By Jack Challem, Experience Life
When people say things like “Heart disease runs in my family,” and “My parents had cancer, so I’m afraid I will, too,” it confirms our suspicions that DNA is destiny. The truth, however, is that it doesn’t have to be: The DNA we inherited from our parents does not necessarily determine our fate. In fact, we can modify the behavior of our DNA and genes in striking ways.
Certainly, we are all born with a set of genetic strengths and vulnerabilities, but we can bring out the best or worst in our genetic predispositions based on the nutrition, exercise and lifestyle choices we make. The payoff for playing our hand of genetic cards well is better health and, potentially, a longer life. The cost of playing that hand badly, on the other hand, can be high: We may suffer the early symptoms of health problems we would otherwise have staved off until very old age; we may contract diseases we could have avoided altogether.
We all inherit variations in our genes that make us uniquely who we are. Unfortunately, some of these variations hinder our genes’ ability to do their intended jobs. Such hindrances ultimately increase our susceptibility to disease. Furthermore, as we age, our DNA and genes get damaged (mutated), which also leads to a higher risk of disease. We can’t stop the accumulation of genetic damage or the aging process, but we can slow it down and increase our resistance to illness.
Little by little, scientists have gained a clearer idea of how nutrition influences our genes. This has given rise to a new scientific field called nutrigenomics. Over the past 10 years, nutrigenomic experts have made quantum leaps in understanding how nutrients — what we eat or don’t eat — may affect our genes. The research has shown that whether we’ve inherited good genes or bad, nutrition can improve their performance. Poor nutrition and lifestyle habits, meanwhile, can predispose our genes to be on their very worst behavior.
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