Genes that are hungry for fruits, vegetables and fish
Appropriate nutrition seems almost to “calm down” the genes
responsible for breast and prostate cancers.
Long ago in Asia, and also in ancient Rome, people imagined that the spirits of their dead ancestors continued to reside in the places where they had always lived. They were thought to have the power to curse a house with many kinds of bad luck if they were not regularly honored with offerings of food left by the hearth every day.
In 2009, two completely different research groups – one in Quebec, Canada, and the other in California – have transformed our understanding of the genetic causes of breast and prostate cancers. For the genes of cancer aren’t defective parts of our biological machinery, which condemn us to disease. On the contrary: like the ghosts of our ancestors, they may only be “hungry spirits” of a sort, which manifest violently when they are not appropriately fed.
At the University of Montreal, a team headed by Dr. Parviz Ghadirian studied women who carried the BRCA1 and 2 genes – the genes that terrify so many women, because almost 80 percent of carriers risk developing breast cancer during their lifetimes. Many women who have received this news have preferred to have both breasts amputated rather than live with the near certainty that they will fall sick at some point. However, Ghadirian and his team observed that the risk seemed to diminish sharply for some women who carried the BRCA gene. Their main discovery? The more fruits and vegetables eaten by these genetically “at-risk” women, the less risk they had of developing cancer. Those who consumed up to 27 different fruits and vegetables a week (and variety does seem to be important here), the risk diminished by fully 73 percent!
At San Francisco University, a team headed by Prof. John Witte made a similar discovery regarding prostate cancer. Certain genes elicit extreme sensitivity to inflammation, and stimulate the transformation of slow-moving prostate microtumors into aggressive and metastatic cancers *. However, when men who carried such genes consumed oily fish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, at least twice a week (salmon, mackerel, sardines), their dangerous genes were also “sated” and became far less active. Their cancers were five times less likely to become aggressive than those of men who ate no oily fish at all.
“Pro-cancer” genes are thus not a fatal sentence. They behave a little like our irascible ancestors, who required regular offerings to encourage them to keep calm. They may not even be genes of cancer. They may simply be genes who refuse to transit from our ancestral forms of nutrition, perfectly adapted to our organism, to industrial, processed forms of food – anti junk-food militants, who react violently to the universe we force them to live in. This would explain why, in study after study, we observe that “BRCA women” born – and , for a long time, fed – before World War II, have two or three times less risk of developing breast cancer than their daughters and grand-daughters born in the fast-food era. A radically new vision of the genetics of cancer!
* These genes control the activity of the COX-2 enzyme, which is responsible for transforming omega-6 fatty acids into inflammatory factors.