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Charting Destiny – From the Animal Kingdom Point of View
The United States of America, the world's wealthiest country, has one of the world's highest incidences of chronic degenerative diseases. Out of a population of 308 million, US statistics for the year 2010 showed that:
Two-thirds of adults were overweight and of these, half were obese;
One out of eight adults was diabetic;
6 percent of adults had cancer, of which half died;
5.3 million seniors had Alzheimer's disease.
These figures strongly suggest that affluence, which influences food and lifestyle choices, has a major impact on degenerative diseases. These are diseases associated with multiple genes, as opposed to birth defects, which are usually due to defects in single genes.
The genes that you inherit merely give you a predisposition towards certain illnesses. Your epigenes - which are influenced by diet and lifestyle - determine how your genetic programming is expressed. They determine whether your tendency towards an illness does, in fact, manifests as illness.
A diet of nutrient-rich natural foods will not only let you enjoy good health, it will also shape your health destiny. You are not doomed for illness. Even if your parents and grandparents had serious diseases like heart disease, diabetes or cancer, you need not suffer the same fate.
The following are examples of how diet determines destiny:
Pre-birth: 'Abnormal' mice
A 2003 experiment involved feeding special nutritional supplements to pregnant mice that had an abnormal "agouti" gene. Normally, such mice would produce extremely obese yellow offsprings that grow up with cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. When given the nutrient-rich diet, they gave birth to lean, brown offsprings that stayed healthy.
In this instance, the pregnant mice were fed nutrients that promote methylation (the formation of methyl compounds), such as folic acid, vitamin B12, B6, betaine and choline.
These nutrients acted to "switch off" the agouti gene programming, even though the offsprings still inherited the abnormal gene.
Post-birth: Queen bees
Bee larvae are identical when they hatch from eggs. When a larva is fed honey, it develops into a regular worker bee. If a similar larva is fed exclusively royal jelly, it develops into a queen bee - which is hundreds of times larger than worker bees and spends her entire life laying eggs. The diet of bee larvae makes all the difference.
Multi-generation: Healthy cats
In 1930, Dr. Francis Pottenger studied how natural and processed foods affected cats and their subsequent generations of offsprings over a period of to years. Cats fed natural foods produced healthy offsprings. Those fed a diet of processed foods produced kittens with deformities, abnormalities and behavioural disorders. They were vulnerable to illness and allergy, learning disability and reproductive disorders.
With each generation of cats, the consequences worsened. Dr. Pottenger then fed a natural diet to the "genetically-weakened" cats. It took him four cat generations before he could produce healthy cats again.
A 2011 study showed that certain phytonutrients can inhibit negative epigenetic effects linked to cancers and age-related diseases. These phytonutrients included extracts from soybeans, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, green tea, fava beans, kale, grapes and turmeric.
Can we afford to continue eating our modern diet of processed foods? Not any more. The human diet began to worsen with the Industrial Revolution that began in 176o. That's 250 years, or about eight generations, ago. After eating badly for so many generations, we have lost the resilience to tolerate further insults. We are now more vulnerable than ever to developing degenerative diseases, including premature ageing and cancers. We need to urgently return to our ancestors' diet of natural, nutrient-rich foods. Even with a natural, healthy diet, it may take us many more generations before we regain our healthy epigenetic expressions.
This content is adapted, with permission, from Book 1 of 2 : The Wonders of Nutrition by Dr Ang Poon Liat. MBBS, M.MED (PAED), MRCP (UK PAED), FAMS, MD.