Have you ever wished that you could change your genetics? Ever wondered how diet actually plays a role in cancer risk? A recent study was brought to my attention yesterday by friends and clients. It was conducted by Dean Ornish in San Francisco.
Essentially, the study suggested lifestyle choices can alter how DNA functions. Before I get more into that, it's important that you understand the basics of cancer.
At the very basic level, cancer is uncontrollable growth of mutated cells. We don't understand exactly why or how it first starts, but often there are parts of cells that are mutated.
In some cases those mutations get killed off, and in others they start to reproduce. When you have enough mutated cells that reproduce, you have a tumor that can be detected with tests or even felt with the human hand.
When it comes to reducing risk or "controlling" cancer, there are a few places that cells can be controlled.
- Prevent or reduce the likelihood that a cell will become mutated
- Encourage unhealthy, mutated cells to kill themselves (called apoptosis)
- Prevent unhealthy, mutated cells from killing healthy cells
- Slow the growth of unhealthy, mutated cells so that tumors do not grow as fast
So how does genetics and DNA play into this?
Our bodies have a genetic code called DNA. This DNA is activated by many different factors. It creates proteins, and many other molecules in the body that keep us alive. In our DNA, there are cancer promoting genes and cancer suppression genes that affect all 4 areas that were mentioned above.
Much research now is looking at how diet and other lifestyle factors affect our genes and which ones are produced.
The Ornish Study
Back to the study! Ornish took 30 prostate cancer survivors who had chosen not to receive treatment unless their tumors got worse. They were following the "watch and wait" plan.
He had them follow a very low-fat diet, walking and yoga every day and weekly support meetings to increase intimacy and social relationships.
The results were pretty amazing! In 3 months they found a change in over 500 genes. Several cancer promoting genes were slowed down and several cancer suppression genes were more active. Ornish also saw positive changes in prostate tissue.
While the study is small, and only lasted 3 months it can give us a glimpse into how our genetics can actually be changed with our daily choices.
What Does That Mean For You?
You might not be ready to make all those changes. What's important is that you look at your lifestyle and pick one, two or MAX of three things that you want to work on. Whether it's aspects of your diet, exercise, stress management or working on better social relationships.
For me? I'm going to get back to yoga and managing my stress through mindful meditation.
For a summary of the article, click here