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Nutrition and Epigenetics

  • By: Richard A. Stein & Devra Lee Davis
  • In: Encyclopedia of Lifestyle Medicine & Health
  • Edited by: James M. Rippe
  • Subject:Health Psychology / Behavioral Medicine, Public Health Education & Health Promotion, Health Psychology

Understanding genetic and environmental contributions to human disease has attracted attention since the earliest times. While genetic factors fascinated societies throughout history, evidence has long suggested that they only explain a small proportion of the risk for most noncommunicable diseases. Recent studies increasingly reveal that environmental exposures assume important roles in shaping the preponderance of developmental defects and many different types of chronic disease. Thus, the National Cancer Institute reported that fewer than 1 in 10 breast cancers arise in women who have a genetic risk factor such as BRCA1, BRCA2, or ATM mutations.

Throughout their lifetimes, humans are invariably exposed to a broad array of environmental factors, which include chemicals, microorganisms, radiation, dietary factors, and social influences. For several reasons, nutrition emerges as one of ...

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