Heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's, cancer; it runs in your family, so you are doomed to get these diseases as well, right? That's what scientists once believed, but intriguing new evidence offers us hope. Dr. John McDougall explains that scientists are now discovering that "Good genes are 'turned on' by a healthy environment, just as 'bad genes' are silenced by a healthy environment."
This new discovery can best be demonstrated by studying sets of identical twins. Studies conducted on identical twins revealed fascinating results. When twins are conceived, their basic genetic code, or "genome" is established. This genetic coding can be compared to that of the hardware of a computer. Another component of the gene is called the "epigenome." This can be thought of as the software that tells the computer what or what not to do. Compelling new evidence shows that the epigenome can undergo adaptations influenced by environmental factors which can alter the expression or suppression of the genetic coding. The epigenome in identical twins starts out being the same, but as they age, differences in their environment and lifestyle factors such as physical activity and diet play a significant role in turning on or turning off good or bad components of the basic genetic coding. For example, if one of the identical twins is diagnosed with Alzheimer's, the other twin may have this genetic weakness, yet lifestyle factors whether good or bad, can alter how the genetic weakness is expressed. As twins age, the differences in their epigenomes are more apparent.
Dr. John McDougall emphasizes that, "Molecule for molecule, food is the strongest contact with our environment." This is good news. Our food choices can influence a family history of genetic weaknesses, altering gene expression in our favor. Diets rich in whole plant foods contain thousands of protective phytochemicals that minimizes damaged genetic coding. However, diets rich in refined foods and animal products contain harmful compounds which Dr. McDougall states, "has profound effects on gene expression and is considered to be an important factor in our modern day diseases."
Dr. McDougall concludes his article, saying "Interactions between our environment and our genes are complex. But we know enough about epigenetics to stem the tide in the rise of obesity, heart disease, and cancers for people living in western societies for now and the future. Proper nurturing (by health-supportive foods) will bring out the best in our genes."
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