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Food, Genes and Culture

April 21, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf we take any 100 readers of this blog and put them in a room, chances are we’ll find similarities and differences. Chances are there are foods we like, and don’t like, in common. Chances are there is a certain percentage of us that have health issues, some that can be altered by diet.

Every year a new diet book, or solution to all your problems book or magazine comes out. Like many that have gone before, it’s not really for all but fits a certain part of the population. Recently, I came across on NetGalley a book called Food, Genes and Culture.

99.9 percent of the human genome is shared by each and every one of us and all of our ancestors, regardless of how we self-identify our racial heritage.

With DNA testing as reliable as it is, the common ground there is incredible. Within the genes, according to this book, is a web of traditional diet. He examines the way foods, and alcohol, affects Native Americans much differently than other races. Throughout the world, many native populations are healthier following a traditional diet rather than a modern one. Yet this may not be enough for those from another part of the world.

While some of the information here is older, a great deal of research was done, some to the point that more recent notes are lacking. Still, there are some interesting points, particularly in the standpoint that agriculture is but a blip on the time scale, yet takes the blame not for abundance of food but the downfall of the global diet.

When several of these scholars looked in detail at 229 hunter-gatherer societies, one in seven of these foraging cultures clearly consumed more plants than animal foods. In the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2000, Loren Cordain and his colleagues concluded that “our data clearly indicate that there was no single diet that represented all hunter-gatherer societies.”
Mr. Cordain stated in his popular cookbook in 2002: “The Paleo Diet is the one and only diet that ideally fits our genetic make-up. Just 500 generations ago – and for 2.5 million years before that – every human on Earth ate this way.”

Really? The information seems to conflict there. While paleo is but one way to eat, many have embraced it with false information, and some ‘leaders’ don’t care that it’s false as long as people follow. That isn’t about food choices, or about the best way for everyone.

How do Cretans eat three times the fat, but have much lower coronary disease than Americans? These and other questions are explored and worth taking the time to read. It’s far more in depth than a blog post can cover, but is incredible in that genetics really can shape health and nutrition.

That seems a good place to start food choice options. Food choices are for all, but not all can – or should – choose the same!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 21, 2014 5:46 PM

    I agree – no one plan fits all!

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