Healthy Eating

What you can change About Genetics

02A15GJ4If you’re part of the IdealShape community, you’ve likely already decided that you have some control over your health. You’re chasing down the food, exercise and psychological choices that will give you the healthiest life possible.

But have you ever believed that your quest for health is in spite of certain genetics?

That you might just be “racking up” health points now in order to enjoy a few more good years before some predestined genetic disease strikes?

I’ve always looked at my health that way. Like I need to get healthy now so that I’ll be stronger and better-able to deal with the health ailments that’ll inevitably plague me in 10 or 20 years.

Diabetes, cancer and thyroid conditions run in my family on BOTH sides, so I’ve always assumed disease is my destiny.

But according to an emerging science called “epigenetics”, my positive health moves today could prevent those unhealthy genes from ever surfacing.

How genetic switches are “flipped”

Epigenetics is the science of the expression of genes. Research in this area has taken off in the last 5 years, and scientists are finding more and more proof that external factors can modify the way our genes are expressed.

What are external factors? Lifestyle choices. Environmental conditions. Our emotional environment while in the womb. And perhaps easiest to control: diet and exercise.

Mounting research suggests that eating a healthy diet could charm a disease predisposition right into submission.

On the other hand, epigenetic impressionability can be more of a curse than a blessing.

A nutrient-poor diet may take potentially great genes and quiet them, while activating unhealthy ones. There’s growing speculation that America’s fatty, sugary, processed diet is linked to rising rates of obesity, diabetes and cancer in the U.S.

Another area of study, as explained by Mayo Clinic, is whether mounting exposure to BPA (a potentially harmful chemical used in some plastics since the 1960s) can be connected to that rise in obesity, diabetes and cancer.

If you’re like my parents, you might think that “everything causes cancer” and you’re not interested in the “whack-a-mole” of trying to avoid every new thing that scientists find might be harmful.

But it’s not just about you.

It’s about your kids, too.

The way we alter genetic expression can change the genes we pass on to our children and grandchildren. By overeating today, we can literally create obesity genes for posterity. Or, by dropping plastic bottles and frozen pizzas from our everyday vocabulary, we may be able to end a family history of obesity or cancer.

Scientists are also exploring how epigenetic therapies can change genetic expression even after a disease has set in.

To me, the possibility—backed by mounting evidence—that we have this much control over our health and genetics, and the lives of our future generations, is amazing. Well worth the effort of making better health choices.

In fact, sneaking an extra slice of cake and skipping tennis class? Suddenly they don’t seem so tempting at all.

Like this article? Check out these other good reads:

A good cause can save your fitness regimen

How to ‘A-salt’ your high blood pressure

Are you getting enough vitamin C?

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Chelsea Ratcliff

Chelsea Ratcliff

Writer and expert

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