATE: I see someone posted at the exact same time as I did!) Blogging is definitely new to me, so bear with me as I attempt to do this somewhat correctly and actually catch your guys’ interest! What I really wanted to talk about here regards Dan Hurley’s articleGrandma’s Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes, that we read about behavioral epigenetics. Now because I know that it is very likely that not all of you read this, I will try to give a brief preface of what it was about. I apologize if it’s not very scientific language, but I’ll do my best!

The article goes into explaining the idea of a new line of research in genetics, revolving around an extra element of DNA known as methyl groups. These methyl groups become permanently attached to genes, but are not a designated part of them, resulting in the name epigenetics which references the Greek prefix for over/outer/above, and can replicate along with the DNA and cause long-term, heritable change in gene function. The overall question at hand was because epigenetics could be affected by things like diet and chemicals, is it possible for epigenetic changes to occur due to certain emotional and physical experiences?

The research performed on rats seemed to indicate that the answer to this question is in fact “yes”, however I thought of something that may (or may not) apply to this overall idea. I think this idea only came to me because I had just watched the show “My 600 Pound Life”, and a person on the show had stated that “obesity runs in my family”. This made me wonder if epigenetics could possibly be a factor in the reasoning behind why people find this to be true. Not only can obesity be caused by heritable diseases or other medical obstacles, but could a traumatic experience for someone, revolving around food or unhealthy habits in general, result in an epigenetic change that could be replicated and passed on to his/her children? And, could this be true for other eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia? Although these things aren’t specifically brought on by upbringing (which is referenced frequently in the article in terms of the study done on the rats), could a mother or father’s traumatic experience with any type of eating disorder be “passed on” due to a molecular scar left on his or her DNA, causing a child to inherit his or her psychological and behavioral tendencies?

I realize that I phrased a lot of my ideas as questions, but I hope you get the gist of what I’m thinking. I am no scientist, so my ideas could be totally absurd, but it was a thought that I couldn’t help but share. I’d love to hear any feedback and opinions on this idea. Hopefully I did the art of blogging some justice!

-Ashley

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