We’ve heard this statement of resignation before: “I can’t do anything about it. It’s in my genes.” Indeed, many diseases have been linked to genetics, including heart disease, mental illness, and cancer. However, this study by researchers at the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California suggests that there might be something we can do after all, and that changing our lifestyle for the better can trigger changes in certain genes that otherwise make us predisposed to disease.
The researchers followed up 30 men diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer and who decided not to undergo currently available treatments such as removal of the prostate gland, radiation therapy or hormone therapy. However, they opted for a major lifestyle change program which consisted of
eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and soy products, moderate exercise such as walking for half an hour a day, and an hour of daily stress management methods such as meditation.
Indeed there were some expected health benefits observed after 3 months of lifestyle change therapy, namely:
- Weight loss
- Improved cardiovascular health
However, the researchers found some unexpected but nevertheless beneficial effects in the form of “changes in activity in about 500 genes — including 48 that were turned on and 453 genes that were turned off…The activity of disease-preventing genes increased while a number of disease-promoting genes, including those involved in prostate cancer and breast cancer, shut down.”
The researchers also performed prostate biopsies before and after the 3-month therapy and found observable clinical improvement.
It is incredible to see these changes in such as short period of time but of course the study only looked at patients with a type of prostate cancer that is less likely to be aggressive or malignant. However, the study demonstrates the undeniable health benefits that a healthy lifestyle can bring. The lifestyle change therapy is especially relevant to prostate cancer patients who are faced with a lot of uncertainties concerning the early screening tests (e.g. PSA) and treatments available. Many patients tend to opt of the so-called “watchful waiting” management. If this management approach is coupled with a lifestyle change therapy, the chances of beating prostate cancer will considerably increase.
According to lead researcher Dr. Dean Ornish
“‘In just three months, I can change hundreds of my genes simply by changing what I eat and how I live?’ That’s pretty exciting. The implications of our study are not limited to men with prostate cancer.”
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