is diet coded in our genes?

June 26, 2009

Oooh, I have so much up my sleeve!

First, I’m really excited to be doing my first round of videos for the blog, a series taking you inside my kitchen so you can see where I come up with the recipes on the site and how everything is set up.  I’ll be posting them within the next few days.

Tomorrow I’ll also be attending a daylong event all about living foods given by Dr. Brian Clement of the Hippocrates Institute in Florida.  Full report to follow.

But today I wanted to share what I learned last night at an event at the Dana Centre, part of the Science Museum in London.  I love, love the Dana Centre because, like TED – my other freebie favorite – I always come away with new knowledge that keeps ticking over in my brain long after the lecture is over.

Last night’s topic was “Moving Genes,” a fascinating (albeit all too brief) look at where the human species comes from and how, despite appearances, we’re not all that different.  I thought this fit in beautifully with the idea that we are all fundamentally the same on a spiritual level, how we all spring from the same consciousness.  But here was evidence that we are even more similar than we think, even if we do think quite similarly.

By far the most intriguing speaker of the night was Dr. Mark Thomas, a senior lecturer in genetics at University College London.

With obvious zest for his subject, Dr. Thomas explained why all of us are, almost certainly, an African species.  Here are some of his supporting points as noted on his slides:

  • We are not a very diverse species; our differences are only skin deep
  • We all share a common female-line ancestor around 170,000 – she was African!
  • We all share a common male-line ancestor around 70,000 – he was African!
  • So, Adam never met Eve

Now, I get the African part, but how the above numbers work out is totally beyond me; and, according to Dr. Thomas, even certain genius geneticists can’t make sense of it.

Of course, my mind started thinking about food, and how these findings line up with 80 10 10 which I’m currently reading.  One of the most intriguing aspects of the book for me is that we originated and evolved in the tropics, hence we are designed to eat a diet based on the fruit that grew there.  The author, Dr. Douglas Graham, goes on to say that we create a “mini tropics” wherever we migrate via artificial means such as central heating and clothing.

So, when Dr. Thomas said that Europeans have only been able to digest milk for the past 1000 years, I made note and asked him to elaborate during the Q&A session.  I asked him if he has found similar patterns for digesting grains and whether our African ancestry indicates we should consume a certain diet.

Dr. Thomas was adamant that the amount of nutrition information out there has created an “ideas salad” and that theories such as the blood-type diet are utter garbage. Dr. Thomas is a vegetarian, yet he also stressed that those groups who evolved to drink milk had a major advantage and that our brains would not have evolved had we remained at the hunter-gatherer stage.

I like the term “ideas salad”, and my take is that we each have a responsibility to take a good look at the providence of all the ingredients in that salad, if you get my drift.  Every theory is worth examining, if only to broaden and challenge your own.  I know that my diet keeps changing the more I learn and the more I evolve.

If the consumption of meat catapulted our evolution on a physical level, might not the current global shift towards a plant-based diet propel us towards an evolution of a different kind?

I debated this and other questions after the event with a rather vociferous and interesting gentleman who accused me of having an agenda…stay tuned for all the gory details!  Have a great weekend.

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  1. Jess June 29, 2009 at 07:53

    Hi, Peter! Thanks very much for that, I will check it out!

  2. Peter Hunt June 28, 2009 at 23:28

    “I like the term “ideas salad”, and my take is that we each have a responsibility to take a good look at the providence of all the ingredients in that salad, if you get my drift.”

    Very true! I’d like to recommend a book, it’s called Bad Science, and is by Ben Goldacre, who is a columnist for the Guardian.

    It covers a number of areas, including the reporting of science/nutrition stories in the mainstream media, and an entertaining chapter on Gillian McKeith PhD (She paid good money for those letters!)

    He also has a website at

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