Is It Really Genetic? How Lifestyle Choices Impact DNA

Posted by in Tip of the week

Cracking the human genome was deemed essential in order to help us better understand diseases, our susceptibility to them, and how to best treat them. But now, many scientists believe our lifestyle habits are actually much more important in determining how our bodies develop disease.

The Human Genome Project 

The human genome is the complete assembly of DNA that makes each individual unique. The Human Genome Project (HGP) was an international research project intent on mapping the entire human genome. The results were predicted to, among various other applications, help us better understand disease, better treat patients, and identify mutations linked to the development of diseases like cancer. The task was finally declared complete in 2003.

Now, sixteen years later, the focus has shifted from mapping the genome to cracking the epigenome. The epigenome is a multitude of chemical compounds that tell the genome what to do.

Impact of Lifestyle and Environment on DNA

At last year’s Global Wellness Summit, Dr. Adam Perlman, executive director of Duke Integrative Health, explained that while for years there’s been hype that cracking the human genome would be the solution to all kinds of diseases, we’re increasingly seeing that it’s the epigenetic modifiers that actually determine health. Decoding and interpreting the epigenome – those genetic markers that are endlessly modified by lifestyle and environment – will decide whether genes for chronic diseases like heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer get turned “on” or “off.”

Dr. Deepak Chopra has spoken on these complex ecosystems within and outside the body, arguing that a human – or a human’s DNA – is not a stable constant, but is continually changing.

Take Control of Your Health

Using scientific evidence, Chopra has demonstrated that our lifestyles and consciousness create our state of health. It is already known that 98 per cent of our body’s atoms are replaced each year. Chopra explains that healthy diet, exercise, sleep, meditation, and stress management can quite literally transform our health. Furthermore, these “pillars of wellness” impact the proteins on top of our genes, which can prevent the expression of the 95 percent of genetic mutations that are not hardwired into our DNA at birth.

More epigenetic breakthroughs are coming. For now, we know that taking personal responsibility for our health starts with our every day habits and overall lifestyle.