Q. In your book, “What to Eat When,” you discuss the importance of eating during daylight hours, making your effective body age younger and changing your disease history.
A. We used to think we had 300,000 genes in our cells, but we have learned there are only 22,500 genes. The rest of the base pairs act like switches to turn genes on or off. At any time, we have 1,500 genes awake and the rest are dormant. We now know we can stimulate our genes by changing our lifestyle choices: what and when we eat, how much we exercise and sleep, and via stress reduction techniques like meditation. By knowing which choices turn genes on or off, you have the power to change your risk factors and essentially change your rate of aging.
Q. I am a breast cancer survivor and I have no family history. I hear a lot about eating soy or not eating soy. Also sugar vs. no sugar and meat vs. no meat. What is the best diet for a breast cancer survivor?
A. Soy is beneficial. We used to think the estrogen-like compound in soy is risky to estrogen receptor positive breast cancer, but we now know that is not the case. Multiple studies show eating a minimum of 2 ounces to 4 ounces of soy each day increases survival rate and lowers the risk of contracting breast cancer. Eat lots of fruits and veggies, and little or no red meat. Ocean salmon and trout are good, too. Healthy fats, like extra virgin olive oil EVOO, and nuts and avocado are good. The Mediterranean diet is good, but lose the lamb and the cheese. And there is new information that eating walnuts alters the gene expression related to breast cancer. Walnuts turn on genes that encourage cancer cells to commit suicide.
Q. I am vegetarian and we have many health issues in my family, including heart disease, brain problems and breast cancer. What should I feed them and when should they eat it?
A. The best things for fighting cancer are also the best things for fighting heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, as well as many other diseases. Since you are vegetarian, you should include chia seeds, flax seeds for omega 3 fatty acids, and crucifers like Brussels sprouts. And, use only EVOO and/or cannola oil to cook with. Eat lots of vegetables and fruits. And exercise. Most people think exercise stresses our heart and makes the heart and blood vessels stronger and more elastic. While that is true, exercise also changes which genes are on in your muscle cells and thereby which proteins your muscles produce. Studies show adding 30 minutes of rigorous exercise into your week can actually grow the hippocampus of your brain, which improves memory and reduces risk of dementia.
Dr. Michael Roizen writes about wellness for the Cleveland Jewish News. He is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.