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April 15, 2012

One of the most troubling claims that I hear as a nutritionist is: “It is genetic”. For example: “I have high cholesterol, but it is genetic…”, “I suffer from migraines, but it is genetic…”, and recently even “I am sure to have diabetes, but it is genetic…” .

Misuse of genetics is common.

Unfortunately, it is often used by professionals: “You have high cholesterol, it is genetic, take a pill…”. (The same thing happens when too much medications cause problems in other organs. It is also attributed to genetics).

Genetics has always seemed very complicated to me, with DNA and RNA and other complicated concepts that demand years of academic studies to understand. We are not going to discuss these concepts or modern genetics here. Instead, we shall examine the rules of “Natural Selection”: the way our characteristics change with time. What can we learn from them about our diseases?

In order to understand our “Nutritional Evolution” we need to understand first the principles of the “Natural Selection”. Its definition and principles as described by Darwin are: in any growing population of organisms, a favorable characteristic will widespread in future generations – and vice versa. It means that if a flower or a fly (or a human being) has a characteristic that brings about better adaptation to its surroundings, the species has a better chance to survive, and that characteristic becomes more common.

The reason why people in the northern hemisphere have white skin, for example, is that their skin can absorb sunlight better – an important feature where there is less day light. The darker our skin – the less light we use at any given moment, which is to our benefit in sunny areas. We wouldn’t go into the scientific explanations of the phenomenon; suffice to understand that the favorable characteristic survives and increases.

The survivors are those whose characteristics are right for the natural surroundings.

Once we understand the “Natural Selection” principle, we can explain our evolution and nutrition, from the domestication of wild plants, to questions related to the effects of nutritional changes on our bodies (like the beginning of meat-eating, the agricultural revolution and Celiac, eating of milk products and indigestion of Lactose, sugar and Diabetes).

All these transforms the excuses into challenges: genetics is the background to our understanding how to preserve our health, and not an excuse for illness.

A major example is the spreading of Diabetes in our society; there is a genetic factor, but our excessive use of sugar in our food brings it to life. Our surrounding affects our choices. Is diabetes genetic in your family? Then sugar stretches you genetic
chain” – make sure it does not break it! So – have you stopped eating sugar and its byproducts?

Examining the genetics sheds light on celiac, indigestion of lactose and more…

The answer to “it is genetic” should be: “so what?”

Our genes are full of information, varied and multidisciplinary. They supply us with a wide range of characteristics that enable us to adjust to a wide range of surroundings and conditions. However, they have limited possibilities, and in extreme conditions will not survive. The amount of sugar we eat, the stress, and smoking are extreme conditions. Some people will suffer from many hours of sitting and watching the screen.

Genes collapse at the weakest point in the chain. This is genetic – but the extreme conditions that cause if are in our hands.

If we lead a life according to the needs of our genetic, it will maneuver to healthy life.


Recommended books on genetics:

Charles Darwin / The Origin of the Species.

The original book – worth reading!

Janet Browne / Charles Darwin: The Power of Place.

An engrossing book of the man and scientist, the writing of “the origin of the species”, and the period.

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