Predictive genetic testing can tell you what disease you—or your unborn child—might have in 10 years … and help you change it.
by Dr. Konstantinos I. Papadopoulos,
MD, PhD, Endocrinologist and Diabetologist
As the Delphic oracle precept states: “Know thyself” and “re-stamp the currency.” That is, “pay no attention to the opinion of the multitude” and “revalue not the truth but the accepted custom.” There is an ultimate knowledge that these days that is available to all: genetic knowledge. What would you say if I told you the once mysterious information from the hugely expensive Human Genome Project and Genome Wide Association Studies-GWAS is now easily available and affordable for anyone?
Our DNA and the nucleotides, the chemical bases A, T, C, and G, that make it up, are the blueprint and exactly the same for everyone, yet the result in combining the bases (called “genes”) varies to a great extent, functions fluctuate widely, and associations to diseases differ considerably. We all have the same components arranged in the same order, but the “manufacturing,” the fitting together of all of these components, and their anatomy and function, all varies significantly.
Unraveling Your Genetic Code
Our genes and our DNA carry sites where environment (chemical disruptors, pollution, climate, light), lifestyle (stress, nutrition, exercise, supplements, medications) and many unknown factors act and regulate what will happen with a particular gene, whether it will be silenced or expressed, without any change to the gene code itself (same ingredients, different recipe). That means what we do with the genes we have been given by our parents is what makes us who we are; that we can modulate what we have inherited; that talent and hard work can work together or against each other depending on us! Environmental cues, whether in the womb or in our adult lives, may modulate gene and, thus, disease expression. A lot of it we can control, like what we eat and how much, whether we smoke, drink, and avoid or prefer exercise. This phenomenon is called epigenetic modification, and it may be one of the main answers of why we are all different. You are unique, and so are your actions and their effects on yourself. Many of these epigenetic changes can be inherited, so a bad gene that has been modified can be inherited in the silenced form to your children and conversely. This means that your destiny is not carved in stone; rather, you can change it, and you can write a different ending than the endings you have seen in your family.
The blindness of your maternal grandmother and the genes to macular degeneration you and your mother bear; the diabetes and obesity before the heart attack of your father and the genes to all these conditions you carry; the breast cancer of your aunt and your mother. All this can be known beforehand—and possibly be changed—through genetic testing.
Do you know what your chance is to survive the next 10 years? By knowing your fitness level, your weight and height, body fat percentage, smoking and alcohol habits, blood pressure and also blood fat levels, a doctor (and an insurance company) can tell you your risks, and precision can be refined through predictive genetic testing. In Thailand, companies like THAI StemLife (www.Thaistemlife.co.th) and most of the leading hospitals provide this test for the price of a high-end health checkup. Fitness and nutrition reflect on how your body looks and perform. No matter how much you insist on your lifestyle being healthy, your body speaks and tells the truth all the time.
Don’t Fool or Just Try to Impress Yourself
What’s the secret to live a long, healthy life? If you’re still looking for a shortcut, a pill, a potion, a vitamin, a supplement, an antioxidant, a detoxification cure (that is more clever than your own liver?!), an anti-aging cream, a super workout that in half the time, half the effort will give you double the results, a six-pack in a bottle, it means that you still have not believed in yourself. Similarly to fluency in a foreign language or mastering a musical instrument, health and fitness cannot be faked—appearance can, but it won’t last through the night. What you eat in secrecy, you display in public.
Acquiring knowledge changes one the same way epigenetic modifications change genes. How so? Don’t lie to yourself. Don’t listen to people telling you how handsome or pretty and fit you look; don’t listen to that voice in your head because deep inside you don’t want to leave your comfort zone; don’t negotiate, don’t make resolutions, just acknowledge and renounce what you have done in the past. Burn the bridges and your ships and commit to the one issue that matters: your own health.
Predictive genetic testing gives you a strong cue of unique and personal connection between your past family history, your current clinical picture (blood tests, disease symptoms, fitness levels) and the genes you carry, which may aid you to resolve future uncertainties. Lifestyle changes based on this personalized background help you realize that it will be a four- to six-month rather than a three-day miracle before you see results in your weight and fitness. If you know that, you can manage your finite willpower better and resist that pizza in the present moment.
The secret to longevity genes has finally been unveiled.