Height growth can beat genetics

How lifestyle affects genes

Influence of lifestyle and environment on our genes

It is now known that lifestyle and the environment influence the packaging of our genes. Stress, trauma, illness, lack of sleep, exercise, sport or diet have just as much an impact on gene regulation as climate change, fine dust and pesticides. Smoking can alter the epigenetic program of lung cells and lead to cancer. Regular sport, on the other hand, protects against diseases of old age and civilization.

Swedish researchers, for example, were able to show that three months of training in their subjects led to changes in 4,076 genes in muscle cells - with positive effects on muscle growth and fat tissue. Permanent overeating, in turn, changes the metabolic cells in such a way that obesity and sugar metabolism disorders are favored.

It was a groundbreaking discovery for research that these acquired changes can even be inherited. For a long time it was assumed that epigenetics played no role in inheritance. Today it is clear: children not only receive a genetic blueprint from their parents, but also an epigenetic DNA reading aid with them on their way.

Inheritance of eating habits

Nicola Iovino, group leader at the Max Planck Institute in Freiburg, and his team have investigated this on fruit flies. "Our results show that not only are epigenetic instructions passed on from one generation to the next during reproduction, but also that they are crucial for the development of the embryo."

It has not yet been clarified whether these results can be transferred to mammals. However, studies show, for example, that the eating habits of parents are reflected in the genetic make-up. Anyone who eats unhealthily for a long time provokes epigenetic changes in fat, intestinal and liver cells, but also in sperm and egg cells.

Using mice, researchers at the Munich Helmholtz Institute were able to show that such epigenetic imprints are passed on to the next generation. Both the tendency to obesity and the tendency to insulin resistance were increased in the offspring of the mice. "This condenses the evidence that the inheritance of acquired traits can actually be passed on through epigenetic mechanisms," explains Robert Schneider.