Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer may very well “run in the family”—meaning it’s a trend within your immediate ancestry—but our growing urge to call something inherited is not doing anyone any good. You see, the health concerns we often blame on our parents (or grandparents) are usually within our control. As a matter of fact, it’s estimated that less than 1% of all diseases are caused by flawed genes.
The Human Genome Project, which effectively “mapped” the human genetic code, was completed in 2003. And in that project, scientists learned they were wrong about some things. One of those things was the number of genes in the human DNA. While they expected several hundred thousand—one gene for every protein, in essence—they found only 20,000 to 25,000.
As GreenMedInfo.com aptly explains:
There are not even enough genes in the human body to account for the existence of the basic protein building blocks that make it possible, much less explain the behavior of these proteins in health and disease states!
The “blueprint” model of genetics: one gene -> one protein -> one cellular behavior, which was once the holy grail of biology, has now been supplanted by a model of the cell where epigenetic factors (literally: “beyond the control of the gene”) are primary in determining how DNA will be interpreted, translated and expressed. A single gene can be used by the cell to express a multitude of proteins and it is not the DNA itself that determines how or what genes will be expressed.
It’s also important to consider that many foods or activities could also spark an alteration in DNA. For example, some GMO wheat has been shown to silence human genes, potentially leading to an early death. And on the other end, exercise could powerfully change your DNA in just minutes.
So what does this mean for disease and health? That a number of factors contribute to how a gene will be expressed, or if it will. Among these factors, many are within our control. Our environment, what we eat, breathe, and come in contact with will all determine our eventual health and disease.
For example, cystic fibrosis (CF), a “genetic” disease, is caused by the defective expression of a particular gene—known as the Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator (CFTR). The defective expression, scientists have learned, can be “triggered” by nutritional deficiencies. Further, this particular gene has been shown in the lab to experience partial or even full correction when exposed to the beneficial compounds known as phytochemicals in cayenne, soybean, and turmeric!
Accepting responsibility for disease existence can lead to prevention. What I mean is that when you recognize your own active role in the health of your body, you embrace the power to change it. We can no longer blame our “genes” for what ails us. Armed with this knowledge, what will you do about it?
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