What Determines Our Health: Genetics or Environment?
The year was 1953. James Watson and Francis Crick were two unknowns in the world of science / medicine until their discovery of a twisted structure that looked like a ladder under a microscope. I am referring, of course, to DNA. This discovery launched an entirely new perspective on how life works. The discovery of DNA introduced into our mindsets the word “GENE” a unique formation of the basic 4 building blocks of DNA which results in a blueprint for expression of life.
That is at least the prevailing theory. You see – I want to remind you that all of science, and even medicine, is based on ideas on how things work. We generally accept them as truth, that is until something else comes along to challenge it. For example: The Geocentric Model of the universe (Earth as the center with all planets and the sun revolving around it) was the prevailing understanding of how the solar system worked – that is until Copernicus proved otherwise (and even then, it took quite some time for his proof to become the new model).
It’s been widely believed since 1953 that DNA determines your expression of life here on earth. Good DNA = Good Life (i.e. healthy, strong etc.). Bad DNA (mutations or deletions etc.) = Bad Life (i.e. sickness, deformation, weakness etc.). Under this model you are a “genetic automaton” i.e. a living being held captive to the code you were given – which is inherited from the mixing of codes from your parents (i.e. 1/2 of you is mom the other 1/2 of you is dad) and your 1 whole is you. Any issues in your body can be traced back to an issue with your blueprint – i.e. your genetic code.
Pharma and Medicine love this model because it puts you out of control over your life and offers them the ability to change your genetics or the expression of your genetics (i.e. your life and health) through their products. After all, it takes a highly developed scientific view and understanding of all the micro-genetics of the human body to be able to control it via outside forces. Enter the age of genetic medicine (targeted gene therapies, custom medications that fit only your unique genetic blueprint, genetic alterations and perhaps even genetic re-programming).
It all sounds like something from the future – the ability to read your DNA in its entirety, find the errors and fix them or change them into something better than what you were given at birth. It is the direction science and medicine are heading but what if they are WRONG!
Enter the Nature vs Nurture argument. Those on the “nature” side believe everything I just mentioned above. You are a complex biological machine run via your DNA and thus you inherit all of your life expressions via the nature you were given. Those on the “nurture” side believe something entirely different and even have evidence to prove it (think of them as the Copernicans of today). Those holding to nurture as the founding factor for your life on this planet believe that variables which impact who we are, including our early childhood experiences, health, social relationships and even our surrounding environment are all based on just that (our environment).
To help you understand this, let’s use this analogy: Stem cells. They have 1 set of genetic DNA. According to naturists the DNA tells the cell what to become and what to do (i.e. heart, skin, kidney etc.). BUT the science says this cell can become anything based on the environment it is placed into. (i.e. put that stem cell into a fatty area – it becomes a fat cell. Put that cell into a muscular area, it becomes a muscle cell). It’s now an accepted truth that stem cells can do this, but what about your other cells? Weren’t they at one time a stem cell themselves (YES!).
Are you having the “Ah Ha” moment yet? If you rewound the clock on your life back to when you were a blastocyst (a ball of simple stem cells) you would see the implications that the nurture argument (environment) is saying to those of nature (DNA). Those who believe DNA sets who you are would say in this state you are already programmed for everything that will happen in your life and you are out of control. YET, science says otherwise. The study of apigenetics (environmental control over DNA) says that the nature of your environmental factors (nutrients, stressors, energies etc.) determine your cellular expressions (i.e. life on this planet).
You may find this hard to swallow but there is now evidence that much of what we thought was permanent (eye color, skin color, personalities etc.) is something that can be influenced and or changed – not by changing the DNA but simply by changing the environment.
One famous example of this is known as the “Twin Studies” where one genetically identical twin expresses one health issue (diabetes type I for example) and the other does not. According to Naturists this is an impossibility – i.e. if the DNA makeup is such that type I diabetes would be expressed (i.e. the genetic code is present) it’s impossible for the other twin not to have the condition. Yet this happens all the time. According to the Nurturists, the explanation for this phenomenon is that the environment in the twin with the condition was conducive (i.e. favorable for expression of the gene) whereas in the other conditions prevented the expression. What could do this??? It’s now a known fact that the state of one’s methylation (a process by which DNA is marked with methyl groups such that it can stay tightly wound” can prevent a gene from being read. IE very, very tight DNA is less likely to have its code expressed simply because the gene is “hidden” or “in the off position.” When methylation is deficient, the DNA is less wound and the genes are more easily accessed by the proteins of expression.
That brings up another blow to the Naturists (those believing DNA is in control) – proteins! The hope of the Human Genome Project Of the 2000s (remember that) was that we would sequence a complete human genome to find ourselves the most complex (i.e. the most genes) of all living beings on the plant. Problem: we had less genes than that of a fly! How can such a complex being as a human have so little genes (again if genes controlled all of life expressions and we are the pinnacle of evolution and life expression, then we should have the most genes)? Answer: proteins. It was found via the human genome project that its the proteins that surround the DNA (which btw is more than 50% of the weight of DNA) that governs DNA function.
Think of your DNA like the blueprints for a building to be made. The outcome is all based on the contractor – a really qualified contractor can build a very complex and exceptional building yet a lesser qualified contractor can use the same blueprints and have a completely different building as the result. Translation: your DNA is merely a blueprint which can be read and interpreted in many different patterns. What determines the expression is the contractor (YOU) and the environment in which you place your blueprints. You have more control over your life than Naturists want you to believe – it’s time to become your own personal Copernicus and shout this new truth from the mountain tops to all those willing to think differently.