The DNA* of nearly every cell of a human body is normally identical and defines the body’s genetics. The identical DNA is able to form the wide variety of tissues of the body by epigenetics. DNA expression is altered by epigenetics to create different tissues, such as heart muscle and liver cells. This can happen without changing the basic DNA code.
The field of epigenetics is new and has defined several mechanisms by which genetic expression is changed in different cells. Methods by which these occur include addition of methyl groups (CH3)** to cytosine in the DNA structure, changes in histone proteins, and changes in RNA (which is responsible for carrying out instructions of DNA). Epigenetic mechanisms may even promote adaption to environmental changes.
Many epigenetic changes take place early in life to allow formation of a large variety of proteins in many types of cells. Each cell has the same basic DNA. The result is that early life epigenetic changes have a major effect on health in later life. These changes are responsive to the availability of nutrients in the diet. Also, negative changes can result from nutritional deficiencies.
Methyl groups are important in the diet to insure normal epigenetic changes. The universal methyl group donor is 5-adenosylmethionine, which can be formed from choline, methionine, and methylfolate***. Choline is a methyl donor available in the diet, and meat and eggs are the best sources. Low availability of choline and of methionine were shown to increase obesity and diabetes in experimental mice. Only about 11% of American adults receive adequate amounts of choline in their diets. Some negative epigenetic changes resulting from nutritional deficiency can be later corrected by improved diet and supplementation with donors of methyl groups.
Dietary choline in the maternal diet is necessary for normal brain development in the fetus. The dietary need for choline is high during pregnancy since the mother may not be able to make adequate amounts. Women are less dependent on dietary choline than are men. The active form is phosphatidylcholine. Choline and other methyl donors play a role in cancer prevention.
CONCLUSION: Choline is a nutrient of great importance to health, especially to epigenetic DNA activity. It can be therapeutic in a number of different health issues, and can even repair epigenetic damage done from the past.
NOTES: *DNA is a microscopic map of how proteins of the body are formed and is essential for formation of proteins in the cells. RNA carries out the instructions of DNA.
**Methyl (CH3) donors are groups of 1 carbon atom with 3 hydrogens. They are active donors of electrons, such as betaine and SAMe.
***Methylfolate is needed for normal development of the nervous system. Pregnant women are told to take folic acid/folate to prevent neurodevelopmental diseases, such as spina bifida in the fetus.
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Rainbow Grocery sells the following products: Betaine, choline, folate/folic acid, methionine, phosphatidycholine, and SAMe.