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External Causes : The Environment 54

Michael Meaney and Gustavo Turecki, researchers at the Douglas Institute (Canada), have proven this in spectacular fashion in the past few years; according to Turecki, not only does the environment have an influence on mental and physical health, but it can also modify how genes, which we inherit at birth, function. Everything happens as though they were controlled by a series of switches. For example, what we eat makes us more or less vulnerable to certain types of cancer, nothing new there. But we now know that by activating epigenetic switches, food can alter the behavior of genes, and these modifications can then be transmitted from generation to generation. Our dietary indulgences can therefore negatively impact the health of our children! This discovery was published in March of 2009 in the prestigious journal Nature Neuroscience.

A Swedish study has even shown that a period of starvation can have repercussions, not only on the longevity of those living through it, but also on the life expectancy of their grandchildren! This new field called ‘epigenetics’ (the modulation of gene expression through behavior and particularly through nutrition) is regarded as a breakthrough in the understanding of all of the elements which may contribute to staying in good health and to slowing down the aging process.



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