Friday, 7 March 2014

Identically Different: Why you can change your genes by Tim Spector

Why should you read a book on epigenetics? Well, if you read magazines, newspapers, or watch the news, you’ve probably been exposed to hundreds of headlines proclaiming things like ‘Fat Gene Found!’ or ‘Humour is Heritable’. But let’s be realistic, headlines sell newspapers and they can often have a rather slippery relationship with the truth.

Tim Spector is a gentleman who knows his genes. However, he also has a startling confession to make – as a Professor who made his name by discovering the heritability of our most pressing problems, from obesity to cancer and paranoia to crime, he is now throwing a note of caution into the mix.

Yes, scientists have made great progress spotting delinquent DNA. But that, it appears, is only half the story. What they are now discovering is that certain chemical processes interfere with gene expression. This means our genes are not our destiny – or our children’s. You may be surprised to hear that the environment you experience can alter your genetic material, which then can be passed on to your offspring.

So science is re-writing the textbooks and attempting to re-educate the public; a public who have just got to grips with chromosomes and the double helix.  Not an easy task when the subject matter is complex, vast, only partially understood, and often contradictory.

Identically Different is edutainment - it gives you a satisfying mix of personal stories from a range of identical twins (nature's clones make fantastic research fodder) and manages to explain a few issues for the average non-scientist.  Spector keeps the pace lively and the subject matter interesting – who doesn’t want to find out why some of us are more likely to be fatter than others, have more orgasms, believe in God, or stray from the path of fidelity? But there’s the more serious stuff in here, too, and it’s far from being black and white. Nature and nurture have never been more intertwined.

Reviewed by Spot

Catalogue Link: Identically Different

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