The FDA recently approved 23andMe’s genetic test that analyzes breast cancer. The move was announced as a major advance in the field of consumer-directed genetic testing. Many people bought the test, hoping it would reveal whether or not they would have breast cancer.

However, in its approval, the FDA also mentioned some serious limitations of the evidence. First, it will test only 3 of the thousands of known mutations. If another point of the BRCA gene has mutated, the test would show negative when you actually have a higher risk. But most importantly, the BRCA mutations they control are “rarely found” in the general population. Even those of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, who experience a higher rate of mutation, find it only in about 2% of the population.

This means, quite simply, that the vast majority of users will receive negative results. This can be a very bad thing for your health. As noted by leading researchers, an increase in direct consumer testing has led to a decrease in actual preventive health services. After seeing Angelina Jolie perform a preventive mastectomy after receiving positive genetic screening results, many people seemed to take away the opposite message. Somehow they decided that a negative DNA test result meant they no longer had to have regular checks.

What many of these people did not understand is that only a small percentage of breast cancer is caused by mutations in the BRCA gene. Less than 0.1% of the population has BRCA mutations, yet the incidence of breast cancer is almost 2% in a general population. Clearly, many cases of breast cancer are caused by something other than a single gene.

Other Diseases also Depend on Environmental Factors

Many other tumors and diseases are very similar. They are influenced by a wide variety of genes, and often the true cause is buried in a sea of reductionist scientific studies. However, scientists have long known that there are many things a person can do to reduce the risk of cancer, regardless of their genetics. These include things like quitting smoking (or never starting), exercising regularly, and other common sense practices.

Other Diseases also Depend on Environmental Factors

However, diet is also a very important area that heavily affects diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and autoimmune diseases. For most people, it makes much more sense to add some green vegetables to your diet than to take an expensive DNA test that will probably be negative. In addition, there is plenty of evidence that eating more plant-based foods can dramatically increase your well-being.

Can Eating Fruits and Vegetables Fight Diseases?

Can Eating Fruits and Vegetables Fight Diseases?

Your genes are simply the blueprints for your body. But the body must accumulate materials to use through the food we eat. To grow, build new cells, repair damaged tissue, and otherwise function as a healthy person our body needs a lot of different substances. These include fats, carbohydrates and proteins. We do not realize this, but the foods we eat contain these and other substances that our body must process.

Take the above incidence of breast cancer. Although we know that only 1 in 1000 women have the BRCA mutation in their genes, much more that this will have breast cancer. Risk factors of breast cancer, in addition to genetics, include high levels of cholesterol and high levels of reproductive hormones in the body. Both are highly related to diet. Scientists have found that eating a plant-based diet can reduce both blood cholesterol and estrogen levels in the blood.

In addition, scientists have found that a 17 percent decrease in estrogen levels can represent a huge difference in the rate of breast cancer. Given that a plant-based diet can reduce the level of estrogen 26-63%, this would significantly lower the chances of getting breast cancer. This significant decrease in your chances of getting breast cancer is often much greater than the increased risk of taking BRCA 1 or 2 mutations.

But it’s just breast cancer. A diet based on whole plants has several unique components that lack the typical “Western” diet, which are fundamental to maintaining a healthy body and digestive system.

How Healthy Foods Fight Diseases

Fiber

One of the most important components of a healthy diet is fiber. Adults in most well-developed countries suffer from a massive deficiency of fiber. It has been shown that fiber intake is directly related to diseases such as colon cancer, diabetes and even heart disease. In addition, studies have shown that this fiber can not simply be added back into the diet as a nutritional supplement to get all the benefits.

Fiber, in plants, is all the indigestible materials present. Each wall of plant cells consists of cellulose, a substance that is not completely digestible. This and other forms of fiber play an important role in human digestion, as they help in the movement of food through the intestine. The human intestine is extremely long-several times the length of the body-and has evolved to slowly digest plant fibers. Meat, although it can be digested, is often digested too quickly for all nutrients to be extracted correctly.

Vitamins and Minerals

Although it has been proved that both plants and animal products contain a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and other substances, plants are often more digestible. This means that vitamins and minerals in plants are more likely to end up in your body.

For example, have you ever heard of the slogan, ” milk grows strong bones!”? This, and other slogans like this are based on reductionist science. Scientists found that calcium was involved in bone growth and maintenance. They also found out that milk has calcium. So, they said through a variety of slogans and advertisements that milk was good for bone health.

But there is strong evidence to the contrary. Countries that consume the largest amount of dairy products are typically countries with the highest rate of hip fractures and other bone density problems in old age. After further inspection, scientists found that the increased consumption of milk tends to increase the acidity of the blood. In turn, this extracts calcium from the bones to compensate and actually makes the bones weaker.

Plant foods do not increase blood acidity, and plants like spinach have plenty of calcium for your body to use. This is true for almost all the vitamins and minerals that humans need in their diet. In obtaining the appropriate vitamins and minerals that it needs, your body is much more likely to defend itself from diseases such as cancer and autoimmune attacks.

Antioxidant

Antioxidants are substances present in foods that have the ability to absorb free radicals. These harmful chemicals can travel through our bodies and cause DNA damage. These mutations can lead to cancer if not repaired, and the more free radicals in our body the faster the damage occurs.

Most antioxidants are created and stored in plants. In eating leafy green vegetables and juicy fruits, you are getting these antioxidants in your system and allowing them to work against a wide variety of toxic chemicals that affect your body.

Regardless of the genetic mutations that you carry, it takes several factors to cause cancer or other diseases. Antioxidants in your diet have been shown to reduce these risk factors, and plants are some of the best ways to get them into your system.

Reference:

Campbell, T. C., & Campbell, T. M. (2006). The China study: the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted and the starting implications for diet, weight loss and long-term health (1. paperback ed). Dallas, Tex: Benbella Books.

Commissioner, O. Del. (n.a.). Print ads-FDA authorizes, with special controls, direct consumer testing that reports three mutations in BRCA [WebContent] breast cancer genes. Retrieved February 9, 2019, from https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm599560.htm

Gill, J., Obley, A. J., & Prasad, V. (2018). Consumer-directed genetic testing: the implications of the US FDA’s first marketing authorisation for the BRCA mutation test. JAMA, 319 (23), 2377-2378. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2018.5330

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