Do you know that with right food and lifestyle choices, you can even beat the effect of genes? Yes, genes can not determine your health completely. Read on to know how to do that.
By Smitha Suresh
We are, quite literally, what we eat as well as what our parents and grandparents ate. - Dr Randy Jirtle, Geneticist
Remember when Hippocrates declared “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”? He knew a fundamental truth that modern science re-discovered centuries later. Today, there is enough material for nutritionists to help those willing to work on holistic eating habits to achieve a state of wellness.
Over the last decade, researchers have been focusing on a mind-boggling new facet of genetics called Epigenetics. Studies have shown that your lifestyle can be instrumental in turning on or off certain genes. Epigenetics studies the changes in gene expression caused by external factors, like environment, lifestyle and emotional states.
Nutritionists have always maintained that while you are stuck with certain genes, they don’t completely determine your health. Some of that power lies with us through the way we live. Through Epigenetics, this philosophy has now been validated, showing us that we can consciously ‘choose’ to stay healthy.
Each of us is born with a different combination of genes. So, while caffeine might lower the risk of heart disease in one person, it might actually increase this risk in others. Identifying the genetic makeup of an individual is a long process starting with the isolation of all the modifiable genes that run into hundreds of thousands; figuring out the effect each gene has, and calculating the health implications thereof. Ultimately, the purpose of such exhaustive research is to customise nutrition advice based on an individual’s genetic makeup, taking into account individual nutrient deficiencies. However, developing such affordable genetic testing for the general public in India will take a couple of decades.
Read the article on the DNA based diet to know more about the topic.
While it might be a task to find out exactly what your poison is, you can choose to avoid foods that have zero nutritive value. In the meantime here are a few handy guidelines to ‘help’ your genes:
Regular exercise switches on around 100 cancer-preventing genes and switches off at least 70 cancer-promoting ones.
Exercising also turns off genes that encourage storage of excess fat, especially in the liver.
Drinking sugary, ‘energy-rich’ sports drinks while exercising suppresses the expression of fat-burning genes!
Folate or Folic acid of the B-complex group of vitamins is an important gene-protective nutrient. Include natural sources of Folate like green leafy veggies, whole pulses and fresh lentils in your daily diet.
Vitamins like Riboflavin, B6, Choline and Serine; and amino acids like Glycine, Methionine and Cysteine have been shown to positively affect genes. These compounds are omnipresent in a varied and healthy diet.
Olive oil consumption reduces the expression of 98 genes involved in the inflammatory responses, which cause heart disease and auto-immune disorders like Arthritis.
Eating low glycemic index carbs (whole grain cereals and pulses) during pregnancy benefits the fetus by decreasing the risk of the child developing diabetes in later life.
Reduced consumption of processed foods and unhealthy fats has its benefits. Preventive action is always the best!
Smitha Suresh is a nutritionist from Chennai
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