2

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Does family history/genetics play a role in your level of paleo-ness?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created February 27, 2012 at 5:27 PM

How much do you consider your family history (or gene testing, if you've done it) when making lifestyle decisions?

For example, if you find out tomorrow that many of your older relatives had/have a particular cancer, would you begin to make decisions to protect against that cancer, or would you be comfortable in keeping with a generic mantra of "eat paleo, get plenty of sleep, lift heavy things" type of attitude?

If you have used 23andme, or a similar service, how much weight do you put into the results? For instance, if your report reveals you have a gene that puts you at risk for depression (just an example; I don't know if this even exists), despite no depressive tendencies, would you alter your choices to actively avoid depression?

Why I'm asking:

I recently learned of certain conditions that are prevalent on one side of the family (Alzheimer's and breast cancer) and I am struggling with what steps--if any--I should take against these (potential future) conditions. I am going back and forth with this: should I live life as normal or battle against these diseases with everything I have, despite not actually having either condition?

I have not had genetic testing done, but am curious as to what type of additional insight I could glean from it.

What is your stance?

Aa69579f867333b08158c70e25f7daf1

(1826)

on February 28, 2012
at 07:36 PM

Also be aware that long term care insurance is the one type of insurance that can ask for genetic testing results and use them against you and turn you down for coverage. If you have the gene for Huntington's, that means you WILL get Huntington's, unless something else kills you first. So the industry is allowed an out for covering people like that. On the other hand, you'll at least know enough ahead of time to financially plan for any care you will need. Good luck, and take all the other results with a grain of salt!

D1728f99db66ff91d695a6df5cd38b02

(1368)

on February 28, 2012
at 03:10 PM

The book is called Sweet Poison by david gillespie. See www.sweetpoison.com.au. I haven't read it, and from what I have read on the internet about it, there are quite a few glaring mistakes spread throughout the text. So I am very suspect on anything in it. I still think that giving up sugar is a good idea though.

7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8

on February 28, 2012
at 03:03 PM

Hi Ali. I use Dr. Bronner's and it lasts me forever. Also...there are two good links on here http://paleohacks.com/questions/86790/can-you-still-be-girlie-with-paleo-grooming#axzz1nglKyWFV and http://paleohacks.com/questions/22225/your-paleo-beauty-and-skincare-regimen/99643#99643

D1728f99db66ff91d695a6df5cd38b02

(1368)

on February 28, 2012
at 02:55 PM

@Baconhealschi. Yes, it is intriguing, I wonder what the threshold is or if there is one.

61b801de5dc345b557cd4623d4a4f26b

(2682)

on February 28, 2012
at 02:04 PM

You make a good point about doing what you can when you can. Sure, environment plays a big role, but if there was something you could've done but didn't, you'll be stuck on that if a condition ever does rear it's head.

61b801de5dc345b557cd4623d4a4f26b

(2682)

on February 28, 2012
at 02:03 PM

Do you have more info on your beauty routine? I am having trouble finding a reasonably priced natural soap and am considering making my own.

61b801de5dc345b557cd4623d4a4f26b

(2682)

on February 28, 2012
at 02:01 PM

Thanks, Sarah, I think based on this answer I will get testing done.

61b801de5dc345b557cd4623d4a4f26b

(2682)

on February 28, 2012
at 01:50 PM

I do consume alcohol, but since I know my family history of alcoholism, I try to always be aware of why I'm drinking before I have a drink. I also never drink alone...that to me just screams that I'm in trouble. 8)

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on February 27, 2012
at 08:28 PM

@tthq: No doubt people can screw themselves over in various ways, and since we don't have a time machine, we can only draw tentative inferences about how exactly they did that. That's why ancestral info and ethnographic info (heck, even "gold standard" RCTs) are second-tier motivators for me, while my body's response here and now is the first tier. For me, thankfully, red meat and butter (which I eat by the truckload) have brought me to better health than I've ever had in my life. But that's my body; I know others with different experiences.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on February 27, 2012
at 08:23 PM

That'd be great, Joy. Ambimorph, who's done quite a bit of research into keto diets, has a good post here (the whole thread is relevant, actually): http://paleohacks.com/questions/61071/whats-the-current-consensus-re-carbohydrates-and-longevity/61130#61130

D1728f99db66ff91d695a6df5cd38b02

(1368)

on February 27, 2012
at 07:46 PM

I'm going to find out what the book is called and what it said. I'm quite interested because I was trying low carb and was in ketosis for 2 weeks, which is why my Mum brought it up. I kinda thing it is a bit of alarmism atm but hopefully they have some citations.

7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8

on February 27, 2012
at 07:46 PM

@ Joy. Yes. I would agree you would not get addicted to it from abstaining completely. (I'm not speaking of you specifically, just in general.) I wonder though about consuming small amounts. Anyway...it's intriguing.

D1728f99db66ff91d695a6df5cd38b02

(1368)

on February 27, 2012
at 07:42 PM

Ali, you may never get either of those diseases! There are so many reasons to exist!

D1728f99db66ff91d695a6df5cd38b02

(1368)

on February 27, 2012
at 07:42 PM

Still, you can't become addicted to alcohol if you don't drink it! Like I can't become addicted to heroin if I don't do it.

7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8

on February 27, 2012
at 07:40 PM

So true about worrying.

7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8

on February 27, 2012
at 07:38 PM

This is very interesting to me--the alcoholism thing. AA alcoholics would say it is a genetic thing no matter what. I do wonder if you could stave it off by just not drinking much and limiting from early in life. I would hope that is true but alcoholics don't drink in moderation or for fun...it's a compulsive, involuntary thing that doesn't have anything to do with willpower--kind of like eating disorders.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on February 27, 2012
at 06:47 PM

Ali, you might be interested in this link: http://paleohacks.com/questions/56190/yoyo-ketosis-and-bad-feelings/56192#56192

Medium avatar

(10611)

on February 27, 2012
at 06:32 PM

+1. I made the switch to less food/lower carb/more activity to get rid of diabetes. Later I learned that I had moved in the direction called paleo. Still later I realized that I was moving myself away from my ancestors CV problem. The doctor picked up on this when I did a history for him, and ordered up a carotid scan (which thankfully was clean). Like yours @rose my ancestors had no problems wrecking their health overeating butter, eggs, red meat and home-grown vegetables.

61b801de5dc345b557cd4623d4a4f26b

(2682)

on February 27, 2012
at 06:30 PM

I haven't gone full-on with a KD, but I have gone fairly low carb and unfortunately it leaves me pretty lethargic. I have been toying with the idea of giving it another shot to see if the lethargy was a temporary effect.

61b801de5dc345b557cd4623d4a4f26b

(2682)

on February 27, 2012
at 06:27 PM

Joy, we have much in common: my family (on the other side) has a history of alcoholism. I agree that this is one thing that I can help prevent. I understand what you're saying about not knowing any "proven ways to reduce the chance" of either condition and I think that's what I'm currently fighting against (I want an answer to exist).

61b801de5dc345b557cd4623d4a4f26b

(2682)

on February 27, 2012
at 06:24 PM

That's exactly what I'm trying to avoid: adding undue stress! Thanks.

61b801de5dc345b557cd4623d4a4f26b

(2682)

on February 27, 2012
at 06:23 PM

Thanks for your thorough answer!

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on February 27, 2012
at 06:14 PM

I'd love to see the cite for that, Joy. If you can recall the name of the book that'd be interesting to look up. In general, I don't worry about keto diets causing long-term harm. It's true the Inuit aren't known for longevity, but then I'm not living in an environment nearly as harsh. Otherwise, there are no long-term studies on keto diets that I'm aware of, and without seeing the cite, I'm going to guess that it's just alarmism based on (weak) theory.

D1728f99db66ff91d695a6df5cd38b02

(1368)

on February 27, 2012
at 06:03 PM

Quick question rose. My mother recently read a book about cutting out sugar. It had a paragraph about ketogenic diets. It said that over the long term being in ketosis raises the acidity of blood and slowly destroys muscle and organs. I'm not sure of what the 'long-term' time frame is because the book didn't say. Because you do this ketogenic diet fairly hardcore, I want to ask you what your thoughts are on this and the long-term health effects of ketogenic diet and possible health problems?

  • 61b801de5dc345b557cd4623d4a4f26b

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7 Answers

best answer

3
Aa69579f867333b08158c70e25f7daf1

(1826)

on February 27, 2012
at 07:00 PM

I don't consider myself a genetics expert, but I am married to one.

Many people ask him if they should get tested for certain things, especially if they are adopted or have family history of cancer, etc. He will always say the same thing:

"If you have family history of Huntington's, severe breast or colon cancer or early onset Alzheimer's, then finding out if you have those genetic variants is a good thing. Huntington's especially. You'll want to financially plan for end of life care, possibly reduce the number of children you were planning on having, and really watch for early symptoms.

BUT for most other conditions, just because you have a genetic variant doesn't mean much of anything. We know very little about how genes are expressed, whether or not genes will be expressed, or what causes certain genes to suddenly turn on or stay dormant their entire life. Eat well, stay active, get sleep, and get your routine checkups. And enjoy your life."

Hope this helps!

61b801de5dc345b557cd4623d4a4f26b

(2682)

on February 28, 2012
at 02:01 PM

Thanks, Sarah, I think based on this answer I will get testing done.

Aa69579f867333b08158c70e25f7daf1

(1826)

on February 28, 2012
at 07:36 PM

Also be aware that long term care insurance is the one type of insurance that can ask for genetic testing results and use them against you and turn you down for coverage. If you have the gene for Huntington's, that means you WILL get Huntington's, unless something else kills you first. So the industry is allowed an out for covering people like that. On the other hand, you'll at least know enough ahead of time to financially plan for any care you will need. Good luck, and take all the other results with a grain of salt!

best answer

3
6bfbc7e749d378c510c49bfee774f457

(110)

on February 27, 2012
at 07:30 PM

What diseases and illnesses family members have or have had is a factor for me. My mom, sister and I all have inflammation issues and my grandmother had alzheimers later in life (which is one of the reason I use lots of coconut oil and ghee - studies have shown it's great for prevention) and few family members have passed away from cancer. I'd rather do what I can now, at a young age to prevent diseases, at the very least to know that i've done everything I can on my part to prevent illness. I try not to let worry over-consume my life, that can get exhausting. And I agree as well, we just don't know how much genetics plays into all of these diseases, I believe environment plays a huge role - but again, as long as I do my part, hopefully i'll be better off in the long run.

7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8

on February 27, 2012
at 07:40 PM

So true about worrying.

61b801de5dc345b557cd4623d4a4f26b

(2682)

on February 28, 2012
at 02:04 PM

You make a good point about doing what you can when you can. Sure, environment plays a big role, but if there was something you could've done but didn't, you'll be stuck on that if a condition ever does rear it's head.

4
3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on February 27, 2012
at 05:52 PM

I don't know how "Paleo" this would be considered by many people here, but I'll answer from the perspective of a hardcore ketogenic ("zero" or extreme low-carb) eater.

I stay zero-or-very-close-to-it carb (<5g/day, more often <2g/day) not just for weight loss maintenance and joint pain remission, although those are very big and immediate "real life" considerations. On a more theoretical level, I'm pretty convinced by what research there is showing the (relative) efficacy of ketogenic diets for cancer treatment. Both of my birth parents died of cancer, one at the age of 49, which I'm quickly approaching, so I take that pretty seriously.

The other bit of ancestral info that convinces me that vegetables and starches, in the long run, are not my friends (they might be yours; I'm mostly agnostic on the issue of what other people ought to eat) is that I have photos of my ancestors going back four generations, all the way to the early 1900s. The women were all fat -- on both the maternal and paternal sides of the tree -- long before the rest of the world was fat. And I don't mean chunky; I mean obese. So it looks very much to me as though the foods that were "healthy" for the rest of the farmers and sailors (I'm thinking bread, potatoes, corn, oats, and maybe even real vegetables) were quite fattening to people in my ancestral line. We're Voegtlin's "Fattens-Easily" models! And it hasn't escaped me that they were fat before the advent of margarine, CAFO meat, and so on.

These two somewhat high-falutin' considerations are always in the back of my mind. However, I must also say that my body gives me feedback pretty quickly after a couple of days of veggie-eating (two experiments, each over the holidays during the last two years), so I don't really have to resort to leaning on them to keep me from slacking.

Re: your specific question about 23andMe. I've got my results from them, but I don't put a huge amount of stock in the odds they supposedly reveal. There are a few diseases that have a strong, identified genetic link, but most supposed links are early-returns prognosticating. The Alzheimer's link may be one of the more reliable ones, unfortunately. From my readings on ketogenic diets, though, it seems that a KD is pretty protective, especially if MC fats like coconut oil are employed. Otherwise, genetic associations with depression and the like seem vague and ill-founded to me, at least at present.

D1728f99db66ff91d695a6df5cd38b02

(1368)

on February 27, 2012
at 06:03 PM

Quick question rose. My mother recently read a book about cutting out sugar. It had a paragraph about ketogenic diets. It said that over the long term being in ketosis raises the acidity of blood and slowly destroys muscle and organs. I'm not sure of what the 'long-term' time frame is because the book didn't say. Because you do this ketogenic diet fairly hardcore, I want to ask you what your thoughts are on this and the long-term health effects of ketogenic diet and possible health problems?

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on February 27, 2012
at 06:14 PM

I'd love to see the cite for that, Joy. If you can recall the name of the book that'd be interesting to look up. In general, I don't worry about keto diets causing long-term harm. It's true the Inuit aren't known for longevity, but then I'm not living in an environment nearly as harsh. Otherwise, there are no long-term studies on keto diets that I'm aware of, and without seeing the cite, I'm going to guess that it's just alarmism based on (weak) theory.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on February 27, 2012
at 08:28 PM

@tthq: No doubt people can screw themselves over in various ways, and since we don't have a time machine, we can only draw tentative inferences about how exactly they did that. That's why ancestral info and ethnographic info (heck, even "gold standard" RCTs) are second-tier motivators for me, while my body's response here and now is the first tier. For me, thankfully, red meat and butter (which I eat by the truckload) have brought me to better health than I've ever had in my life. But that's my body; I know others with different experiences.

61b801de5dc345b557cd4623d4a4f26b

(2682)

on February 27, 2012
at 06:23 PM

Thanks for your thorough answer!

61b801de5dc345b557cd4623d4a4f26b

(2682)

on February 27, 2012
at 06:30 PM

I haven't gone full-on with a KD, but I have gone fairly low carb and unfortunately it leaves me pretty lethargic. I have been toying with the idea of giving it another shot to see if the lethargy was a temporary effect.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on February 27, 2012
at 06:47 PM

Ali, you might be interested in this link: http://paleohacks.com/questions/56190/yoyo-ketosis-and-bad-feelings/56192#56192

Medium avatar

(10611)

on February 27, 2012
at 06:32 PM

+1. I made the switch to less food/lower carb/more activity to get rid of diabetes. Later I learned that I had moved in the direction called paleo. Still later I realized that I was moving myself away from my ancestors CV problem. The doctor picked up on this when I did a history for him, and ordered up a carotid scan (which thankfully was clean). Like yours @rose my ancestors had no problems wrecking their health overeating butter, eggs, red meat and home-grown vegetables.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on February 27, 2012
at 08:23 PM

That'd be great, Joy. Ambimorph, who's done quite a bit of research into keto diets, has a good post here (the whole thread is relevant, actually): http://paleohacks.com/questions/61071/whats-the-current-consensus-re-carbohydrates-and-longevity/61130#61130

D1728f99db66ff91d695a6df5cd38b02

(1368)

on February 28, 2012
at 03:10 PM

The book is called Sweet Poison by david gillespie. See www.sweetpoison.com.au. I haven't read it, and from what I have read on the internet about it, there are quite a few glaring mistakes spread throughout the text. So I am very suspect on anything in it. I still think that giving up sugar is a good idea though.

D1728f99db66ff91d695a6df5cd38b02

(1368)

on February 27, 2012
at 07:46 PM

I'm going to find out what the book is called and what it said. I'm quite interested because I was trying low carb and was in ketosis for 2 weeks, which is why my Mum brought it up. I kinda thing it is a bit of alarmism atm but hopefully they have some citations.

4
Ee70ee808f748374744404a00e1c22ed

(1163)

on February 27, 2012
at 05:52 PM

I think by eating paleo and staying healthy, you're managing these risks as much as you can without adding undue levels of stress to your life.

61b801de5dc345b557cd4623d4a4f26b

(2682)

on February 27, 2012
at 06:24 PM

That's exactly what I'm trying to avoid: adding undue stress! Thanks.

3
7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8

on February 27, 2012
at 07:28 PM

I actually think about family history quite a bit in my food choices. The whole reason I went toxin-free with my beauty regimen is because I watched both Grandmothers suffer through dementia and alzheimers. I don't even allow my children to use soap in the bathtub.

My grandmother and her Mom suffered depression. My great grandmother committed suicide and my grandmother had shock treatments. I truly believe that my broth, pastured butter, heavy cream and grass fed beef intake has stabilized my moods. Hopefully my years of menopause will be easy breazy too.

The depression thing makes me wonder if my Mom's GERD/IBS and the gut/brain connection has significance. She is not depressed but maybe she's paying the price of SAD in her gut? (Although she's slowly coming around and listens to all my crazy ideas.) I had the same kind of symptoms as my Mom, although not diagnosed until I went paleo. I ate more tums a day than I ate food. My little Mom's osteoporisis too reminds me to eat tons of K2 rich stuff for myself and my two little girls.

7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8

on February 28, 2012
at 03:03 PM

Hi Ali. I use Dr. Bronner's and it lasts me forever. Also...there are two good links on here http://paleohacks.com/questions/86790/can-you-still-be-girlie-with-paleo-grooming#axzz1nglKyWFV and http://paleohacks.com/questions/22225/your-paleo-beauty-and-skincare-regimen/99643#99643

61b801de5dc345b557cd4623d4a4f26b

(2682)

on February 28, 2012
at 02:03 PM

Do you have more info on your beauty routine? I am having trouble finding a reasonably priced natural soap and am considering making my own.

3
D1728f99db66ff91d695a6df5cd38b02

(1368)

on February 27, 2012
at 05:49 PM

(I don't want to tell you what to do- because I don't know so what you should do! I am going to think about it in terms of my personal situation.) I definitely wouldn't let it creep into my whole life and be constantly trying to protect against it. I am not sure about genetics and I don't know if you can help change something that you have a genetic tendency towards. Also, I don't think that there are currently any proven ways to reduce the chance of getting breast cancer or alzheimers. Because if I knew of them, I'd be doing them no doubt because I have a family history of both as well. What I do know is that my family has a history of alcoholism. Unlike alzheimers or cancer I know that there is something I can do to prevent this from ever happening. not drink alcohol. So yes I do try and limit my alcohol consumption which also fits in with the Paleo prescription in order to prevent myself from becoming an alcoholic.

7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8

on February 27, 2012
at 07:46 PM

@ Joy. Yes. I would agree you would not get addicted to it from abstaining completely. (I'm not speaking of you specifically, just in general.) I wonder though about consuming small amounts. Anyway...it's intriguing.

7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8

on February 27, 2012
at 07:38 PM

This is very interesting to me--the alcoholism thing. AA alcoholics would say it is a genetic thing no matter what. I do wonder if you could stave it off by just not drinking much and limiting from early in life. I would hope that is true but alcoholics don't drink in moderation or for fun...it's a compulsive, involuntary thing that doesn't have anything to do with willpower--kind of like eating disorders.

61b801de5dc345b557cd4623d4a4f26b

(2682)

on February 28, 2012
at 01:50 PM

I do consume alcohol, but since I know my family history of alcoholism, I try to always be aware of why I'm drinking before I have a drink. I also never drink alone...that to me just screams that I'm in trouble. 8)

61b801de5dc345b557cd4623d4a4f26b

(2682)

on February 27, 2012
at 06:27 PM

Joy, we have much in common: my family (on the other side) has a history of alcoholism. I agree that this is one thing that I can help prevent. I understand what you're saying about not knowing any "proven ways to reduce the chance" of either condition and I think that's what I'm currently fighting against (I want an answer to exist).

D1728f99db66ff91d695a6df5cd38b02

(1368)

on February 27, 2012
at 07:42 PM

Still, you can't become addicted to alcohol if you don't drink it! Like I can't become addicted to heroin if I don't do it.

D1728f99db66ff91d695a6df5cd38b02

(1368)

on February 27, 2012
at 07:42 PM

Ali, you may never get either of those diseases! There are so many reasons to exist!

D1728f99db66ff91d695a6df5cd38b02

(1368)

on February 28, 2012
at 02:55 PM

@Baconhealschi. Yes, it is intriguing, I wonder what the threshold is or if there is one.

1
Ec6e6cb0bee067776433dea987d6c844

on February 27, 2012
at 07:54 PM

Mine does, though in a different way than most of the above. I'm fortunate that my family seems resistant to modern life- there's not much in the way of a history of disease. I think if there was, I would have gotten stricter with my lifestyle faster.

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