Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Change Lifestyle, Change Genes

3 Months on Ornish Diet Changes 500 Genes, Many With Anticancer Effects
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 16, 2008 -- If you change your lifestyle, you change your genes.

You can't get different genes, but how you act can change how your genes act, report Dean Ornish, MD, and colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

Ornish is a clinical professor of medicine at UCSF and also a diet guru who's been telling us for years that by improving our lifestyle we can prevent and even reverse many chronic diseases.

Now, Ornish is joined by UCSF professor and chairman of urology Peter Carroll, MD; UCSF prostate-cancer geneticist Christopher Haqq, MD, PhD; and others. The goal of this pilot study was to see whether the Ornish lifestyle could help 30 men with low-risk prostate cancer who chose not to undergo treatment unless their cancer got worse.

It's too soon to say whether the men's lifestyle changes kept their cancer at bay. But genetic analysis revealed profound differences in noncancerous prostate tissues in just three months.

More than 500 genes changed the way they worked. Genes with beneficial effects, including some tumor-suppression genes, became more active. Genes with deleterious effects, including some cancer-promoting genes, were switched off.

"It is absolutely intriguing this lifestyle change can have as much effect as the most powerful drugs available to us now," Haqq said in a news conference. "We medical oncologists are always looking for drugs that can do this. It is delightful to find that diet and lifestyle can have profound effects and work as well as drug therapies with fewer side effects."

Ornish says the findings may motivate people who think there's nothing they can do.

"People say, 'Oh, it is all in my genes, what can I do?' That's what I call genetic nihilism," Ornish said in a news conference. "This may be an antidote to that. Genes may be our predisposition, but they are not our fate."

Motivated by having prostate cancer, the men in the study went all the way with the Ornish diet. They ate a low-fat, plant-based, whole-foods (minimally processed or refined foods such as whole grains) diet. They walked at least 30 minutes six days a week and walked at least an hour three days a week. Every day they did an hour of simple yoga-based techniques including stretching, breathing, meditation, and imagery. And they participated in a weekly support group designed to increase intimacy and social support.

Today on WebMD

man with doctor
Symptoms, risks, treatments
man coughing
Men shouldn’t ignore
prostate cancer cells
What does this diagnosis mean?
doctor and male patient
Is it worth it?
cancer fighting foods
15 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore
Prostate Enlarged
Picture Of The Prostate
Prostate Cancer Quiz
screening tests for men
Prostate Cancer Symptoms
Vitamin D