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The Luck of the Draw


Ever wonder how much of your life and health is controlled by genetic factors supposedly outside of your control? What do you think, is it 25, 50, maybe 75, even 100 percent? I’m sure you’ve been told that you’re not to blame for your condition, that you’re just a victim of circumstance, bad luck or faulty genes. But still, I’m amazed by the number of people who automatically relegate the fate of those who die prematurely or who develop disease “out-of-the-blue” exclusively to genetics.

It’s as if they’re saying it doesn’t matter what we do, whether we drink water or pop, smoke cigarettes or breathe clean air, manage our weight or let it go, take vitamins or not, eat whole foods or live on sugar and white flour, achieve and maintain excellent physical condition or allow ourselves to deteriorate without resistance. If what they’re saying is true, then everything I aspire to and live for has been in vain.

But blaming genetics as the sole cause of morbidity and mortality is passé. It’s too easy, it’s inconsistent with medical science and it violates the very essence of preventive, complimentary and biological medicine. Besides, this “group think” orthodox approach not only robs every one of personal accountability and responsibility (removing therefore the necessity of discipline) it also fosters a mental and emotional state of self-denial, futility and helplessness.

Although our genotype (genetic constitution) is relatively “fixed”, our phenotype, which describes how our genes express themselves, is pliable, affected by fitness and nutrition and influenced by environment and lifestyle. In other words, you do have control of how you feel, how you look and how well you can perform. Chronic disease is multifactorial, a culmination of variables of which genetic predisposition counts only as one. We know through research on identical twins for example, that risk of obesity, diabetes type II, chronic inflammation, hypertension and vascular disease is influenced more by lifestyle than genetics.

In the classic nature/nurture argument, genetics is always pitted against environment. But why does it have to be one or the other? I’ve always believed it’s a combination of both, and because of science, experience and my faith in the natural food and fitness movement, I will continue to believe that both my present state and final outcome in life, are primarily directed by what I think, what I say and what I do!

It all Adds up

Bad habits die hard: A recent study of University of Pennsylvania alumni, quoted in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that poor health habits (people with too much bodyfat, who smoked, and got no regular exercise) not only got sicker earlier in life, but were more likely to be disabled by their illnesses, and as a whole died earlier than their counterparts with healthier habits. (Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients, November 2000, page 122)