Epigenetics: A Doctors’ Perspective

We have the power
            When an aging parent develops dementia, or a child struggles with ADHD, we feel powerless. It seems like some people are just unlucky, and we chalk it up to “bad genes.” For years, scientists have debated nature vs. nurture, pitting genetics against experience. Now we know that the two are not mutually exclusive, and actually work in tandem. According to Dr. Perlmutter, Board-certified neurologist, 70% of the genes that code for health and longevity are under our control. So if Mom or Dad starts forgetting where they put the keys, we can help them find the right tools to boost their brain functioning. Epigenetics, the belief in the dance between nature and nurture, puts the keys in our hands, so that with the right tools we can drive ourselves along a course towards vitality and long life. To learn more about Dr. Perlmutter and epigenetics, clickhere.
Dr. Perlmutter’s advice: 3 Reasons why epigenetics is important
            Once we have heart disease, how much Lipitor should we take? Once we have high blood sugar, how often do we use metformin? Modern medicine provides band-aid solutions to illnesses that are easily preventable.
1.      In the US, we spend more on chronic disease than any other health challenge. Of total health care costs in the United States, more than 75% is due to chronic illness.
2.      The U.S. spends more on healthcare than national defense. In fact, the U.S. spent 16.2% of its GDP on healthcare in 2008, which exceeds the combined federal expenditures for national defense, homeland security, education and welfare.
3.      Chronic disease will become the chief financial burden of the world. By 2020 it is predicted that non-communicable (i.e. chronic) disease will account for 80% of the global burden of disease.
Instead of reacting to disease, we have the power to prevent it. Understanding epigenetics can help us to find a better way. As Dr. Perlmutter says, “the foods we eat and the lifestyle behaviors we choose are literally instructing our genome.”
4 ways to beef up Brain health   
1.      Exercise. A recent study of elderly individuals who exercised for 20 minutes, 3 times a week for 1 year, showed an increase in the hippocampus. The hippocampus, part of the limbic system and located in the brain, plays a huge role in the formation of short-term memory. This study is noteworthy because usually our hippocampus shrinks as we age, so the fact that these participants experienced a growth is astounding and proves that degeneration can be reversed.
2.      De-stress. Stress plays a powerful role in our ability to form memories. Persistent exposure to cortisol, released by our bodies when we are stressed, atrophies the hippocampus. However, we can rebuild hippocampus function, just as the elderly individuals proved.
3.      Cut sugar intake.  Glucose increases stress and disables the hippocampus. In one study, researchers measured participants blood sugar levels for 4 years and found those with the highest blood sugar levels had a greater degree of hippocampal atrophy. It is important to note here that in this study no one had diabetes, they all had normal blood sugar levels. Even with these normal levels, they were adversely affected by glucose.
4.      Eat fat, less carbs. According to Dr. Perlmutter, 70% of our calories should come from fat. A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, proposes that low-carb, Mediterranean diets beat out high-carb, low-fat diets any day.
Digestive Health Ann Arbor: How we can help
The study of epigenetics has revolutionized how medical practitioners approach medicine. We can now help our bodies to recover from seemingly insurmountable ailments, all through the power of food and supplements. Hippocrates once said “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.” At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we can help you to uncover food allergies or intolerances that may be causing health issues, and develop an action plan to begin healing.

Please call 734-726-0153 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.


[1] Centers for Disease Control. Accessed March 30, 2013, at http://www.cdc.gov/chronic disease/resources/publications/AAG/chronic.htm

[2] Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. NHE Fact Sheet. Downloaded fromHttp://www.cms.hhs.gov/NationalhealthExpendData/25 NHE Fact Sheet.asp on March 31, 2013

[3] Boutayeb A, Boutayeb S. The burden of non communicable diseases in developing countries. Int J Equity Health. 2005; 4(2). Online access at http://www.equityhealthj.com/content/pdf/1475-9276-4-2.pdf

[4] Cherbuin N, et al, “Higher normal fasting plasma glucose is associated with hippocampal atrophy,” the PATH study, Neurology September 4, 2012 vol. 79 no 10 1019-1026. http://www.neurology.org/content/79/10/1019.abstract

[5] Shai I, Schwarzfuchs D, Henkin Y, et al. Weight loss with a low-carbohydrate, Mediterranean, or lo-fat diet. N Engl J Med 2008; 359:229-241.