My declared major started as nutrition science and now it is interdisciplinary public health which is a social science major. I would say my field understands evolution and human variability exactly as it is described in this class. My introductory chemistry class touched just briefly on it and the origins of life. My introductory anthropology class we watched a movie on genetic diversity and how race is a biologically invalid concept when what we are discussing is really phenotypes (race as it is used today is a cultural construct). My first biology class delved into this subject and at least a third of the class material involved attempting to understand the mechanisms of genetics. I think this class builds upon all of those previous classes and I was quite interested to know more about the intergenerational effects of epigenetics from our week two material.
As far as evolution this week’s material was reinforcement of information I have already been instructed on. However this week’s material gave me a slightly new perspective on human variability. I thought it was interesting to think about geographic information being imprinted on your genes so a person can see where their relatives lived and migrated from like the migration map of all our ancestors on that National Geographic page. That interested me thinking about how disease risk and diseases suffered by people’s family may be playing a risk factor in their current health by leaving a mark on their genetics. It made me think of nurturing childhoods or neglectful parents and what health risks that may have left on their genes expressing as inability to handle stress, lowered social engagement, or predisposition to diseases triggered by extreme stress on the body like stroke or heart attack.
It made me laugh to think how spectacularly less useful mapping the human genome was than we thought it was going to be, as far as understanding human function and patterns of disease. The material helped to remind me that epigenetics is a new science and has yet to pay off on it’s promise of understanding an individual’s genome and providing specific, actionable interventions to improve the health of patients today. I can feel the pressure in the nutrition/health sector for epigenetics to be the most advanced form of biohacking yet invented. People want to be provided with an individually tailored simple and clear blueprint to a healthy, functioning body, but the science to understand and do that does not yet exist, and I don’t think it helps anyone to pretend that it does or is ready to do so. It seems important to discuss with such patients having more realistic expectations of what epigenetics can and can’t do and how that relates to lifestyle modification they can make today.
I think the most fascinating moment for me was the video where they were talking about how what/when your grandparents were under/over-fed is imprinted in your genes. It was so interesting to think that at different points in the lives of your grandfather or grandmother you can see in your genes how their diet affects your health now, it reminds me of reading tree rings to see the past of a tree but the rings are in our genes from a lifetime we didn’t even live, mind blow!