There is research taking place right now that will have a profound effect on your future health and could even dramatically impact it starting today. Epigenics is basically the study of the actual expression of our genes, both good and bad, and not through any DNA changes, but rather through external, largely controllable influences. There is mounting clinical evidence that, more important than your individual genetic makeup, there are the environmental factors that determine which of your genes are actually switched on or off during your lifetime. The National Institutes of Health has noted that epigenetics has the potential to explain mechanisms of aging, human development, and the origins of cancer, heart disease, mental illness, as well as several other conditions.
According to a recent issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine there is indisputable evidence that most common illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, many cancers, obesity, and certain psychiatric diseases are due to interactions between multiple environmental and genetic factors. Using the principles of epigenetics in the treatment of chronic diseases also has the factor of reversibility, a characteristic that, for example, other cancer treatments do not offer.
A subset of epigenetics is nutrigenomics, which is the study of the effects of foods and food constituents on gene expression. The National Institute of Health on its PubMed website states that “nutrients and botanicals can interact with the genome causing marked changes in gene expression. There is good evidence that nutrition has significant influences on the expression of genes.” In turn, the same “dietary patterns that influence obesity or cardiovascular disease also affect cancer, since overweight individuals are at increased risk of cancer development.” This recognition that nutrients have the ability to interact and modulate genetic mechanisms underlying an organism’s physiological functions has prompted a revolution in the field of nutrition.
Dean Ornish, author of Reversing Heart Disease and Eat More, Weigh Less, who trained in internal medicine at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, and is now a clinical professor at UCSF, has “found that changing lifestyle actually changes gene expression. In only three months, we found that over 500 genes were either up-regulated or down-regulated—in simple terms, turning on genes that prevent many chronic diseases, and turning off genes that cause coronary heart disease, oncogenes that are linked to breast and prostate cancer, genes that promote inflammation and oxidative stress and so on.” His clinical studies, which underscore the legitimacy of nutrigenomics, provides the clear message that “even if your mother and your father and your sister and brother and aunts and uncles all died from heart disease, it doesn’t mean that you need to. It just means that you are more likely to be genetically predisposed. If you are willing to make big enough changes, there is no reason you need ever develop heart disease, except in relatively rare cases.”
Here is a short video with Dr. Ornish that blatantly makes this point with respect to prostate cancer:
(if the video doesn’t load, go here)
Stay tuned for future posts that will explore incorporating the concept of nutrigenomics into your life!