Chopra and Tanzi: Exercise will reprogram your genes in 60 days

While eating my ribtips (I see the termites have already descended on that post), I turned on the PBS channel on t.v. (WTTW in Chicago, if anybody there is listening.) On the show, to my chagrin, appeared Deepak Chopra and Rudy Tanzi, On a show called “Brain, Body, Mind”, they were dispensing health advice to callers—and, of course, flogging their wares.

One older woman called in, worried about her lack of exercise.

Tanzi fielded the question (with support by Deepakity), urging her get some exercise regularly. That’s fine advice, though everyone knows it. But then Tanzi added that after two months of regular exercise, like walking for an hour a day, her genes would get “reprogrammed.”

That’s bullshit, of course, based on the unevidenced claim that human experience can, epigenetically, change your genome in a useful and permanent way.  But there’s not a scintilla of data showing that environmentally based adaptive methylation can occur in human DNA, so the Unholy Duo were talking out of their nether parts. Yes, relaxation, good diet, and exercise are good for all, but why do they drag this gene crap in?

To make themselves seem “scientific”, of course! Otherwise they’d just be telling you what anybody would, much less your doctor. And you wouldn’t buy their CDs and books, which are being flogged at this moment. There has to be a hook, and that hook is attached to your wallet.

This is quackery, pure and simple, and I’ve written about it before. Why, oh why, does PBS present these quacks as if they knew what they were talking about? They’re misleading people at the same time they’re filling their pockets.

It’s a pity, for at one time Tanzi seemed to be a reputable scientist. But the lure of Mammon was too great, and he sold his soul to Deepakity.


  1. ploubere
    Posted March 3, 2018 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    One feature of the U.S. population that the con artists have been feasting on is its extreme gullibility. They’ll believe any claim that has truthiness, as Colbert would say.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted March 3, 2018 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      As no-less a keen observer of the American scene than HL Mencken said, “[n]o one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted March 3, 2018 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Yes, after I take my car in for some work I’ll just run over for a little gene reprogramming. Maybe I’ll be a goat.

  3. glen1davidson
    Posted March 3, 2018 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Public Broadcasting Scams.

    Glen Davidson

  4. Serendipitydawg
    Posted March 3, 2018 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    They meant jeans not genes… though, techincally, it reprograms your butt to fit them.

    • Darrin Carter
      Posted March 3, 2018 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

      My Wife was reading the reply to me, when reaching yours she proceded to laugh her coffee all over her computer screen. (:

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted March 4, 2018 at 1:39 am | Permalink

        The lack of waterproofing on computer and laptop screens is a lasting monument to “designed-in obsolescence”. Slowly, mobile phone manufacturers are getting the message that a reasonable degree of waterproofing is appropriate to “portable” devices, but I wouldn’t expect that to last into the next form factor.

      • Serendipitydawg
        Posted March 4, 2018 at 5:57 am | Permalink

        I can only tender my humblest apologies, I was expecting groans rather than guffaws 🙂

  5. Posted March 3, 2018 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    I hate quacks but at least in this case their recommended solution (walking) didn’t involve buying anything. And something certainly happens inside our cells after two months of increased exercise. Obviously the genes themselves are not being altered but what happens in our cells is certainly controlled by our genes. So, in a sense, there is some “reprogramming” going on as the body adjusts to its changed circumstances brought about by exercise.

    Of course, I didn’t see the show. Perhaps their fake science went beyond this bit of colorful, but misleading, verbal imagery.

    • Posted March 3, 2018 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      Are you kidding? Half the show was the marketing of their books and videos!

      • Posted March 3, 2018 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

        I didn’t see the show. Just pointing out that the recommendation to do some walking didn’t involve buying anything. Assuming, of course, they didn’t recommend the purchase of Chopra-branded walking shoes. 😉

        • glen1davidson
          Posted March 3, 2018 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

          You have to wear the Quantum Jeans.

          Glen Davidson

          • Christian
            Posted March 3, 2018 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, say goodbye to your fat bottom. Just wear them long enough and the Jeans Instability will collapse your ass.

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted March 4, 2018 at 1:45 am | Permalink

              There will have to be a product for people whose bums have passed the Eddington Limit. It’s not likely to be cheap – like stellar wind – but …
              Did someone mention the Oscars ceremony? What put those things together? Or was that in January?

            • Zetopan
              Posted March 7, 2018 at 3:13 am | Permalink

              One should also be aware of getting too close to someone so large that they have a roche limit radius.

  6. grasshopper
    Posted March 3, 2018 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    Could it be that Mr. Chopra’s genes are 100% junk DNA?

    Now, I am going to reprogram the genes that control my brain size. Either my skull will split, or I will look like a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

  7. Harrison
    Posted March 3, 2018 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    I wonder about the sort of person for whom this would work. “Meh, exercise. Sure it’ll make me feel better, increase my energy, help me shed a couple pounds maybe. But if it doesn’t rewrite my genetic structure why bother?”

  8. Posted March 3, 2018 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    If they stuck to maybe ‘changing the state of the brain’ they might have got away with that.
    But NOooo… it’s time they checked in for a service at the reality clinic.

  9. Posted March 3, 2018 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    What does it mean to say “termites have descended on a post?” I enjoyed the Uncle J’s rib joint post so I went through it again and am curious. It also makes me want to try some homemade ribs tomorrow for Sunday dinner!

    • Posted March 3, 2018 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      “Termites” are cribbed from Hitchens, who used the word to describe miscreants (in the particular case, apologists for pernicious Islamic doctrine:

      “Termites” on a food post are those who gratuitously say that what I like to eat is either disgusting or bad for me. Such people are also known as Leisure Fascists.

    • Serendipitydawg
      Posted March 3, 2018 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

      You would probably do better to post your question there, however, one assumes it is the first comment.

      • Serendipitydawg
        Posted March 3, 2018 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

        The definitive answer from ‘da boss’ 🙂

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted March 4, 2018 at 1:48 am | Permalink

      It also makes me want to try some homemade ribs tomorrow for Sunday dinner!

      I have an image of you eating the ribs of an adult, child or pet grown to eating-size in your own home.
      Bunny stew, anyone?

  10. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted March 3, 2018 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    I saw it listed. Rolled my eyes, and soon found episodes of Blue Planet II.
    Much better!

  11. Joe Dickinson
    Posted March 3, 2018 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    A local bookstore recently hosted a big event for Chopra. I complained and they said they like to represent diverse points of view. I told them that quack is not a point of view.

    • ploubere
      Posted March 3, 2018 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      By that they meant that Chopra books sell well.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted March 4, 2018 at 1:55 am | Permalink

      I told them that quack is not a point of view.

      There I have to disagree with you. “Quack” is a point of view. It is so in the same way that “dog turd” is a form of footwear.

  12. Simon Hayward
    Posted March 3, 2018 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    So if it’s epigenetic, I get permanent reprogramming, so can just exercise for a few months to get reprogrammed and then stop exercising and eat rib tips twice a day…….right?

    • Christian
      Posted March 3, 2018 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

      Nah, just go with ionizing radiation. That’s so much better at reprogramming your genes than any of that chopralite crap 😉

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted March 4, 2018 at 1:57 am | Permalink

        chopralite crap

        Hey, hey, take you not the dinosaur turds in vein!

  13. Christopher
    Posted March 3, 2018 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of Dipshit Chopra, I was horrified to see his name listed in the new Michio Kaku book on the page dedicated to innovators or some such. I mean, in the same list as Richard Dawkins, Albert Einstein, Neil de Grasse Tyson…!? Wtf!

    • Michael
      Posted March 3, 2018 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

      Michio Kaku has become something of a crackpot himself.

    • Posted March 3, 2018 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

      “Dipshit Chopra” Good one. Thanks.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted March 4, 2018 at 2:01 am | Permalink

      Michio Kaku

      Isn’t he the talking head that always appears as a GIF saying “I’m not saying it was aliens, but … Aliens!”
      Wombat – Waste Of Money, Brains And Time.

      • Posted March 5, 2018 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

        WOMBAT, love the acronym! thanks! This is the only blog I subscribe to that also expands my vocabulary. Ironically my favorite (and thus important) WEIT addition to my vocabulary was “piffle.”

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted March 5, 2018 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

          “WOMBAT” has been around for decades – I learned it in the 1980s tea shacks of the North Sea – if not earlier.

  14. grasshopper
    Posted March 3, 2018 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    @11 Joe Dickson — Quackery.

    Yesterday, I was at the local market. Automotive batteries were being sold at one stall. I had a question about whether just replacing the acid in a dry battery would be sufficient to resurrect it. The stall operator proceeded to tell me that you don’t need acid. The charging process itself turns the distilled water into sulphuric acid. I was about to ask how sulphur could be created from hydrogen and oxygen outside the temperature and pressure generated inside a nuclear bomb (if even then), when he said that if I needed distilled water, just boil a kettle and let the water cool. The water will then be distilled, and the boiling temperature will destroy any impurities.

    On my way home I called in to a commercial automotive battery store for professional advice. The owner there had no idea about how the product he sold worked, but he did have a sulphur-crested cockatoo. I commented that I have a cockatoo who picks her feathers. I was assured that feather-picking is caused by over-feeding sunflower seeds, which causes the blood to get hot, so the bird plucks its own feathers for relief. How does just the blood get hot I wanted to ask, so I took my leave.

    These two incidents made me despair for humanity, and its capacity to be seduced by quackery.

    • Posted March 3, 2018 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

      You were right in not getting into your nuclear bomb scenario.

      Reminds me of when I asked for 1/2-inch slice of chicken at a deli counter. The lady cut a single slice that was about 1/8-inch thick and said, “How about this?”. I assumed she just misheard me so I tried again. After a couple of tries the slice was still not close to the desired thickness. I offered that perhaps she didn’t know what a 1/2-inch was. She responded with a completely straight face, “Perhaps my 1/2-inch is different from your 1/2-inch”. I had to agree and took the thickest slice.

    • Merilee
      Posted March 3, 2018 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

      You should have taken some of the cockatoo’s feathers to supply the sulfur for your battery. And maybe the bird could have used some Geritol for “tired blood”. What ever happened to Geritol?

      • Christopher
        Posted March 3, 2018 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

        I couldn’t remember what Geritol was so to the googles I went and under the “people also ask” part the first question was “can geritol help get you pregnant”… I weep for humanity.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted March 4, 2018 at 2:22 am | Permalink

      I was about to ask how sulphur could be created from hydrogen and oxygen outside the temperature and pressure generated inside a nuclear bomb (if even then),

      Ummm, hydrogen to helium fusion via the carbon process needs around 15 MK. Oxygen burning to sulphur needs closer to 1000 MK. You’d need a pretty major redesign of the nuclear bomb to get to those temperatures. This would probably violate (reasonably!) the premises’ lease conditions.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted March 4, 2018 at 6:48 am | Permalink

      The battery guy wasn’t entirely wrong.

      If the battery has ‘gone dry’ through overcharging, water has been converted to hydrogen and oxygen which evaporate off, leaving the acid still more concentrated. Just adding water to ‘top it up’ will restore the correct acid concentration. No extra acid needed. (I assume if the battery has actually gone completely ‘dry’ it’s probably beyond resuscitation.)

      In a discharged battery, both plates are lead sulphate and the liquid is mostly water. Charging turns one plate to lead, the other lead oxide, and the liquid has ‘turned into’ more concentrated sulphuric acid. No magic or nuclear fusion necessary.


  15. Posted March 3, 2018 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    “…. and he sold his soul to Deepakity.” Oh, that was precious. Thanks, I needed that.

  16. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted March 3, 2018 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    Chopra actually has training in Western medicine which I find especially damning. (It makes it harder to believe he really believes his own stuff. I’m a tad more inclined to believe that purveyors of quantum woo really believe their stuff, but these things are hard to parse.) It’s well established that his treatments work like placebos.

    DC came to prominence largely as a result of Oprah Winfrey. One of his books ripped often some charts from Robert Sapolsky without attribution.

    I DO find that after exercise my old jeans fit me better, but I don’t think this is what DC meant. 🙂

  17. Posted March 4, 2018 at 3:57 am | Permalink

    Why bring the gene crap is a good question. I think it’s not merely because it sounds complicated and scientificerily important, but also because if it “reprograms your genes” it means you can gain total control over your habits and never be fat or unhealthy or poor or unloved or unspiritual ever again.

    In other words it’s epigenetic determinism.

    And if you can “control your own evolution” through it as they claim, then it’s epi-eugenics.

  18. Zetopan
    Posted March 7, 2018 at 3:27 am | Permalink

    Crack-pottery always rapidly sells. As Asimov pointed out long ago, if you invent some form of crack-pottery and tell people that it allows them to live forever (or whatever that group wants to believe) you will acquire a large following. If you then tell the followers that you originally lied and just made the whole thing up, many of the followers will claim that *now* you are lying and the original claims are still true.

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