I turned on the radio this morning just in time to hear another breathless report about mapping the human genome. NPR has been running a series that I’ve been listening to with great interest because I think that discoveries like these, along with iPhones/tricorders and 3-D printers/replicators, are this close to creating the Starship Enterprise existence of my husband’s dreams.
Thrilled to have the miracles of science unlocking the deep mysteries of inner space, I pulled out of traffic to fully take in the story. The lead in was thrilling and emotional.
When scientists were looking for the first person to test a new, superfast way of deciphering someone’s entire genetic blueprint, they turned to James Watson – the guy who shared a Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of DNA.
“They had to sequence someone, so they got me,” he says.
Aw! Sounds promising, right? Well, turns out they didn’t discover much, just confirmation that Dr. Watson was sensitive to beta blockers. A greater disappointment to me was this brilliant scientist’s decision to use them anyway, just less frequently, instead of finding his body’s preferred method of controlling his blood pressure.
I let that go for a second while we heard from geneticist Michael Snyder, from Stanford’s genetics department. Sequencing his DNA revealed “shocking” and “dramatic” information — he was at risk for type 2 diabetes. While I appreciate that this information may have been a bit alarming to him, as a health coach I’m acutely aware that MOST Americans are at risk for this particular disease. Geneticists are smart people, so I kept listening. I sort of wish I hadn’t, because what this gentleman chose to do next is the “shocking” part. He asked a doctor to monitor his blood sugar levels and then…well…you can read it:
“The person doing the test said, ‘There’s no way you’re at risk for Type 2 diabetes.’ And I said, ‘Well, I don’t think so, either. But my genome says there’s something interesting about my glucose metabolism, so I think we should do this test,’ ” Snyder said.
So everyone was stunned when his blood sugar started rising — and then kept rising. Within months, it spiked. They had literally watched him become a diabetic in real time.
“So in fact, my genome, then, did predict I was at risk for a disease, which, by following the various markers for that disease, I did discover I did get,” Snyder said.
At risk of sounding kinda snotty, Mr.Snyder, you got the disease because you allowed your blood sugar to be out of control for several months! Like lots of Americans, this gentleman found his blood sugar difficult to control, but in the name of science, he allowed it rise to dangerous levels and eventually “spike”. That doesn’t sound too smart. Thankfully, what he chose to do next does:
Snyder jumped on it. He completely transformed his diet and kicked up his exercise. After about six months, his blood sugar gradually fell back to normal.
“That’s the power of genomics, is to help you catch things as early as possible. So, some people might say that actually, my genome saved my life,” he said.
No, Mr. Snyder, your genome didn’t save your life. Your genome (and your poor judgement) almost killed you. GOOD FOOD AND EXERCISE SAVED YOUR LIFE. By reading your code, you saw that you were prone to type 2 diabetes. You then chose to do nothing but watch the disease progress in your body. It wasn’t until after you were finally diagnosed with the disease that you did anything to treat or prevent it.
Ladies and gentlemen of the internet, let me do you a favor. You are at risk for type 2 diabetes. You should eat well and exercise.
There, I just saved you several thousands of dollars, and possibly your life. You’re welcome.
I didn’t intend for this to be a sales pitch, but if you or someone you love needs help figuring how exactly how to eat well and exercise for a particular genetic situation (otherwise known as your life), I am here to help. Health coaching is a lot like reading DNA — we map your health past, present, and future — but unlike the crazy diabetic geneticists, we take immediate action to treat and prevent disease and disorder in your body. Check out www.springupowell.com to get in touch with me.
Now, back to waiting for the holodeck to load.