Exposure to Endocrine-Disrupting chemicals at the beginning of life accelerates the aging of the epigenome, which can then be aggravated later in life by a poor diet.
During the formation of our body, as our organs develop, the epigenome, the activity of all the genes in the genome, changes with the development stages. Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals during this process can lead to general reprogramming, which can last a lifetime. Depending on the organ, the window of susceptibility to this reprogramming may be at any point in development, from fetus to adolescence, depending on the duration of normal development.
Epigenomic aging through a western diet
Researchers at Baylor University’s Center for Precision Environmental Health have found that exposure to endocrine the disrupter bisphenol A through diet can alter the epigenome early in life which can have consequences that become visible only much later. They published their results in Nature Communications magazine. “In this study, we found that even brief exposure to certain chemicals during hepatic development causes the epigenome to age prematurely,” said Dr. Cheryl Walker, the study’s lead author. Exposure to these endocrine disrupters has caused the young liver to acquire an adult epigenomic signature. However, this premature aging of the epigenome only affected health later in life and after a high-fat diet”.
For their study, the researchers exposed a young rat, that was only 6 days old, to an endocrine disrupter. They found that the aging process of its epigenome accelerated and resembled that of an adult rat. This aging process was accelerated when the rat received a special food. “The effect of this change on metabolic function was not immediate,” says Cheryl Walker. Instead, it was like a time bomb that only went off when we switched the animals to a western diet rich in fat, sugar, and cholesterol”.
The influence of the environment on our development
Mice that were exposed to Endocrine disrupters first and later to a Western diet proved more susceptible to metabolic disorders than those on a healthy diet. The latter did not show the same changes in gene expression that control the metabolism, such as the accumulation of lipids in their serum, which was observed in rats fed fat, sugar, and cholesterol-rich foods. “This study shows us how environmental stress affects our health and our susceptibility to disease, both at the beginning and the end of life,” said the researcher. It also shows us that some people in adulthood can be more negatively affected by a high-fat diet due to environmental exposures they experienced earlier in life”.