Monday, June 23, 2008

Article: Nurture beats nature!

I read an article on this pretty interesting study on - granted it has a small sample, and I'm not familiar with the methodology, insert other caveats, etc. etc. - but it was interesting nonetheless.


In a small study, the researchers tracked 30 men with low-risk prostate cancer who decided against conventional medical treatment such as surgery and radiation or hormone therapy.

The men underwent three months of major lifestyle changes, including eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and soy products [emphasis mine], moderate exercise such as walking for half an hour a day, and an hour of daily stress management methods such as meditation.

As expected, they lost weight, lowered their blood pressure and saw other health improvements. But the researchers found more profound changes when they compared prostate biopsies taken before and after the lifestyle changes.

After the three months, the men had changes in activity in about 500 genes -- including 48 that were turned on and 453 genes that were turned off.
The idea that lifestyle changes can modify the expression of genes is fascinating to me. Most people don't understand that the whole nature vs. nurture debate is an ongoing interaction - that depending on your environment, you can have a completely different genetic outcome. In graduate school, we often talked about this process in utereo (e.g., Mom smokes crack, certain genes will be altered) or with intelligence (rich sensory environment vs. impoverished environment), but healthy lifestyle makes perfect sense too.

I wish I had documented some sort of health status before I started all this. I didn't check my blood pressure or cholesterol before I embarked on my whole EFNTMMP lifestyle change (Mr. Insomniac convinced me not to) - but actually now that I think about it, my blood pressure is on record from my visit to the ER for my sprained ankle (but it was rather high. My mom was all, see Insomniac... you need to exercise more. And I was like, Mom - I'm in a hospital! My ankle hurts! I fainted! Of course I have a high blood pressure - I'm stressed! I took some deep breaths and it was back at my normal reading - something like 100/70.

Oh well.


Erin Palmer said...

This is so fascinating, and personal. A few months ago my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer and he did the drastic lifestyle change (no meat, dairy, etc., exercise, the whole bit). He is healthier in every single way...except he still has the cancer.

Liz said...

That is interesting. I wonder why they chose prostate cancer patients... I am actually a cancer researcher, but I know little about gene expression. I'll have to check out the original publication.