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5 Ways to Make Diet and DNA an Interesting Topic for Students

Nabiha Khalid
Teaching with Labster

Introduction to Diet and DNA

Our diet is impacted by our DNA. Taste preferences, lactose intolerance, gluten sensitivity, and other food predispositions can all be predicted by genes. Particular genetic markers have been connected to particular traits by researchers. For instance, a recent study discovered that your preference for encoding coffee is influenced by a gene mutation encoding genes for caustic taste receptors. People with this genetic trait tend to prefer coffee more and experience more bitterness. Diet is regarded as an epigenetic factor for DNA modification (heritable changes brought on by the activation and inhibition of genes without a change in DNA sequence). Simply put, while your food has a significant impact on how you "express" the possibilities inherent in your DNA, it won't change the structure of your DNA. Your diet has the power to activate or deactivate specific genetic markers, which can have a significant impact on your health and even put your life in danger.

The effects of genetics on weight can be felt both directly through metabolism and indirectly through nutrition. Your DNA can affect the expression of numerous hormones and enzymes necessary for metabolism, in addition to your food preferences and intake levels. Your metabolism, susceptibility to gaining weight, and responsiveness to dieting can all be regulated by your DNA via these pathways. DNA has a significant impact on how nutrients are used up, in addition to how much is consumed. 

It has been demonstrated that gene expression influences metabolic pathways important for the separation of fat and muscle. These elements are critical to the body's ability to maintain a healthy balance between fats, protein, and carbohydrates. Continued investigation into how diet affects epigenetic processes may lead to the development of a wide range of dietary approaches to disease prevention. Food can change gene expression through a number of additional methods, which paints a far more fluid image of DNA than most people are used to. What we eat has the power to influence how our genetic make-up functions.

Nutrient-rich foods like legumes, fruits, whole grains, vegetables, low-fat milk products, lean protein, nuts, and seeds make up the majority of the foods in healthy diets. High-fat, trans fat,  saturated fat, sodium, and refined sugar diets are unhealthy. Recent research has revealed that nutrition can control DNA methylation, illuminating one manner in which food can influence our propensity to grow cancers. Deficits have been linked to an increased risk of disease. A number of vitamins and micronutrients have been recognized as necessary for variations of DNA methylation. For instance, choline insufficiency is linked to memory loss, which may be problematic if a person consumes an improper diet.

Genomic instability is brought on by an unhealthy diet. Defects in particular pathways that control the division of cells in a cell population can lead to genomic instability. It is present in a wide variety of cancers. These problems may be caused by mutations under certain genes that are involved in mending damaged DNA or by mistakes that are made during the copying of DNA in a cell that does not get fixed. This can manifest in a variety of ways, some of which are dual or single strands break in chromosomes, abnormalities within the Nucleotide sequence, chromosome fusions, and alterations to telomere length.

Instability in the genome is a key factor in the onset of a wide variety of disorders, including cardiovascular and neurological conditions as well as malignancies. Dietary components are required for many of the procedures that we go through during our lives in order to replicate, repair, and keep our DNA in a healthy state. There are two different scenarios that could lead to genetic instability.

Through Telomeres: Telomeres grow dangerously short after numerous replications, which can result in "genome instability" and possibly malignant mutations in our DNA. The cell receives a signal from a short telomere to cease dividing and enter senescence, a protective state. Telomeres naturally shrink with aging, but they might shorten more quickly if we lead unhealthy lifestyles, such as eating poorly. Telomere length can therefore be employed as a sign of health and the likelihood of disease.

By DNA adducts: DNA adducts are chemical reactions of DNA that can lead to genetic instability. DNA adducts can be caused by DNA adducts. It is possible for a chemical change on the DNA strand to impede DNA replication (in the same way that something stuck in the zipper of your jacket might prevent you from zipping it), which can lead to aberrant replication and mutation. The quantities of DNA adducts in our bodies can be altered by the foods we eat.

Why Your Diet and Your DNA is challenging topic?

1. Weak Biological background

It is essential to have a solid understanding of genetic variables and disorders in order to make progress in the areas of health promotion and illness prevention. Some alterations in a person's genetic makeup have been linked to an increased likelihood of having a child who is born with a birth defect or has a developmental handicap, as well as an increased likelihood of getting diseases like heart disease or cancer. Students are more likely to experience perplexity as a result of acquiring all of this information.

2. Abstract topic

Because molecular biology is such a broad topic, it can be challenging for students to retain a lot of the material they are taught. Students frequently struggle with the concept of understanding biological processes and systems. Because it is an interdisciplinary field of study, students take a wide range of courses that cover the fundamentals of chemistry and biology. Students need to have a firm grasp of the fundamentals of biology before moving on to more advanced ideas and procedures in the field. Learning is a cumulative process.

3. No visual representation

Because they take place on a molecular scale, alterations in DNA cannot be seen or felt by humans. It can be discouraging for students to study a topic if they are unable to envision the process and cannot see how it applies to the actual world. This can also make it difficult for students to maintain their excitement about the topic.

Five ways to make Your Diet and Your DNA an interesting topic for students

1. Understanding of Epigenetics

Students should have a clear idea that diet is considered an epigenetic factor responsible for DNA change. It is possible for variables that are present in the fetus, during development, in environmental toxins, medicines, or nutrition, as well as during the aging process, to trigger epigenetic alterations. In other respects, while we all inherit our "genetic blueprints" in the form of paternal DNA at the time of conception, subsequent induced epigenetic modifications have the potential to influence characteristics that collectively contribute to who we are as individuals.

There are parts of the cell's epigenome that are responsive to different aspects of a person's environment, most notably their food. This information is then passed on to an epigenomic map, which not only has an influence on the growth of the offspring but also has the potential to have a long-term effect on their metabolism and illness risk.

2. Clear idea of how diet converts into micro molecules

Explain how diet becomes micro molecules. Amino acids, nucleotides, lipid molecules, and simple carbohydrates let animals function cellularly. Food contains fat, protein, and complex carbs. Animals must transform polymers into simple molecules for biological activities like cell, molecule, and tissue building. Absorption and digestion change food nutrients into forms the body can utilise. During digestion, food is broken down and absorbed by the body.

3. Seeing is believing

You can provide a clear mental image of how epigenetics take place and how chromatin modification occurs. For this purpose, you can utilize a graphical presentation by Labster (Labster Virtual Lab: Gene Regulation Simulation).

4. Example from daily life

The next example of epigenetics in our daily life is the diet of pregnant women. Maternal diets or dietary compositions help build epigenetic patterns in the embryo, which affect later-life illness vulnerability. What a mother eats can make up the protein ultimately and contribute to the development of her child. The epigenetics diet refers to a class of biologically active dietary compounds like the epigallocatechin-3-gallate found in green tea, the isothiocyanates found in broccoli,  the resveratrol found in grapes, the genistein found in soybeans,  and the ascorbic acid found in fruits and vegetables, has been proven to modify the epigenome, which in turn leads to advantageous health outcomes.

5. Using Virtual Lab simulation

No single experiment can be performed regarding DNA replication at the molecular level in the labs. However, you can use virtual lab simulations if your institute lacks resources. They are a great alternative and addition to physical experimentation. At Labster, we are committed to providing you with an interactive simulation that contains a gamified and story-telling environment set up in a 3D world 

Your Diet and Your DNA Virtual Lab

Your diet and your dna

Students learn and experiment as they progress in the simulation. 

References

Bull, C. F., Ocallaghan, N. J., Mayrhofer, G., & Fenech, M. F. (2009). Telomere Length in Lymphocytes of Older South Australian Men May Be Inversely Associated with Plasma Homocysteine. Rejuvenation Research, 12(5), 341-349. doi:10.1089/rej.2009.0868

https://vitagene.com/blog/dna-diet/

Le Leu, R.K., Winter, J.M., Christophersen, C.T., Young , G.P., Humphreys, K.J., Hu, Y., Gratz, S.W., Miller, R.B., Topping, D.L., Bird, A.R., Conlon, M.A. “Butyrylated Starch Intake Can Prevent Red Meat-Induced O6-Methyl-2-Deoxyguanosine Adducts in Human Rectal Tissue: a Randomised Clinical Trial.” British Journal of Nutrition, vol. 114, no. 02, 2015, pp. 220–230.

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