(And will it help us be healthier…?)
These days genetic researchers regularly uncover parts of the DNA code that show the likelihood of someone coming down with specific diseases.
The goal of this research is eliminating health problems at their root and creating a better life for people. Because DNA is the design blueprint for every structure in the body, they hope to understand how to avoid problems and optimize the relevant processes taking place deep in each cell of the body.
The questions they hope to answer include:
What disease factors lie dormant in a person’s genetic makeup and how can these potential problems be addressed before they arise?
What untapped capabilities exist within the genetic code?
Is there a ‘right’ diet for someone based on their DNA?
You can immediately see the appeal of this approach. The ideas of curing disease before it happens, of unlocking new human capabilities and of dialing in the exact right diet for an individual are immensely powerful. What we don’t know is exactly how well unraveling DNA’s secrets will address these issues.
Does this mean that genetic information the ‘final frontier’ for reaching optimum health? More importantly, will this knowledge lead to truly practical treatments that are both effective and free of unwanted side effects?
Time will tell.
Even though we’re a long way from answers to the above questions, research in this area is very worthwhile. It is important work and ultimately we will see some interesting results.
But as good as it is, there are many limitations to the benefits genetic research may bring us.
Limitations of Genetic Research
Especially regarding finding the right foods for an individual’s best health, genetic research won’t give us more than just a few pieces of the bigger puzzle for reaching our health goals.
Although genetic information may tell us which foods we are likely to be reactive to or not, food reactivity is only one aspect of discovering which foods are optimal.
There are many factors besides genetics influencing how we respond to foods. Among these are:
Functional issues such as digestive efficiency, the ability to transport nourishment to the places that need it most, and the ability of our cells to utilize the nutrients once transported.
Problems related to other levels of organization in the body besides the DNA (for example: organs, tissues, endocrine system, etc.)
Blocking factors like heavy metal toxicity and electromagnetic exposure.
The effects of stress on the body.
Specific nutrient requirements (vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc.) that may be specific for each person.
Other unique individual responses and requirements stemming from any of the above unrelated to genetic tendencies.
When you only look at specific parts of a system (DNA is only one aspect of the body), it’s not possible to grasp the big picture of the complex interactions taking place between and among those parts. It is also not possible to determine how those interactions affect the whole system.
Put simply, you can’t make a definitive diagnosis, nor create an effective treatment plan based only on looking at DNA any more than you can understand how to drive a car by looking at the design plans. The thing that gets you where you want to go is bringing every part into play effectively.
Getting The Bigger Picture
Because focusing on one aspect of the body’s complex terrain won’t tell us everything we need to know for optimal health, it pays to ask what will. In the next few posts we’ll attempt to address this.
Specifically, we’ll explore answers to the following questions:
What can we do right now to support optimal health, giving us greater energy, more enjoyment of life and improved mental focus?
Is it possible to take into account all of the various factors affecting health in a way that supports overall health and wellness and if so how?
Can we do this simply and cost-effectively?
What factors do we need to pay attention to in order to understand and correct health-robbing imbalances?
Is it possible to correct imbalances naturally, or do we need to use other, more drastic measures such as pharmaceutical drugs?
This may sound like a tall order, but it’s worth it. After all, is there anything more important than health and quality of life? Starting next post we’ll begin answering these important questions. (Here’s the link to that article, called, What Will Genetic Research Tell Us About Human Health?.)
Wolcott, William (founder of Healthexcel Metabolic Typing®), from notes posted on the Metabolic Typing® Advisor’s forum.
Hyperhealth Pro Database, In-Tele-Health, Hansville, WA, 2008.
A good layperson’s overview of DNA and Genetics is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Introduction_to_genetics
A very good technical overview of DNA can be found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNA.