Blogs     Local Parents     Food & Nutrition    

Nature vs Nurture: Why Family History Is Not Destiny



Lifestyle is more important than genetics for many medical problems

Dr Padma Garvey/Plant-Based Doctor Mom

Nature vs Nurture: Why Family History is not Destiny

Though obtaining a family history is a part of a medical visit, it is actually not as important as you might think.  In fact, I believe by placing too much emphasis on family history, we create a sense of helplessness in our patients.  A better way to understand the impact family history has on our health is to remember the following statement:

Genetics loads the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger.

Take for instance the genes linked to breast cancer and ovarian cancer, known as the BRCA genes.  BRCA genes are found in all humans and other mammals as well.  They are involved in suppressing the formation of cancer in the breast and ovary and other organs.  Some families carry a mutated version of the BRCA gene that prevents the gene from suppressing cancer.  Some families have carried the mutated BRCA for generations.  In other circumstances, a new mutation in the gene could arise de novo or in utero, that is at the moment of conception or during development in the uterus. 

People who have a mutated or defective BRCA gene lose the ability to repair damage to their DNA.  Damage to our DNA occurs every second of every day.  Our bodies have many mechanisms in place to deal with damaged DNA.  One such mechanism is ‘repair genes’  like BRCA.  If BRCA isn’t working then damaged DNA leads to cancer initiation.  A cancer cell starts to grow.  Our bodies have another layer of protection against cancer involving our immune system, bolstered by antioxidants in our diets.  Just like our immune system fights bacterial and viral invaders, it also seeks and destroys small cancer cells.  Think of it like small brush fires that start in several places but are easy to keep under control.  Now if you pour gasoline on one of these small brush fires causing it to grow rapidly,  our second layer of defense, our immune system is overwhelmed and can’t stop it.  The gasoline on the brush fire promotes the fire.  Small clusters of cancer cells that are given a promoter will also start to grow fast, overwhelming our second lines of defense. 

Cancer promoters include smoking for lung cancer and HPV infections for cervical cancer.  The promoter for breast and ovarian cancer includes a high fat, Western diet, lacking in greens and whole grains.  This is why Eastern European families with the BRCA mutation had lower rates of breast cancer while they were in Eastern Europe than when they migrated to the United States.  Same gene mutation, different levels of cancer promoters. 

Given this, family history does not mean as much as we like to think.  Whether or not we carry some predisposition to cancer initiation does not mean we cannot prevent cancer promotion, literally nipping cancer in the bud, putting out the small brush fires.  Our energy and focus should be placed on avoiding cancer promoters.  Eating a low oil, whole grain, plant-based diet is your surest bet!

For more information and recipes check out my website. 

www.drpadmagarvey.com


Other posts by this this blogger


Why I Love Chia Seeds

May 21, 2018

Loaded with protein, fiber, and omega 3 fatty acids

Reclaiming Dinner Time

May 14, 2018

Eating a home cooked dinner together, as a family, is one of the most important habits to nurture in our lives.

Pizza Night: One of Our Family's Healthiest Meals

May 7, 2018

By using whole grains and eliminating the cheese, pizza is actually really nutritious

There Is A New Way Of Dealing With Diabetes Type 2

Apr 30, 2018

The science behind what actual causes diabetes type 2 and how to deal with it through diet and exercise

Can I Put Alcohol In The Healthy Column?

Apr 23, 2018

Alcohol, in moderation, is probably neither good nor bad for most of us.

Fermented Foods

Apr 16, 2018

Eating fermented foods is a great way to restore the good bugs in our gut.

Confession of a Gynecologist: I Don't Get Yearly Pelvic Exams

Apr 9, 2018

A check up is no different from a medication, a test, or a procedure. A patient should know what are the benefits and risks and decide if it is right for her.

What The Biggest Loser Gets Wrong

Apr 2, 2018

The protein-centered, fitness-centered approach to weight loss is not sustainable for most of us and is an inefficient use of time resources.

My Inner Cavewoman

Mar 26, 2018

Our bodies are geared for a time and place 10,000 years ago. Acknowledging this fact can help us make better dietary decisions.

You Are What You Eat

Mar 19, 2018

Genetics is not destiny. We can alter our tendencies for health problems by eating methyl-rich diets.

Potatoes: A Super Food

Mar 12, 2018

Potatoes are actually quite healthy for you. Learning how to cook them without having to fry them is useful. Growing them is easy and fun as well.

The Best Breakfast In The World

Mar 5, 2018

Eating right means eating at the right time and enough food to keep us feeling full

What They Are Not Telling You About Food Recalls

Feb 25, 2018

Understanding the connection between how we eat, where are food comes from, and the impact of our habits will help motivate us to change our lifestyles

I Realized That Black Mustard Seeds Can Save The Dolphins

Feb 18, 2018

All healthy, traditional diets had to have a source of omega 3 otherwise they wouldn't have kept people so healthy.

Trans Fats And The French Paradox

Feb 12, 2018

Trans fats are even worse than saturated fat. Their use in the food industry is responsible for the steady rates in heart attacks and strokes despite the recommendation to decrease saturated fat and cholesterol intake.

Label Reading Made Easy

Feb 5, 2018

A quick scan of some important nutrition information can help us decide which foods are really healthy and which are being falsely promoted as healthy

Indian Food For Beginners

Jan 29, 2018

Indian food is a great way to eat more lentils, beans, and vegetables of all kinds. Learning a few simple techniques will make it a snap.

How Many Bowel Movements Should You Have?

Jan 22, 2018

Most people and doctors do not realize how impactful dietary changes can be when it comes to constipation

The Protein Debate: I Say Let Nature Decide

Jan 15, 2018

Our main focus should be on eating an unprocessed diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. We will get all the protein we need without even thinking about it.

Why I Think Eating Cabbage Means You Don't Have To Buy Probiotics

Jan 8, 2018

Eating cabbage is really good for us. Whether it is fermented, cooked, or raw cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables should be a regular part of our diets.

Why I Am A Salt Of the Earth Gal

Jan 1, 2018

Plants have very little salt compared to meat and animal dairy. Changing our diets can be very impactful on our blood pressure problems.

How I Cured My 20 Years of Heartburn Overnight

Dec 11, 2017

Learning about dietary changes that affect acid reflux and heartburn can help improve our lives and save us money.

Is Watchful Waiting Right For You?

Dec 4, 2017

It is important for patients to understand the pluses and minuses, risks and benefits to any test they undergo.

Vitamin B12: You May Not Want to Get It the Way Nature Intended

Nov 27, 2017

Vitamin B12 is an issue for many people nowadays, meat eaters and vegans alike. Understanding the biology will help us avoid a vitamin B12 deficiency

It's Now Cool To Be A Lentil Eater

Nov 20, 2017

Lentils are a great source of protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber. They are extremely good at helping to regulate blood sugar.

Dr. Akizuki's Miso Soup and the Atomic Bomb

Nov 13, 2017

Miso soup seems to have tremendous health benefits that we can all take advantage of starting today.

Dying a Bland Death

Nov 6, 2017

Using a variety of spices in your cooking will make eating a plant-based diet more enjoyable. In addition, spices are loaded with powerful antioxidants that promote good health.

Omega 3 and DHA: If You Understand the Science You Won't Buy the Supplement

Nov 2, 2017

There is no pill or supplement that can replace a healthy lifestyle.

Your Obesity May Not Be Your Fault

Oct 30, 2017

What's happened to our food is happening to us.

Confessions of an Obstetrician: I never took a prenatal vitamin

Oct 23, 2017

The importance of adequate vitamins and iron in a healthy, plant-based diet has been suppressed by marketing ploys aimed at promoting the consumption of expensive vitamins.

A Bug a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Oct 16, 2017

Eating foods with good bugs is vital to keeping us healthy. Good gut bugs have been shown to help with heart health, obesity, autoimmune diseases, allergies, and even depression

Paying More For Less

Oct 9, 2017

Slick advertising convinces us to buy and eat the wrong things. We inadvertently pay more money for less nutritious food.

My Life As An Unhealthy Vegetarian

Oct 2, 2017

Subtle changes over time are more impactful on our health than we may realize.

In A Pinch

Sep 25, 2017

Stocking up on some key food items will allow you to stick to a healthy, plant-based diet even when your plans to cook fall through.

Two Degrees of Separation

Sep 18, 2017

How we eat is one of the most powerful ways we can help with global warming.

The Sugar Debate

Sep 11, 2017

Sugar was quite expensive until recent modern history. Whether it is good or bad can be clouded by misinformation.

Recommendations For Eating Out

Sep 4, 2017

Keeping our eyes open for healthy options allows us to enjoy eating out occasionally.

A Diet Fit For A Gladiator

Aug 28, 2017

The push for protein consumption is misguided. Learning about how gladiators ate and how some athletes eat today can help us stay strong and healthy.

Don't Outsource Baby Food

Aug 20, 2017

Marketing ploys have misled many of us to believe that babies and toddlers need special food made by a company to ensure they get adequate nutrition.

Ovarian Cancer: Facts and Prevention

Aug 14, 2017

At present there are no recommended routine screening tests for ovarian cancer. But there are many things a woman can do to help prevent ovarian cancer.

Back To School Breakfast

Aug 4, 2017

A healthy, plant-based breakfast is key to start the school day.

Reasons For Cancer: The World Speaks For Itself

Jul 31, 2017

There are ways to actually prevent cancer. While early detection and treatment is important, by not educating the public on prevention, healthcare professionals are missing a real chance to help.

Understanding Carbohydrates

Jul 24, 2017

Understanding the chemistry of carbohydrates will help us to make food choices that promote health. It will also help us navigate conflicting statements about carbohydrates.

The Most Common Nutritional Deficiency in America

Jul 17, 2017

The misinformation about nutrition is daunting. Simplifying nutrition is crucial so that we can eat better.

Osteoporosis: One Pill Does Not Fit All

Jul 10, 2017

Preventing osteoporosis means adequate sun exposure, physical activity, and a diet rich in beans and greens.

Is There A Link Between Iron Supplements And Colon Cancer?

Jun 26, 2017

It is astonishing how many people take iron supplements in this country. It may surprise you to know that doing so may have some risks associated with it.

What's A Good Weight For Me?

Jun 18, 2017

Our concept of a healthy weight for us can get clouded by time and a poor memory.

The Kids' Menu and Other Dangerous Things to Keep Your Children From

Jun 11, 2017

What was once a rare treat has become a daily occurrence. Learning about healthier options for you kids when you go out is important.

Thanks Mom for the Bugs

Jun 4, 2017

Some bugs are definitely bad but most are harmless and some are actually vital to us. Understanding this relationship is important so that you can reduce your chances of some serious problems.

What a Box of Cereal Can Teach Us

May 29, 2017

The history behind our cereal boxes tells us a lot about how people ate in the past.

The Prescription For Health

May 22, 2017

The prescription for good health need not be a secret. History and health trends in immigrants tell us exactly what we need to do to take charge of our health.

Soy's Undeserved Bad Reputation

May 15, 2017

People are avoiding soy for the wrong reasons. It is one of the healthiest and most versatile foods around.

Recurrent Urinary Tract and Vaginal Infections

May 8, 2017

Understanding what causes urinary tract and vaginal infections helps us prevent them from happening in the first place. As always, diet plays a major role.

The Confusion Over Fat

May 1, 2017

Understanding about good and bad fat is crucial to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It will also help you to avoid being misled by food labels and advertising ploys.

Looking At Dairy From All Angles

Apr 24, 2017

While dairy consumption served a purpose in the past, its nutritional value in today's society is questionable.

The Perfect Diet

Apr 17, 2017

Is there a perfect diet? History can teach us a great deal about the ideal diet. Learning old ways of eating can be rewarding, tasty, and satisfying.