Heavy title, sorry, I guess, but it’s impossible not to add weight to a subject that is as tangibly impactful, standing as we do at the apex of the past and future, and never ever has the future seemed so heavy with choice as it does right now. Or am i on my own here?
Chat of epigenetics has been a hot topic for me personally. coming up again and again in conversations ranging from obesity, to planetary health and our impact on the biosphere. And what’s inescapably mind blowing is that it really is ALL connected. And just like most information we have two choices when we hear it – do we run and hide? Or do we choose to integrate the new stuff, and put a plan in place accordingly. Do we treat it as opportunity or obligation? Well I know my own temptation to go and bury my attention in a good Netflix binge – but ultimately I also have the knowing that my best moments of feeling like an agent of the present, and to not drown in sensation of helplessness, is to stand up and flick that curiosity switch to ‘ON’ – so let’s go. We’ll keep it short and sweet as possible and try to make something actionable from this.
The Epigenetics of Cat Families
So here it goes – first a grimly illustrative study. The cat study, the famous cat study, that removed nutrient groups from a group of mother cats, and watched them have smaller litters than their well fed inmates (let’s be fair this research is pretty brutal). But when this study really showed its worth was in the offspring that came from THOSE litters. Their little kittens had one less kitten, and their kittens had one less again, aaaaand you get the picture. What the study authors suggested was kind of mind blowing. That the stress of nutrient depletion in the mother cat echoed through the proceeding 9 generations…sit with that a minute. Imagine your choices now impacting your great, great, great, GREAT, GREAAT grandchildren.
Ancestral Energy – Connecting to Our Consequence
Okay so that’s seven generations, and that’s the maximum impact that epigenetic scientists estimate a human lifestyle impact could travel across generations. If I was to have 7 generations live after me that would put them being born around 2201AD…and still living with great(etc) grandad Finn’s choices to eat well, manage his stress exposure, stay active and to minimise the chemicals and other toxins that came into his body. Seems like the weight of responsibility on these little shoulders is mounting…inexorably.
It’s hard not to be tempted to translate this to our envirnomental choices too. Consumption and its impact is certainly going to leave a legacy for our little ones and the little ones they bear will live with what we’ve done. And there’s literally no use pointing the finger, the moment that we seek to move responsibility away from our own choices, is the same moment we divest ourselves of agency to live fulfilled and authentic lives. So how can we even begin to digest and live with this information, and not be totally disabled by it and go hide behind the couch? Well there’s just a few little lessons that will help to make us better foster parents of our great(etc) grandkids.
Fascinating things are happening inside your gut. The bugs down your alimentary canal are TALKING to your genes. Nope. You’re right. I can’t imagine the language either. It’s far too baffling a concept. But a recent study showed that (in mice at least) when they are put on an awful yoyo obesogenic diet program, each time the mice are sent onto the weight gain diet, they pile on the pounds just a little more quickly…and lose it more slowly. That is to say, the white adipose (fat) cells have an easier time storing extra fat, and a tougher time trying to expend heat, the mechanism known as thermogenesis, which regulates weight and is known to be authored at least in part by our thyroid. But where did the bugs come in you ask? Aha, well the maddest part was when the scientists added two very specific agents – parsley and grapefruit extracts, these two polyphenol compounds were metabolised by specific species of microbiota in the gut, and they consequently went and told the genes that controlled the fat cells to not store so much fat and to do a better job of the thermogenesis thing.
So the next time the mice went on the fat-making diet, they put on weight as slowly as the first time they were made obese, and guess what – they lost the weight as quickly as the first time they had lost weight. I don’t know about you but that gives me SHIVERS. It’s this next generation of nutrition – way beyond vitamins and minerals – where we feed the gut bugs and they tell our bodies what to do – control and regulate immunity, influence fat cells, manage our neurotransmitter activity. And not just for our generation, but for generations to come. They are literally driving the bus so we’d better get our seatbelt on… And the best way we can protect ourselves and our many legions of descendants is by feeding the little guys and gals with PLENTY of polyphenols – and where do we find those? By including as wide an array of plant foods in our diet as possible.
SMOOTHIE your way to ending your vegetable waste.
My simplest protocol for this is to include smoothies as part of my daily diet. No I’m not saying a smoothie is the end to all your health concerns. But – if you want to up your dosage of diverse fibres, and pack in a pile of polyphenols, all whilst using up the entire content of your fridge including that U.G.L.Y. stuff in the fruit bowl that you’re thinking might be ready for the compost. That ‘over ripe” vibe makes it easier on your digestion, as the sugars start to breakdown, the whole vegetable kingdom become far gentler and less likely to cause that unhelpful fermentation that leads to bloating/cramping/incomplete absorption/diarrhoea/constipation – just all the worst results of feeding.
Genetics Of Digestion
For some of us, depending on how we’ve lived our lives and what our genetics are designed to digest (what our ancestors ate decides a lot about what our body needs), the profile of our enzyme production may just not suit a blended up cup of raw fruit and veg. Which is why they invented soup!! With a mild loss of heat sensitive nutrients and antioxidants, soups are best of all in terms of gentle, healing nourishment for both us and the planet. A prime ‘user-upper’ of bin-end produce before it hits the actual bin, if we want to spice up our microbiome (and we do cos along with fresh herbs, spices are the best bet for polyphenol content), then turning the stove on for a low n slow veg fest is the way forward. With minimal effort, soups can provide just what our microbiome, and hence our DNA (see above!) have been missing. And don’t forget those later generations who will be reaping the rewards of your good practices up to 800 years hence.
And for those who think that cutting down on calories and implementing portion control will save the planet, we’re not interested in volume here at ALL. Good nutrition is all about quality over quantity. 6 potatoes or 3 ain’t the game here – we need to box smarter than this – always seeking nutrient density, never looking for empty calories unless we’re on the quest of the 20 mile hike in which case pile right in. But for health – and that is a LONG game, and very different to the quest for satiety – it’s the range of plant foods, the quality of proteins, the diversity and density of polyphenols (those rainbow-reflecting colour compounds found in plants), and ratio of fatty acids that we choose to grow, cook and consume that will be the success or failure of our forward thinking food strategy…now where’s that blender???