We inherit our genes from our parents and with those genes, sometimes we inherit disease. This is the nature side of the discussion. Genetically inherited diseases can be debilitating, painful and deadly. Sickle-cell anemia, Cystic Fibrosis, Tay-Sachs, Huntington, Marfan … we know these names and we are actively seeking ways to solve these genetic disorders through scientific research. This is noble work indeed.
We also inherit other aspects of our health, like our ideas about nutrition, what causes disease and how to cure our ailments. This is the nurture side of the discussion. These we inherit from our elders, friends, schools and society. This inheritance can also lead to debilitating, painful and sometimes deadly diseases. Hypertension. Type-2 Diabetes, Atherosclerosis, COPD, Cirrhosis … we know these names too, yet we seem to be actively seeking ways to increase their hold on our societal health through the negation of known science. This is scary work indeed.
Our work needs to be to bring the truth to light. Instead of holding on to our old ideas about what food should look like - perhaps it is time to accept the science that is already known. It is not a secret.
There are no questions about the science. There are no doubts about the dangers. There is no need for us to die of these diseases of affluence.
We need to address the greatest disease burdens in our society, diseases of too much food, diseases known to be linked to a seismic shift toward diets that rely heavily on animal products. (1)
While we cannot change our genes, we can change our ideas. The top fifteen leading causes of death are linked to faulty ideas about nutritional health. We have to power to clarify those ideas, the power to share the science, the power to transform the health of our entire planet.
Like with any inheritance, if we invest in new growth, we stand a better chance of passing something of greater value onto the next generation. In genetics this growth could lead to the eradication of genetic disorders. For everything else, this new growth is found in the exploration of current science, in the contemplation of new truths and in the application of new ideas.
Our genes account for between ten and twenty percent of our risk for developing disease. Only a few decades ago society was concerned about killers like genetic disorders and infectious diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis. “Now, the killers are largely lifestyle diseases: heart disease, cancer, and chronic lung disease. Is this simply because antibiotics have enabled us to live long enough to suffer from degenerative diseases? No. The emergence of these epidemics of chronic disease was accompanied by dramatic shifts in dietary patterns.” (2)
The phrase ‘It runs in my family’ is true in that eating habits and beliefs about nutrition are most definitely learned when we are young. There are other things that ‘run in families’, like what disease is and how it can invade and destroy the human body. You have the power to break the walls built by your predecessors. You have the power to explore the science and change your ideas. You decide what your health can be. Use your power to blow up old ideas!
“The truth is that adhering to just four simple healthy lifestyle factors can have a strong impact on the prevention of chronic diseases: not smoking, not being obese, getting half an hour of exercise a day, and eating healthier – defined as consuming more fruits, veggies, and whole grains and less meat. Those four factors alone were found to account for 78 percent of chronic disease risk.” (3) Studies have shown that following these four tenants presented by Dr. Greger could lower your risk of heart attack by 90% and risk of stroke by half! (4)