- Recent research has shown that substantial lifestyle modifications, including a strict plant-based diet, increased physical activity, and stress reduction exercises, can potentially alter the manifestation of hundreds of genes, including those related to cancer.
- Epidemiological studies have shown significantly lower incidences of prostate cancer in regions following a predominantly plant-based, low-fat diet.
- Intensive lifestyle changes resulted in a 4% drop in prostate-specific antigen (PSA) scores in men with early-stage prostate cancer, in contrast to a 6% increase in men who did not make these lifestyle changes.
- The study revealed significant positive changes in over 500 genes after just three months of lifestyle changes, with the degree of adherence having a more significant impact on results than age or disease severity.
- While questions still remain about the longer-term implications of such genetic changes, it is clear that such lifestyle modifications can significantly improve cardiovascular health, further substantiating personal lifestyle choices’ influence over health outcomes.
While genetics play a crucial role in cancer risks, a recent study on men with prostate cancer reveals that lifestyle adjustments can disproportionately influence one’s genetic fate.
How Your Choices Can Change Your Genes
Profound lifestyle modifications, including stringent dietary changes, increased physical activity, and stress reduction exercises can potentially alter the manifestation of hundreds of genes, according to new research. Notably, such modifications can shift the dynamics by positively affecting genes that combat cancer and silencing those promoting cancer progression.
“Notably inspiring.” stated the research’s principal author, Dr. Dean Ornish, President of Preventive Medicine Research Institute, and Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “Too many people succumb to the idea that their fate is sealed by their genetics. Our research demonstrates the significant potential for personal actions.”
Evidence from Previous Studies
Epidemiological studies have highlighted significantly lower incidences of prostate cancer in regions where people predominantly consume a plant-based, low-fat diet compared to the high-fat, high-protein diet pattern common in the United States. These striking observations prompted researchers like Ornish and his team to investigate whether intentional lifestyle and dietary changes could reduce prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels in men diagnosed with early prostate cancer.
Remarkably, it was found that intensive lifestyle changes, following a vegan diet, regular physical exercise, and daily stress management, resulted in a 4% drop of PSA scores in men with early-stage prostate cancer, in contrast to an increase in PSA scores of 6% in men who didn’t implement these lifestyle changes.
Decoding the Underlying Mechanism
The pertinent study involved 30 men diagnosed with early prostate cancer, primarily white (84%), with an average age of 62.3 years. The lifestyle interventions for these men constituted dietary changes to a plant-based diet, walking for 30 minutes six times a week, and practicing daily stress management for 60 minutes, including yoga, breathing exercises, meditation, and progressive relaxation.
Genetic expression from samples taken after three months of intervention revealed significant positive transformations in over 500 genes, demonstrating that the degree of adherence had a higher impact on results than either age or disease severity.
Additional Observations and Future Research
“The study’s findings were unexpected and opened up more questions than they answered,” acknowledged Ornish. Experts, like Dr Simon J. Hall, director at Deane Prostate Health and Research Center, while acknowledging the potential of lifestyle changes to alter gene expression, wished for a more extended follow-up to understand the implications of such genetic changes over time.
Regardless of the uncertainties, it is evident that making such lifestyle modifications, similar to that studied, can improve cardiovascular health significantly, thus lending further credibility to the power of choice in dictating one’s health.
Learn more about the potential impact of diet and physical exercise on your cancer risk, by visiting the American Cancer Society.