5 risky genes that could be affecting your health
Genetic profiling is set to be the most far-reaching health revolution of our time. Due to huge leaps forward in DNA medicine, we can now discover much we need to know about our own bodies, and for the first time, make informed choices about which lifestyles will lead to health and happiness, avoid potential illness and maximise our physical and mental well-being.
Epigenetic research has proven that while inheriting “bad” genes may predispose us to a particular disease, whether that disease actually develops is a complex interplay between genes, the environment, our behaviour and our state of mind.
Personalised health is a transformative approach involving a simple DNA test to reveal the specific nutrition, exercise and lifestyle plan that is optimal for your own unique gene structure. Making these lifestyle changes quickly affects gene expression, turning off gene mutations, boosting disease-preventing genes, slowing down ageing, and improving quality of life.
Here are 5 genes that can work for you or against you, and what you need to do to significantly reduce your health risk.
The APOE gene is responsible for the production, delivery and utilisation of cholesterol in the body. APOE gene variants are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline. Your APOE genotype determines the optimal ratio and type of fats to carbohydrates and protein you should have in your diet, and the type of exercise you need, to increase protective HDL cholesterol, and lower the bad, small-dense LDL cholesterol.
The APOE E4/E4 is the highest risk genotype as they have the lowest natural antioxidant status and lack capacity for protection and repair. This group is at high risk of cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, and brain injuries. These individuals can reduce their risk by maintaining a low fat diet, avoiding alcohol and processed carbohydrates, boosting antioxidant-rich foods, eliminating heavy metals found in supplements, food, water and fish, and a program of 75% aerobic exercise and 25% strength training.
Known as the “MotherFreaker Gene” because of the havoc it can wreak, the MTHFR gene’s role is to provide instructions for the MTHFR enzyme that converts the folate you eat into the active form that your body can use. This process is a crucial part of methylation which is essential for the proper functioning of every body system and occurs billions of time a second in our cells. Efficient methylation is vital for DNA repair, reducing inflammation, detoxification, stabilising mood, disease prevention and our physical, mental and emotional well-being.
People with a copying error on MTHFR C677T are more likely to have elevated homocysteine levels as the enzymes are less able to perform their main job to break it down into less dangerous molecules. This increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, heart attack, deep vein thrombosis, Type 2 diabetes and obesity. Those with the MTHFR A1298C mutation are more likely to present with neurotransmitter disturbances which can lead to anxiety, bipolar, and depression. These gene variants are also associated with neural tube defect, miscarriage, still birth and autism. Activated folate and folinic acid supplementation is required to counteract the MTHFR gene. However, folic acid should never be taken as it is synthetic and not in a form that your body can use.
Around 40 per cent of us possess the FTO gene variant, nicknamed the “Fatso Gene”, because if you have one or two copies of it, you rarely feel full while eating. This is called low satiety and often results in overeating. More than 50 per cent of overweight people have been found to have low satiety. The Fatso Gene leads to consuming larger portions of food and also tempts us to eat foods that are calorie-dense and higher in sugar and fat, and also gives its carriers the taste for fried food.
There are ways to outsmart the Fatso Gene. The first tactic is to limit your portion sizes. Some people find using smaller plates is a good way to go, as seeing a plate full of food tricks you psychologically into feeling you’re eating more. Those with two copies of the risk genotype can lose weight more effectively with a high-protein diet. Avoiding high-GI carbohydrates, high-calorie foods and processed foods is essential, replacing them with plenty of fibre, vegetables and lean meat. Mindful eating also helps as you put down your fork between each mouthful and try to think about the food you’re eating. Finally, exercise has been found to negate the influence of Fatso Gene so regular exercise can help avoid weight gain.
The COMT gene’s job is to produce an enzyme that clears away three neurotransmitters, dopamine, noradrenalin and adrenalin, from brain synapses. It is the efficiency of this cleaning-up process that has a major impact on how a person recognises and reacts to stress, and whether that person is a natural warrior or worrier. Dopamine is part of our brain’s reward circuitry and adrenalin powers up our ancient flight-fight-freeze response. Prolonged activation of this circuitry due to trauma, stress, long hours at work, lengthy commutes and shift work can leave us burnt out and unwell.
People can inherit the warrior genotype, worrier genotype or a mix of both. Warriors have the highest level of enzyme activity and tend to have tough, forceful personalities and may not be aware of the impact their actions have on others. They are able to make good decisions when the pressure’s on and some of their colleagues may be crumbling. Worriers, on the other hand, have the lowest level of enzyme activity, which can make them oversensitive to social situations, and worry about every little thing. However, they can excel when they’re needed to perform complex tasks that require more concentration and memory.
These individuals are prone to anxiety, negative mood states, pain sensitivity and migraines. Strategies for reducing stress are needed such as relaxation, exercise, and meditation. Avoiding alcohol, drugs and caffeine, and ensuring adequate intake of vitamin B, magnesium and amino acids also helps. Mindfulness practice and body-centred psychotherapy is also needed for those who have had the fight-flight-freeze response chronically activated through traumatic life experiences.
The Glutathione S-transferase enzymes are critical for the detoxification of environmental toxins and heavy metals which helps reduce oxidative stress and the number of free radicals in the body. GST enzymes boost the cycle of the body’s master antioxidant, glutathione, and vitamin C. People with one or two GST enzyme deletions are likely to have glutathione and vitamin C deficiency. Without that valuable detoxification work being done, they are at an increased risk of cancer, heavy-metal toxicity, premature ageing, inflammation and oxidative cellular stress.
These individuals must minimise exposure to environmental toxins including many solvents, herbicides, fungicides, steroids, PAHs and lipid peroxidases, and heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium and lead. This means eating organic food and drinking purified water is essential. Antioxidant-rich foods and cruciferous vegetables that support the glutathionation pathway are beneficial. Ascorbic acid supplementation can help to rebalance the body. Glutathione, however, is ineffective as an oral supplement as it is destroyed in the gut before it can reach the cells. The key to increasing glutathione levels is by taking a nutrient formula that delivers cysteine, a fragile amino acid, to our cells by protecting the molecule through the digestion process, so it can reach the cell to produce glutathione naturally.
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