Friday, March 9, 2012

How Much Of Your Health Is Heredity

By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here

A lot of people believe their health is not in their hands.

That it's in the hands of their genes and whatever genes they were born with, is their lot in life. Some people were born with "lucky" genes (meaning lean and athletic) and some were born with "bad" genes (sickly and overweight).

If somehow they are overweight or sick or get an illness, it was because they inherited that gene.

This doesn't explain certain things. Like why incidence of things such as childhood cancer or inflammatory diseases are going up dramatically when it was almost unheard of years ago. Or why certain races (that are also in certain economic ranges) have a high incidence of heart disease when there isn't the same problem in their country of origin?

Or when an adopted person develops lung cancer or diabetes, the same as their adoptive parents did. In the instance of lung cancer, is it genetics? Or was it that their adoptive parent passed on the habit of smoking to their child. Or with diabetes was it that the parent passed down their love of sweets to their children? Genes are not the only things that are passed down. Just like nature vs. nurture in personality building, environment plays a huge role in health as well.

We can control the expression of our genes

Gene expression basically means, deciding which genes turn on or off. Dr. Arjun Raj (Molecular Biologist, University of Pennsylvania) says this is done through RNA. We can express our genes throughout our life, and then pass down these genes to our children. This is how identical twins are not truly identical.

Just the simple act of controlling how we breathe can affect gene expression according to Harvard Researcher Herbert Benson.

Exercise does an even better job.

Genes are not our destiny

And we can constantly reprogram them. So while your genes are fixed, the expression of them, meaning the amount of protein they cause to be made or whether it's turned on or off is dependent on the environment and circumstances surrounding those genes.

New research is proving that more important than genetics is the expression (interpretation of genetics). The locust and the grasshopper is genetically identical, so why do they look different? In fact certain grasshoppers can change into locusts within hours. Humans are genetically similar to monkeys, pigs, cows, cats, rats, (this is why we can test on animals and draw similar conclusions to humans) yet we are all so different. We can adapt, express genes differently, and over time that changes our genes. Not the other way around.

From Mark's Daily Apple:

"Diet, exercise, exposure to toxic chemicals (or fresh air), medicines, even the thoughts you think (which generate actual chemical signals) all influence gene expression – positively and/or negatively, depending on the choice. Eat a diet that is high in sugar, and gene expression moves in a direction that produces more insulin, that shuts off insulin receptors, that down-regulates lipase and other enzymes involved in fat-burning, that increases pro-inflammatory cytokines, etc. When you change to a diet low in sugars and rich in healthy fats, those or other genes are directed to reduce inflammatory expression, down-regulate insulin-producing metabolic machinery, up-regulate insulin receptors and rebuild cell membranes to reflect the presence of better building materials (omega 3 fatty acids, etc.). Research in gene expression is exploding right now and is examining both the impact of environmental factors and the promise of epigenetic therapies. The connection between insulin resistance and genetic expression (particularly in relation to exercise) was raised in last week’s comments. Diet and toxin exposure have been shown to influence gene expression in laboratory studies."

The interaction between lifestyle choices and gene expression goes on every second of every day you’re alive. You are literally rebuilding yourself all the time. That’s the message of hope that the Primal Blueprint offers. Even if you have so-called markers for “defective” genes, that doesn’t mean they will be expressed. Gene interaction is such that environmental factors can potentially allow for someone with BRCA1 and BRCA2 (associated with a very high risk for breast cancer) to never get breast cancer if those and related genes are properly controlled through environment. On the other hand, a woman with no risk factors can still get breast cancer if she directs gene expression towards pro-inflammatory pathways, then down-regulates other parts of her immune system.

As I mentioned last week, most of today’s genome investigation centers on SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) that predispose the possessor to a particular condition (cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, arthritis, etc). I’ve always said that a predisposition is not your final destiny. Even aging itself is highly influenced by gene expression over time. In the course of a lifetime, stem cells divide to repair injury (e.g. inflammation). In doing so, the cells are continually aged. The more the cells have to repair, the faster a person ages. This, of course, is a manifestation of gene expression."


Is the study of heritable changes in gene expression or cellular phenotype caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence. Duke University’s Randy Jirtle, Ph.D says, "the epigenome would be like the software that tells the computer when to work, how to work and how much." The computer being our genes.

Neil deGrasse Tyson Explains Best

Ultimately no matter how well we live and how much we exercise, bad things can and will happen. Does that mean we shouldn't try? No. If we can't prevent, at least we can increase our health and life so that no matter what illnesses may strike, we are healthy enough to overcome them.

Think of your life in terms of points.

Exercise, diet, positive thinking, and a healthy lifestyle increase your life points. Surgeries and things such as chemotherapy diminish your health points in an effort to cure you.

The more life points you have, the better chance you have of surviving, or just living longer.

I've known several martial artists who were in incredible health, who had cancer come back over and over again. Each time they survived chemotherapy, they revived their health. I don't many people who could survive cancer more than once or that many rounds of chemotherapy. They were in that incredible of a shape and their life points were that high.

I know people who from routine surgery are out and about after a week. I also know people who could have the same surgery and be in bed for months.

Your health is more situational than it is genetic

People blame their genetics for a lot, but 99% of us have great genetics.

Through evolution and natural selection, most of the weak human genes died off and we the modern humans are the best versions of our family's genetics and bloodline.

If you fed any other animal the stuff you've eaten, put in your body, smoked, drank, stressed out, sleep deprived, and everything else, it would be dead by now.

The fact that most of us are still alive and continue to be alive after putting ourselves through so much is a testament to our genes.

If you've abused your body and all that has happened to you is that you got fat; and your body continues to get fat to make sure you stay alive and don't die of toxic blood sugar, you have pretty damn good genes.

To quote a geneticist, "genetics sets up the dominoes, environment and behavior knocks them down."

Sam Yang from an early age has been obsessed with connecting the dots between martial arts and efficiency, health, mindset, business, science, and habits to improve optimal well-being. For more info, join his newsletterYou can also connect to All Out Effort on Facebook and Twitter.

Share this:
All Out Effort is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to