Saturday, December 04, 2010


[DEAN ORNISH:] For the last 30 years or so, I have directed a series of clinical research studies proving that the simple choices that we make in our lives each day can have a powerful impact on our health and our well being, and much more quickly than had once been thought possible, even at a cellular level. Ironically, we have been using very high tech, expensive, state of the art measures to prove how powerful very simple and low tech and often ancient interventions can be.

Our prostate study was a randomized control trial of men who had biopsy proven prostate cancer and who have elected not to be treated conventionally for reasons unrelated to our study. What made this interesting from a scientific standpoint is that we could take men who knew they had cancer from biopsies, randomly divide them into two groups, and have a true non-intervention control group so we could determine the effects of comprehensive lifestyle changes alone without being confounded by other treatments. You can't do that with breast cancer because almost everybody gets treated right away, so you don't know if any improvements were due to the lifestyle changes or the chemo or the radiation or the surgery.
After a year we found that PSA levels, a marker for prostate cancer, went up (worsened) in the comparison or control group, but went down significantly (improved) in the experimental group that made the lifestyle changes we recommended. The degree of change in lifestyle was directly correlated with the degree of change in their PSA levels.
We also found that the prostate tumor growth in vitro was inhibited 70 percent in the group that made these changes compared to only nine percent in the group that didn't. The inhibition of the tumor growth was itself a direct function of the degree of change in lifestyle. In other words, the more people changed, the more it directly inhibited the growth of their prostate tumors.
J. Craig Venter has shown that one way you can change your genes is by making new ones. We are finding that another way you can change your gene expression is simply by changing your lifestyle.
In May of this year, we published an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Craig was the communicating editor). We found that changing lifestyle actually changes gene expression. In only three months, we found that over 500 genes were either up-regulated or down-regulated—in simple terms, turning on genes that prevent many chronic diseases, and turning off genes that cause coronary heart disease, oncogenes that are linked to breast and prostate cancer, genes that promote inflammation and oxidative stress and so on.