What is a SNP, or Single Nucleotide Polymorphism?
We’ve all heard the terms “DNA,” “Genes” and “Chromosomes” throughout our lives, but what exactly are they? How do they influence you and your health? Should you alter your lifestyle, nutritional supplements, or healthcare program because of them? Starting from the beginning and having the basics broken down for you may be a good place to start before you embark on making changes.
Let’s skip through the “Birds and the Bees” talk about how your genetics came to be and just talk about who you are right now. Your Genetic Code is contained within your DNA. This code is a blueprint that tells your body how to build proteins and enzymes that can alter everything from your physical appearance to intricate cellular biochemical pathways. For the most part we are all the same; however, there are slight differences in the code that cause one person to look slightly different than another. For example, identical twins have the same genetic code and look almost exactly alike. (Notice I said ALMOST exactly alike.) There is growing research that shows that our environment has a significant impact on how our genetic code expresses itself. This is why we believe there is more to the picture than just your genetic code.
Genes are essentially a cook book for building proteins and enzymes. So pretend you are needing to make a pumpkin pie or an enzyme. First you would flip to the page that tells me step-by -step instructions on how to successfully make the pie, or your cells would skip down the DNA strand to find the gene that codes for the protein. I gather my ingredients and begin to follow each step. Eventually, I should have a pie exactly like my family has been creating for generations. Or your body adds ingredients (Amino acids) in a certain order and eventually you have a protein or and enzyme.
Now, let’s compare your DNA to a recipe book. DNA looks much different than the book sitting on the shelf; in fact, it looks like a ladder stacked upon another ladder that has been coiled up into what’s called a Double Helix. Each section of the ladder is the similar to a page in a recipe book but it contains the instructions for the body to make a protein or enzyme instead of a pie. This is called a Gene! Each rung of the ladder codes for one step of the instructions – a Nucleotide. These rungs of the ladder – Nucleotides – are what we look at when we talk about Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs or “SNIPS,” for short).
But let’s look a little deeper at the rungs of the latter, or Nucleotides. Each rung of the ladder codes for a letter consisting of an A, T, C,or G. These letters represent what the code tells the body to do; step-by-step instructions on how to make a protein or enzyme, and helps to explain why each of us are slightly (or very) different from one other. In the code, if there is an “A” it could mean that the body – for example’s sake – should use 1 egg in the pie recipe. If there is a “C” it could mean to use 2 eggs in the recipe. And as the code varies, the end product will certainly vary. Whether it’s a Chocolate pie or a Pumpkin Pie, or a Protein or Enzyme that breaks down, say, Folic Acid, the code for the final product affects the final product’s ability to perform it’s duties, sometimes dramatically so.
Enzymes are what drive all biochemical processes in our bodies. Enzymes play a significant role in everything from clearing Toxins & Heavy Metals, to activating Vitamins, or producing and breaking down Neurotransmitters and Hormones.
As you can see, slight genetic variations within certain genes can influence almost any process in the body by altering the activity/shape of the enzymes that process needs to function. Evaluating your Genetic SNPs is integral to creating an accurate and effective course of action, helping to illuminate your journey to recovery and/or optimizing your health.
Just for a quick example, the following picture is of the methylation cycle and a few other cycles, but every colored box is an enzyme that has potential SNPs that can influence its activity.