DNA, Environment, Food and Health

That Mantra for 2020 is that you have more control over your health than you think you do — so use it.

Research from the University of Alberta tells us that DNA is a lousy predictor of a person’s health. On average, no more than 5% to 10% of your health can be predicted by your genetics. The rest is a combination of

  • What you do (lifestyle, nutrition),
  • Where you live (quality of air and water — pollution matters),

plus, I would argue, the quality and availability of healthcare where you live. Of course, the Canadians have fewer concerns about availability of healthcare than do those in the States.

“The bottom line is that if you want to have an accurate measure of your health, your propensity for disease or what you can do about it, it’s better to measure your metabolites, your microbes or your proteins — not your genes,” added Wishart. “This research also highlights the need to understand our environment and the safety or quality of our food, air, and water.” (2)

There are relatively rare exceptions, such as Crohn and celiac disease, which are genetic and can have a dominant impact on health. Crohn’s is reported to affect 7 out of every 100,000 people.

The irony of this finding is it appears after the US government has implemented cutbacks on environmental regulation and food inspections.

The FDA has announced reductions on Federal inspections at pork processing facilities in the US. The Trump administration has determined that companies can run their own quality controls — at which, historically, they have failed repeatedly. (3,4,5)

  • The problems with contaminants in pharmaceuticals simply demonstrates again the likelihood that companies will cut corners to improve profits, even if the result puts consumers at risk. (See earlier blog post on carcinogens in OTC and prescription drugs.)
  • The USDA began inspections during the Civil War because of issues with the quality of meat provided to Union troops. The original “Department of Chemistry” was created by Abraham Lincoln.
  • And it was Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” that put the world on notice about improper handling of meat, back in 1905. That was a key impetus for the creation of the inspection system.(5,6)

The meat industry in particular has earned the burden of inspection through its own misconduct. And there are plenty of current recalls, including for pork products.(7)


  1. Jonas Patron, Arnau Serra-Cayuela, Beomsoo Han, Carin Li, David Scott Wishart. Assessing the performance of genome-wide association studies for predicting disease risk. PLOS ONE, 2019; 14 (12): e0220215 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0220215
  2. University of Alberta. “Your DNA is not your destiny — or a good predictor of your health.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 December 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/12/191219142739.htm>
  3. https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-pork-industry-hogs-plants-trump-regulations-20190403-story.html
  4. https://www.ibtimes.com/mystery-pork-food-inspectors-warn-new-fda-rules-can-make-meat-less-safe-2886778
  5. http://www.indusoft.com/blog/2016/09/09/a-brief-history-of-food-safety-regulations-in-the-united-states/
  6. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/informational/aboutfsis/history
  7. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/recalls-and-public-health-alerts/current-recalls-and-alerts

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