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How Your Environment Hacks Your Genes for You

By: Dave Asprey

A new guide to epigenetics just got published that blows the doors off conventional thinking around upgrading yourself. There is no longer any doubt that you can use your environment to literally hack your genes. The research, published in the Journal of Behavioral Ecology, highlights dozens of studies showing epigenetics guides rapid adaptation.

Epigenetics, the study of how your internal and external environments change the expression of your genes, is a huge area of interest at the Bulletproof Executive because it shows you do not have to wait for the slow creep of evolution in order to transform yourself. It puts hard science behind what humans have long known – that you can optimize your diet, behavior and environment to move your body and mind to new levels.

Epigenetics promises to help crack the code behind increased obesity, cancer rates, and other wide spread degenerative diseases, but that is just for starters. By hacking our environment, we can literally switch on or off genes that make us either more or less Bulletproof.

Flipping Your DNA Switches

The new epigenetic research comes from the University of South Florida’s Department of Integrative Biology scientists Christina Richards and Lynn Martin (1). Richards states, “If you have two individuals with the same DNA sequence, you can get differences in their traits just by regulating what portions of the DNA sequence are turned on and off. When you expand this up to the population level, you begin to appreciate how fast variation can arise from environmental changes. New variation does not only come from mutation. Mutations are rare and slow to affect populations.” [emphasis is mine]

In other words, you don’t have to be a genetic freak in order to do something amazing. You may just need to be an environmental freak.

With epigenetic change, the DNA sequence stays the same and alterations in behavior, health, size, and all sorts of factors happen just because DNA gets packaged differently.

In many cases, epigenetic changes are activated by some change in the environment – typically something stressful.  Now you know why I keep harping on how important it is to transform your useless stress into useful stress! It’s just as important that you do not have zero stress in your life either.

What’s unique about some of these environmentally induced changes is that they can be passed along to subsequent generations, changing the nature of the species even if the DNA doesn’t change. This, among other reasons, is why epigenetics is such a big theme in my upcoming book The Better Baby Book. Starting in the womb, the environment you provide for your kids induces change much more than you think. I started researching epigenetics in 2005 in order to use it to have healthier kids, and it worked.

Darwin Was Wrong

We used to think that you had to inherit a mutation in order to evolve, and acquired traits that were inherited were not important to evolutionary processes. “The current biological theory holds that differences in DNA provide the variation necessary for adjusting to a wide variety of environmental factors,” Richards said. “But invasive species appear to thrive even with low levels of genetic variation.”

For example, in a recent study of Japanese knotweed, Richards and colleagues found plants across the 100 miles of Long Island, N.Y., had almost no genetic variation. Instead, responses to new habitats such as sand dunes and marshes were correlated with variation in DNA methylation patterns, one of the ways gene expression is regulated. Her findings indicate that epigenetic effects could be responsible for how the plants manage to thrive in diverse habitats, even though they have basically the same DNA.

“We used to think that the environment mostly acted as the major selective agent for successful or unsuccessful trait adaptations – but where novel variation came from was always hard to pinpoint,” Martin said. “This new way of thinking about evolution – adding epigenetics – gives the environment two roles: environment still picks the individuals that get to breed successfully, but it also creates trait variation through gene expression and probably epigenetic change. In effect, change can show up faster than the traditional view of evolution.” [emphasis mine]

You Can Start Now

These kinds of studies are what push me to provide you with the ideal ways to detoxify your bodyoptimize your dietminimize the useless stress in your life. According to this study, your environment – where you work and live, what you eat, and thousands of other variables – affect you more than you ever imagined. If you have children (or plan to), it affects them even more. That is why I am excited about sharing The Better Baby Book and teaching people how to optimize their own – and their children’s – environment.

It is time to make you and your family Bulletproof! It won’t take multiple generations to see huge changes, and what you do now to your environment will affect the next several generations of your family.

Why wait for evolution? Biohacking with epigenetics is simply faster and easier.  Want a head start?  Find out how to get a free coaching session from me, or my wife, Lana Asprey, Fertility Coach.

  1. Vickie, Chachere. “Evolving Field of Behavioral Epigenetics.” – University of SouthFlorida. N.p., n.d. Web. Oct. 2012.<http://news.usf.edu/article/templates/?a=4798