When we first saw Dr. Kent Thornburg of the Moore Institute for Nutrition and Wellness at OHSU present on epigenetics, our grasp of healing through nutrition was expanded to a whole new level. It is understood that chronic disease can run within a family and commonly believed that your genes can be a determining factor of whether you will face a struggle with chronic disease in your lifetime.
However, Dr. Thornburg argues that we are not sentenced to the disease that comes with our genes, and we can actually end chronic disease for future generations. The example Dr. Thornburg gave was the high rate of heart disease related deaths in the state of Louisiana. They must have bad genes, right? Well, not quite. Dr. Thornburg explained that because of the history with the Louisiana Purchase, most Louisianans have a French heritage. However, the French living on the European continent have some of the lowest rates of heart disease in the world.
In this country today, the majority of first generation Americans come from Latino backgrounds. When Dr. Thornburg talked with us in an interview for Food As Medicine, he noted that when Latinos come to this country, it has been found that they are generally in good health, but what has been found is that health declines over the next two generations. By the third generation, type 2 diabetes and heart disease rates are higher than the national average.
We are excited to be following an initiative with Adelante Mujeres and Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center in Forest Grove, Oregon called the Produce Rx Program aimed to educate and empower Latina women who are at risk for diabetes through nutrition. What guarantees the success of the participants in this program is the community that is formed within the Produce Rx Program. A relationship is fostered with the participants where the women attend an orientation, cooking classes, and a market tour together. What makes this program even more unique is the partnership with the Forest Grove Farmers Market. When we met up with the group last week, they were introduced to each of the farmers at the market, which is great because any intimidation to try new produce can be eased with by talking with a farmer who you are already on a first name basis with. Every week, the participants receive vouchers to spend at the market and track their progress with a food log. We are looking forward to following this group’s progress!