Adaptation and Mutation
Adaptation is an awesome thing. As humans, we are very adaptable and we’ve mutated to become more civilized. I’m not talkin X-Men kind of mutations here, what I’m talking about is that we have genetic propensities that have evolved over a long time to be able to process certain foods.
This is truly amazing when you think of the sheer magnitude of our change. Over time, humans have adapted in order to gain abilities that have been advantageous for our nutrition. Here’s the big idea:
We have a wide-ranging ability to tolerate a large variety of edible matter.
This is a wonderful survival asset which has evolved over time. What’s amazing about it is that because of it, we are able to consume and digest even a head of broccoli. This hasn’t always been the case. The sulforaphane in broccoli wouldn’t necessarily have been around in nature 20 to 30 thousand years ago the way they are today. We have evolved with our food, we have genetically modified (not in the way we speak about it today) ourselves and our systems in order to handle our food. We are now able to extract nutrients from sources that we weren’t able to before, and this is part of the reason we have survived at such a scale to the modern day.
But this ability and this adaptation that has taken place over thousands of years is not a directive to just to go ahead and eat anything that presents itself as food! Unfortunately that’s what we see with industry these days. The food industry offers us products that luckily don’t kill us right away, but they probably have a whole lot of negative health consequences as we go down the road. Even things generally recognized as safe previously have been exposed by science later on. For example, a certain enzyme that they use in food as an additive was later discovered to actually cause celiac disease in some populations. It’s scary to think that we will get the true story later, after the damage is done.
This is why it is so important to consider what we are eating and how our bodies have adapted. Just because our bodies can process so many different things doesn’t mean we should fuel ourselves with all of them.
Genetics & Diet
Not too long ago we were finally able to map the Human Genome and since then, there has been a huge surge in the interest we have for identifying things through our genes. Ancestry, 23 and Me, and a whole host of other products are now available that allow us to swab our cheeks and end up with a diagnostic analysis of everything from our ancestral regions to what diseases we may be more susceptible to.
Unfortunately, in terms of your health, these things aren’t really as telling as we’d like to think they are. They absolutely do NOT equal a clear dietary guideline. You see, genes are complicated. There are so many factors. Genes are like switches and they flip on and off by your environment depending on where you are and how you live your life. Some things people have put a lot of weight on that may not pan out as expected are:
- FTO: Regulation of metabolism and satiety
- MC4R: Regulation of satiety and meal frequency
- ADRB2-E27Q: Sensitivity to carbohydrates and stress impact
- FABP2-T55A: Fat absorption and insulin regulation of sugar
- SH2B1: Regulation of insulin and leptin systems
When tested in real life, these things simply don’t pan out as expected. This is nutrigenomics. Someday in the future, nutrigenomics may have a great handle on creating suggestions for health based on our genes, but the science just isn’t there yet. So until then, what do we do?
Stay tuned for my next article where I give you a few helpful tips about how to utilize genes, adaptation, and personal knowledge to help advance your nutrition and wellness.
If you have questions about what anything discussed in this article or in other blog posts, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
-Dr. Jerome Craig