Shifts in dietary patterns towards a Western-style diet have been accompanied by increased susceptibility to many chronic diseases. It is hypothesized that this may be in part due to changing epigenetic patterns. Epigenetics determines how tightly the DNA is coiled by adding chemical compounds directly to the DNA and the bead-like histone proteins which the DNA wraps around. The tightness of DNA coiling determines which genes are expressed which can affect health and disease. Epigenetic patterns can be modified by the environment, including diet.
My thesis focuses on the effect of consumption of a Western style diet on epigenetic patterns. The first scene depicts a typical lunch time with everyone consuming their favourite processed fast food, which is in contrast to the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans through MyPlate. The influence of peer pressure on dietary choices is demonstrated by the throwing out of MyPlate and passing of the fast food.
The second scene takes place inside the nucleus of the cell, with silver DNA wrapped around histone protein dancers. Balloons represent methyl marks which tighten the DNA structure. The pink umbrella represents an acetyl mark, which loosens the DNA structure. Dancing transcription factors can’t bind the tightened DNA at the balloons but they can successfully bind the loosened DNA structure at the umbrella, leading to expression of the green gene. Components of the Western style diet, including pizza, chips and lollipops, come pummeling through the cell and disrupt the epigenetic patterns by moving the balloons and umbrella to different genes. Finally, the transcription factors return to bind the new loosened gene with the umbrella, leading to expression of the red gene.