Posted by: drwbortz | June 21, 2010

My Genes Made Me Do It … Wrong!!!

Recently, piles of new evidence indicate that the predictive power of genes simply isn’t as much hope as it is hype. The public has been swarmed with excited promotions of “personalized medicine” and its predictive power for potential disease. “For $500 we can tell you if you are going to become bald, or get cancer of your shoelace, etc.” Don’t believe it. The Supreme Court just shot down plans to sell gene prediction kits at Walgreens. The hucksters will have to wait awhile before they can peddle their pseudo-science.

What are genes anyway? Think of them as switches, as light switches for instance. Each of our trillions of cells contains around 30,000 genes which are arranged in meticulous fashion along our chromosomes inside the cell nucleus. These gene switches control our structure and function, and are thus immensely important to our health and well-being.

However, genes do not act independently, but instead operate in a fantastically-organized pattern, integrating vast amounts of information that each cell is constantly receiving from the environment. Oxygen, food, temperature, pressure, etc. all supply information to the genes. All cells have antennae on their surface called receptor sites, which transduce the constant stream of messages to the DNA of the gene, where they generate a specific response to the signal. Thus, the environment is constantly informing the cell of the state of its neighborhood.

Moreover these switches are not simply on or off but act as a rheostat, like a dimmer switch. So the response is exquisitely finely-tuned. It is now generally estimated that your ancestry, your genetic heritage, ordains 15% of your health status. Sure, genes matter, but not to the determinative degree that the gene-jockies might pretend. So it is not the cards that you are dealt that counts but how you play the hand. Both Newsweek and Time Magazine recently had cover stories proclaiming that “heredity is not destiny.”  So, it is you, not your genes, who is in charge.

Make the right choices.

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