Your Genes Are Not Your Destiny


Environmental influences are in modulating gene expression: most people think that our genes are cast in stone, and our “destiny”, whether it’s disease, sporting ability, or even thinning hair, and that there’s not much about our genetics that we can control.

While we generally believed this for a long time, more and more we’re learning that while your actual genes won’t change, the way they work and the impact they have on your health can be affected by the choices we make.

”Gene expression” is the process by which the traits encoded in your genes are manifested into actual physical characteristics. There is inherent flexibility here as although your genes are static, the individual cells in your body need to be able to adapt to the changing environment they find themselves in, which is essential to survival. Unlike the old nature versus nurture debate that presumed a mutually exclusive relationship between genes and your environment, our current understanding recognises that both play a role not just independently, but also in interaction with each other.

Diseases that are not caused by a bacteria or a virus such as flu are generally a result of this interaction between the genes you inherited and the environment to which you are exposed.  For example, chronic disease of lifestyle, such as many cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular disease are all very strongly tied to the interplay between our genes and our environment.

Some environmental factors are easily modified and controlled, such as diet or exercise. Others are harder for an individual to control e.g. water quality and air pollution. Thanks to advances in modern technology, knowledge of our DNA is now only a cheek swab away.  The DNAlysis test panels  focus only on those gene variants were an intervention is available to modify this gene expression. These tests are thus empowering, in that they give the user the tools with which to better manage their own health, or health risk.

Aside from a few specific genetic disorders such as Tay Sachs or Huntington’s disease, genes in isolation do not determine your health. What is important to understand is what your genes may predispose you to in combination with environmental factors, and how to manage this.

Dr Danny Meyersfeld is the founder of DNAlysis, a genetic testing laboratory that offers an innovative approach to genetic testing. Their DNA tests assess your genetic health, and provide reports on how to manage and improve one’s health.