Big Disconnect #3: It Runs in My Family, so it’s Out of My Control
When it comes to genetics and chronic illness, the expression “it runs in my family” is one I’ve heard all too often. Sadly, many I’ve met are using their supposed bad genes as a handy excuse to avoid making any lifestyle changes. One man told me quite nonchalantly that he’s ‘just waiting to have his heart attack’, since his dad and brother had both suffered one in their early 50’s. Don’t get me wrong, there certainly are diseases that DO tend to run in families; but most people are giving their genetic makeup way too much credit. The third Big Disconnect deals with the misconception that diet and lifestyle don’t matter because (Disease X) runs in my family…..when instead it’s the rich Western diet and unhealthy lifestyle that’s typically been passed down.
If you’ve been living with the assumption that you have no control over your health because you’re pre-programmed for disease, I have good news for you: Disease and disability are more preventable than you think – even if you ARE genetically predisposed! There’s a difference between being born with a gene (genetic predisposition) and whether or not that gene will develop into disease (genetic expression). Suppose you were born with a predisposition for diabetes. Your diet and lifestyle are still far greater determinants of whether you’ll develop diabetes than any other factor. Non-genetic factors such as poor diet and lifestyle account for 80-90% of the cases of our top killers.[I]
Dr. T. Colin Campbell, a researcher I truly admire and the author of The China Study, Whole, and The Low-Carb Fraud, has spent decades in the area of nutrition research; he reveals how the gene responsible for liver cancer can be dramatically repressed by consuming less animal protein, thereby delaying or preventing liver cancer. He also points out that the production of enzymes, which are the main products of gene expression, can be markedly controlled by what we eat.[ii] Other research regarding the Alzheimer gene (ApoE4) also convincingly demonstrates that diet trumps genes, especially since saturated fat and high cholesterol levels are an instrumental factor in the development of dementia.
Remember that genetics may load the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger. Genes can only establish the potential for disease; they do not represent a guaranteed diagnosis. Depending on your disposition, this can be good or bad news. It’s good news if you’re willing to take control of your lifestyle; not so good news if you’re not willing to make any necessary changes or if you choose the path of least resistance. For anyone dealing with chronic illness – or perhaps fearing one due to their family history – may I encourage you to be like the wise person described in Proverbs:
When a wise person sees danger ahead, he avoids it.
But a foolish person keeps going and gets into trouble. (Prov. 27:12, ICB)
Switching to a whole-food, plant-based diet is your BEST defense to avoid, halt and reverse disease, regardless of your genetic makeup. Share this good news with the people you care about!
In case you missed Big Disconnects #1 and #2, you can read about them here:
Keep in touch and have a wonderful 4th of July holiday. May God bless you and yours, and may He continue to bless our great country. Thank Him today for the freedoms we enjoy!
[i] Dr. Michael Greger and Gene Stone, How Not to Die (New York, Flatiron Books, 2015), 12
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