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The Foods You Choose May Be Genetically Determined


The Foods You Choose May Be Genetically Determined

My father-in-law had heart disease. He died at sixty-three of heart related issues. He once said to me, ‘I quit drinking and smoking and gained fifty pounds. He also ate a half a pound of bacon every day. He did not eat fast food – was not a burger guy. He liked bagels, pastries, chicken and dumplings, sausage and bacon. Lots of meats; was not big on cheeses. He was a general practice doctor of medicine. 

Someone said it was genetic, his heart disease. I do not know how anyone would know that, since his father and brother died early in life in the Cleveland Clinic fire, while the other son (my father-in-law) was in medical school. Even so, he did not appear to present with problems until he gained all that weight.

Subsequently, two of my brothers-in-law died of heart related issues, one at home in a sudden heart event, who was being treated for heart-related issues and the other bled out while still in recovery from a successful heart valve replacement (his second).

My mother-in-law was not thin my any means, she probably ate meat with every meal, but also lots of fruits and vegetables. She drank alcohol and smoked. She had heart-related issues, for which she was treated, yet lived to be ninety-seven.

How does one know if a condition is genetic? In my father’s-in-law day, the medical field did not have the diagnostic tools and range of treatments that doctors have today. 

Given all that exists now at the disposal of medical personnel, how does one under treatment have a sudden heart event and how does one bleed out at the groin after a successful valve replacement surgery while still in the recovery room? In 2011 and 2018, at 70 and 74 years old, and otherwise healthy?

Regardless, it does appear that there is a familial link, since my husband Steve who started out with atrial fibrillation and hypertension ended up with a full blown heart and kidney failure when he contracted coronaCOVID virus, for which he is now in long term treatment.

Steve eats a lot. Steve’s Dad ate a lot. His two brothers who died, not so much in the amount department, but the German influence on fat, meat and sweets cannot be denied. We both often remarked, that given the amount Steve eats, he should be a lot bigger than he is. Since COVID however, the battle with the weight has exacerbated, for both of us, but primarily Steve, since he is the one with the heart issues.

We all exercised, especially Steve and I, walking miles everyday, outside, or inside working, we both had extraordinarily strong legs, which should have helped in the heart high-risk category for Steve. Maybe it did, maybe had it not been for all those many years of long distance walking, he also would have died by now at seventy-five.

Not that long ago in an article on fat people, the issue of why fat seems to run in families came up. Many who studied it at the time theorized that there had to be a genetic component. ‘Come on, I saw the obese daughter in my office and wondered how this happened, until I saw the obese mother in the waiting room. Later I saw pictures of an obese father and obese siblings./  

Other researchers theorized that maybe it was not genetic, but learned behavior (nature vs nurture again pops up). The mother and father eat a lot, so the kids eat a lot, the mother and father become obese, so do the kids. 

So it was the food choices that were learned, maybe from culture, maybe from one or more grandparents, maybe even more from modern day availability of fast food and snacks wherever one goes. No more three meals a day, like in the old days. Even when back in those days, people trying to lose weight, focused on what they ate between meals. Back then I often heard people claim all they had to do was quit the snacks between meals and they would be okay.

That of course was before fast food joints became all the rage, turning meals into snacks, and snacks into meals, so one was not snacking between meals, they were ‘mealing’ between meals. Snack became the new word for meal. When someone says, let’s stop for a snack, they do not mean chips and dip or cookies and milk or a candy bar.

Ever notice the size of appetizers on any menu, whether in high-middle-low end eating establishments? Appetizers are now the size of a meal and the same price if you leave off the sides. Appetizers are supposed to whet your appetite for the main meal, not be the meal before the meal.

Sellers mess it all up trying to game your stomach and brain to eat more and buy more.

In pre-fast food days a sandwich, a burger, a hot dog were considered a meal, not a between meal snack. In post-fast food days people are ‘mealing’ whenever they eat throughout the day.

Still, how is it that in many other families one parent is fat and one parent skinny? Do copycat behaviors not occur between spouses, like they do from parent to child? Or peer to peer? What controlling factors operate in the family where all members are fat, compared to the family where half of them are fat and the other half skinny? Or one parent fat, one parent skinny and all kids skinny? Does gender play a role? ‘She is just like her father, or just like her mother – in mannerism usually is what they mean. Is eating stylized by genetics? Is eating a mannerism?

Another researcher suggested that genetics may have nothing to do with it. Mothers and fathers determine what type of food and the amount the children will eat, end of story. Fat parents, fat kids. 

What about skinny parents, fat kids? Then somebody else is raising those kids haha.

Are genetics more powerful than culture? Does culture over time through repetition become expressed through genetics?

My take is this:

It is simpler than nature or nurture. Genetic or learned. Or both.

Each individual is genetically programmed to select certain foods over other foods depending on the composition of those foods.

Start with poisonous vs non-poisonous: 

Group all the non-poisonous food together. Not all people will like the look, taste, smell, chew, feel on the mouth (tongue, gums, teeth, lips, cheeks, palate, throat), after taste etc. of all non-poisonous foods.

Next go to the basic food categories from which we may be predisposed to eat or not eat: 

  • fats, proteins, carbohydrates (complex and simple).

Next go to animal vs animal-free:

  • Animal: flesh/tissue, blood, organ, bone, milk, glands/eggs aka any part of the animal
  • Animal-free: vegetable, grain, fruit, nut/legume

√ From which food categories do you most often select to eat for any given meal or snack?

√ What are the likes and dislikes of your immediate family. If adopted, how are your food choices similar or different from your non-biological parents and siblings?

If I eat a lot of oranges does that mean my body is deficient in what those oranges have to offer in terms of nutrients? Does my body need energy, a simple sugar high, a vitamin C and folate infusion, flavonoids, potassium, calcium, or does my body need a feel good refreshing experience that oranges or orange juice provide?

People claiming to have a sweet tooth may be genetically programmed to select those foods when hungry.

People with long cultural histories of eating fatty meats, may select those over carbohydrates given the choice. Still others want the whole party at once. Fats only? Protein only? Carbohydrates only? All three in varying amounts?

As a child I recall that after eating animal meat, I wanted something sweet and vice versa. Or something sweet after something savory. Something savory after something sweet. Or something fatty after something sweet or along with it. Was that my system trying to balance nature for me? Do we have a balancing mechanism that includes animal meat? Or was it protein and fat I craved, and the animal was the only option (in those days) to satisfy it? I was a kid. What did I know about food, except what I liked, and that my mother and father ate it, served it and expected us to eat it, so it must be okay.

In my view it was not so much what Mom and Dad ate, as it was what I chose to eat out of what they had to offer. Families usually do give choices, no matter how poor. Looking back it seems that the working poor fed their children better than the middle class. More food was made from scratch, more attention given to health. But that could be argued.

There were four kids in my family and we all grew up with different likes and dislikes, that were not necessarily the likes and dislikes of Mom and Dad. We were given an assortment of many foods over the years, we individually selected the ones we liked best to continue eating when we became adults. 

Tastes also change. You hear the expression, ‘an acquired taste’ for a particular food. My mother for example liked Limburger cheese, one of the smelliest cheeses on the planet; even now in post-middle age I could not get that cheese past my nose into my mouth.

I did not like anything that smelled like an animal. Now that I cook animal-free for a world who loves the taste of animal, I find myself replicating those flavors and textures to satisfy the prominent flesh and blood addiction around the globe in all cultures.

Does that mean because so many people eat the flesh and blood, that they then crave it, and perhaps they crave it because they are genetically programmed to seek it out? 

Maybe during prehistoric times. Maybe in times of survival. We do not know for sure; none of us were there. Does that mean because we did not drop the habit when it was no longer needed, that our DNA cannot change for future? 

Can we change our own DNA through abstinence? Individually? As a group?

I believe that change already happened and I am proof of that change. One person in one family.

Did it happen randomly? 

My mother never served just meat. If we wanted seconds on meat, we had to have seconds on vegetables. She ate more plant than animal. My father never went back for seconds of anything.

Nobody in my family nor Steves including all the kids, and their kids eats an animal-free diet, except me. Not even close.

I believe the seeds of change were present in my ancestors and came together in me. I believe that there are multitudes of people like me who struggle with the morality of eating an animal diet in this modern world, as well as the deleterious effects an animal diet has on one’s health and on the health of those they love.

Others struggle with eating animal-free throughout the withdrawal process and beyond. When I struggled during the early days it was most always peer and family pressured, sometimes the more subtle the stronger the pull to deviate from what I knew instinctively and intuitively to be the right way to live. Dining out was the most difficult. Even now, there are not that many animal-free choices on an animal-based menu.

So yes, our choices do have a lot to do with what is available. My solution was to develop my own animal-free recipes, then share them with the world. This was before the internet and social media and free web hosting companies became part of our social culture.

Over time eating animal-free became second nature. My only nature really.

I used to care more about what was for dessert than what was for supper. Maybe because the animal was not as obvious in the desserts as it was on the sandwich, or for breakfast or the main meal.

My favorite meat was ham, because it didn’t smell like animal. No fish for me, smell again, even when fresh. Eventually I liked shrimp, mussels, lobster and crab (rarely). The butter and lemon it was dipped in yes. I am big on sauces. No eggs, same there, the sulphur that others like I do not. No bacon, only due to the texture, crispy is not a chew I prefer. Too salty. I was not big on salt either. My mother was. She always had a salt shaker at the table. One of my brothers does the same. I never salted my corn-on-the-cob. The salt ate away at the inside of my lips. I used to wonder if that happened to everybody else who ate salted corn-on-the-cob.

My mother did not force us to eat what we did not like. Her only requirement was that we taste it. If not liked, fine.

Genetics in my view helps to shape our food choices along with what is offered, through culture and availability.

The amount we eat may be structurally determined. Steve eats a huge amount. How could one person fit that much into a stomach? My sister used to do the same. My mother remarked once, at the amount she piles on the plate and eats it all. She wasn’t fat though.

People have different size internal organs. Once after a surgery to have ovarian cysts removed, that my mother also had when she was about my same age, the surgeon remarked to my mother that I had a bladder the size of a small child – no wonder I pee so often.

Maybe the people who eat the most at one time simply have larger stomachs than those who do not or cannot due to a smaller size stomach. People often reference the stretching of the stomach, but not the initial size of it.

Eventually, I trained myself away from the sweets. Since being infected with coronaCOVID, I slipped back to old ways, as if the virus was smart enough to undo progress I made long ago. That would require brain manipulation and possibly DNA. Nothing on the news has brought those discussions to my attention.

Understanding why something happens does not have to be complicated or contain hidden answers that people come to explain away as mysterious, rather than keep looking for what often is right in front of them.

When searching for an answer stop trying to make it fit into a huge maze-like network that no one understands. 

Interjecting another unknown variable will not produce solid answers.

Look for the simple answer first, then branch out. By simple I do not mean silly or non-sensical. Brainstorming is good as long as it is not accepted as fact the first go around.


Make your day good, if you cannot, then detach and glide through it,

Later Gators,

Sharon


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By Sharon Lee Davies-Tight, artist, writer, chef

Chef Davies-Tight™. The Animal-Free Chef™. ANIMAL-FREE SOUS-CHEF™. FAT-FREE CHEF™. Word Warrior Davies-Tight™. HAPPY WHITE HORSE™. SHARON ON THE NEWS™. BIRTH OF A SEED™. Till now and forever © Sharon Lee Davies-Tight, Artist, Author, Animal-Free Chef, Activist. ARCHITECT of 5 PRINCIPLES TO A BETTER LIFE™ & MAINSTREAM ANIMAL-FREE CUISINE™.

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