In Confucian ethics, one’s body is a gift from one’s parents, and it is under our care and trust as long as we are alive. In addition, preserving our health is our obligation so that we may produce healthy children, who in turn will produce healthy offspring. In other words, health, like the environment, is in our trust for future generations, not just ourselves.
When we speak of ‘genetics’ in the Chinese medical context, we need to go beyond the random yet fixed view of it that most people seem to have. Genetics is not a roll of random dice, but a process that can be influenced by many things, including diet, environment, emotions, our mating partners, and lifestyles. A new scientific discipline, ‘epigenetics’, states that the genetic code is not a fixed, arbitrary grouping of genes, but that our ‘programming’ can be greatly influenced by all of these factors.
My dear aunt lived a long life, 101 years old G-d bless her. Her diet wasn’t junk food, but it certainly wasn’t vegan or organic. She enjoyed her fancy restaurants. But few people today could grow up on junk food and live to that age without the intervention of advanced technology. Anyone who was born in the first part of the 20th century lived in a world where all farming was organic, all food seasonal, people were not sedentary, air and water were more pure. Of course, there were also killer epidemics, and many areas lacked sanitation or ample food supply. But the onslaught of industrial chemicals in food, air and water had not begun, and there were few ‘junk foods’ available.
Even if later in life one’s diet was poor, the original foundation of that generation (early 20th century) was strong. And we need to insure that our children and grandchildren have a strong foundation as well, not only with good diet, but a clean environment, a stable and peaceful family and home life, and all of the other factors that contribute to sound and healthy people, G-d willing. Without that foundation, it will difficult indeed to insure the health and longevity of future generations.
Nice post! I believe diet has a great influence on our health and disease and it will become even more important in the years to come.
I agree, Elie. .
These are two great sources for an into to epigenetics. In the time magazine article they show that your parent’s diet before you were even conceived can have an impact upon your longevity. The number they came to was 32 years. Yep, if your parents enjoyed a single season of over indulgence compared to parents that had a single season of famine you would live on average 32 years less! Wow that’s a big jump. It shows how singular events can strain (or stain) your blood line. This research puts a new twist on Jing/essence and the absolute responsibility we have to our species genetic endowment. We are in fact responsible for the genetic expression of our species. That’s a high level of responsibility few are even aware of.
Recently I’ve become very intrigued by the work of Weston Price, particularly in relation to dental health and development of the facial bones and teeth. It seems as though a domesticated diet of the parents can affect the development of the jaws and teeth of the child: http://www.westonaprice.org/. I also recently came across a documentary speaking about the declining birthrate of males due to the presence of xenoestrogens in our environment. For anyone seeking to have children in the future, I believe it is important to protect oneself from the xenoestrogens through specific nutritional protocols that bind to these toxins and promote phase 2 and phase 3 detoxification: http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/the-disappearing-male/