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7.13.2012

Baby Steps: Mental Block 2- "But I did X and I turned out fine..."

It is the number one excuse on pretty much everything (not just food) I get from people, after money.

"I was spanked and I turned out okay."

"I drank soda growing up and I turned out okay."

"My mom fed me formula and I turned out okay."


My first response to this, internally, isn't a very nice one.  It's "are you... are you really?"  Because while you may *think* you're okay, there may be problems you don't realize are problems.  Do you have a hard time loosing weight?  Are you often anxious or depressed?  Are you frequently fatigued?  And obviously, do you have any chronic illnesses- IBD or IBS, crohns, arthritis, diabetes, asthma, fibromyalgia, migraines, infertility, anemia... etc?

But obviously there is more to it than that.  Because some people- people who have eaten junk and had other unhealthy habits their whole life, do actually appear to be healthy.  It's because, while you may be able to eat junk and not suffer the affects, there is more and more scientific research that shows that if you continue, your future children will suffer.

Ever hear of Dr. Pottenger's cat studies?  Yeah, most people haven't.  Dr. Pottenger believed that nutrition affect the health of not only the person/being consuming the food, but of subsequent generations.  And he proved this by raising many generations of cats on three different diets- raw meat and raw milk, raw meat and pasteurized milk, and raw meat and sweetened condensed milk.

The raw milk and meat cats thrived.  The others, on the other hand, had all of the various diseases that we associate with the standard american diet.  But the most important element of the study is the affect on generations.  The first generation was kind of sick, the second was more sick, and by the third generation they were all 1) allergic to milk, and 2) infertile to varying degrees.

Now, that is a very very brief summary of the study and it's findings (in the interest of brevity).  His findings led to his theory of epigenetics, or the theory that the environment affects the way our genes are expressed.  When he first proved this it was rejected simply because it didn't fit into the scientific community's understanding of the mechanism of genetics.  But now it's being revisited, and whether or not we convince the scientific community of it's value, I have a feeling we will be proving the theory to be right in the next generation whether we want to or not.

Because think about it- 100 years ago we were more or less still eating the way our ancestors ate- whole, unprocessed foods prepared at home.  Cancer was rare.  Heart disease was unheard of.  No one had asthma or allergies.  Obesity was low.  Then we started pasteurizing milk.  And refining sugar.  And refining flour.  Processed foods entered the market.

All of this happened from the late 1800's to about the 40's and 50's, and the chronic diseases grew steadily the entire time.  THEN, in the late 70's, came the dreaded lipid hypothesis.

Because of the lipid hypothesis we all started eating a low fat (especially saturated fat) high carbohydrate diet.  As Gary Grahm, the author of The Pottenger Prophesies, points out, the kids who were 8-12 years old when the low fat craze started- their kids and their kids' kids are today's obese children.  They are the third generation.

But are we seeing some of the problems even sooner, or in response to the even earlier changes in our diets?  Something like 18% of couples today need medical help in order to conceive.  Rates of asthma and food allergies in children are skyrocketing.  How can we not connect this affect to Pottenger's studies?

The plain and simple fact is that, in the last thirty years, we have consumed less meat and less saturated fat, yet our rates of chronic disease, including heart disease, have gone up. 

Besides Pottenger's studies, there have been a number of studies and theories that back up the idea that, at the very least, our nutrition during pregnancy affects the long term health of our children.  The Developmental Origins Theory, proposed by David Barker.  Barker observed in the 1980's that as Britain became more affluent, heart disease rates were rising, but the rates were rising in the poor population.  What he found was that, above any other factor like smoking or dietary fat intake, the rate of heart disease was linked to low birth weight, with the ideal weight at full term birth being 8.5-9.5lbs.  He eventually went on to connect this low birth weight to poor health during pregnancy.

And now I'm verging into boring, I know.  The point I'm trying to make is that the way we eat before and during pregnancy and during lactation will affect the long term health of our children.  And the way we feed our children now will affect THEIR children.  I don't know about you, but I would really like my kids (and their kids...) to be able to reproduce.  

I tried really really hard to be brief... but if you would like more information on epigenetics, the developmental origins theory, or the link between diet and fertility check out the links above OR these:

Scholarly Articles:


More by Baker:  Link between maternal nutrition and heart disease


Epigenetics and Metabolic Syndrome


Fetal Microbiota and Obesity

Normal People :) Articles:

Health Begins in the Womb, by Chris Kresser (with lots of links to other studies)

This post has been shared on Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday. 

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