Genetics and my diet

This post doesn’t have much to do with any of my research or my classes. Instead I offer up a counter-argument to the idea that we should follow the diet of our ancestors.(full disclosure: I have tried the vegan diet in my quest for a healthy diet and maintaining healthy weight)

Our modern american society seems to grab onto any fad (read new research into….) that explains the why and how of obesity. Similarly with what constitutes a healthy diet. I was reading an article from the National Geographic web site http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2013/01/restless-genes/dobbs-text in which one paragraph discusses the lactose gene. This article is about our genetic predisposition to explore strange new worlds. This paragraph about lactose is to support the premise that culture influences genetic makeup.

The lactose gene is held up as an example of a culture-gene influences. Few individuals carried the lactose gene up until approximately 15,000 years ago. The advent of agriculture, with the supporting dairy farming, allowed individuals possessing the lactose gene a powerful advantage. These individuals were able to utilize a nutritional food source, thereby increasing their chances of survival during times of poor agricultural output and in turn increasing the likelihood of successful reproduction.  A greater percentage of survivors with the lactose gene leads to an even greater percentage of offspring carrying the gene. In other words, the cultural change of farming influenced the expression of the lactose gene.

So the fact that our ancestors did not eat dairy does not support the argument that dairy is unhealthy. Our modern genetic makeup has evolved into something different than our ancestors. Not better. Not worse. Simply different. If dairy were an unhealthy food source, the percentage of individuals carrying the lactose gene should be lower and if dairy were truly dangerous then eventually the lactose gene would disappear due to those individuals being unlikely to successfully reproduce.

This explains why I love cheese!

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