What do you and your family eat each week? You may be shocked to see the significant variation even between relatively ‘similar’ nations when it comes to diet.
While many families within the United States and Mexico include fast food and soda into the core of their nutritional program, families from nations like Bhutan survive off of traditional base food items like vegetables and grains.
It is easy to see why disease rates are skyrocketing in many developed countries, where nutrition is not held in very high regard.
Amazingly, the United States also spends more on healthcare than any nation in the world. Despite spending $7,960 per capita, the United States has been ranked dead last when it comes to the quality of care.
The fact of the matter is that when food intake is ignored — along with the subsequent toxic ingredients that go along with the processed food addiction — disease will arise.
In the telling pictures below, taken from the book Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, you can see what the average family from each nation eats over the period of one week.
North Carolina, United States
This family from North Carolina eats a diet almost entirely of processed and pre-prepared foods with heavy amounts of junk and fast food. Consuming mostly sugar-laden ‘fruit’ drinks and mega-sized sodas from Burger King and McDonald’s, this average American diet will ultimately lead to chronic disease and rampant sickness. Some favorite foods include pizza and fast food.
Families in Mexico also tend to consume sugary sodas and processed foods, though their fruit and vegetable intake is higher than the United States families observed. The family lists their favorite food items as pizza, pasta, and chicken.
Enjoying some of the same processed items as families from Mexico and the United States, Canadian families do consume processed chips and meats, though you will notice a more prominent display of vegetables and fresh fish on the table. An increased amount of yogurt and cheese is also featured.
Italian families enjoy their bread, pasta, and assorted fruits. With grains a major part of the diet, along with other carbohydrate-rich foods, Italian families tend to forfeit some meal options high in protein for ‘traditional’ Italian dishes like pasta with ragu. While many of these items are fresh or even baked at home, Italian families still consume large amounts of sodas like Pepsi. You can see that this family drinks about 6 larger-sized bottles per week.
This Chinese family prefers fried shredded pork with sweet and sour sauce, listed as their favorite dishes. Eating processed food items mixed with packaged meats and fish, this Chinese family eats more fruits than vegetables, and their produce selection is one of the smallest besides the United States.
This family resides in the developing nation of Chad and spends only the equivalent of $1.23 per week on food to feed the entire family. Their favorite food is soup with fresh sheep meat.
It may surprise you, but this Japanese family consumes a diet high in processed junk and sugary treats. They list their favorite food items as cake, potato chips, and sashimi.
This German family has adopted an American-style nutritional regimen, stating that their favorite foods are pizza, vanilla pudding, fried potatoes, and fried noodles. You may also notice the largely increased amount of beer and other alcoholic drinks over the other nations.
A newly-discovered type of stem cell could be the key to higher thinking in humans, research suggests.
Scientists have identified a family of stem cells that may give birth to neurons responsible for abstract thought and creativity.
The cells were found in embryonic mice, where they formed the upper layers of the brain’s cerebral cortex.
In humans, the same brain region allows abstract thinking, planning for the future and solving problems.
Previously it was thought that all cortical neurons – upper and lower layers – arose from the same stem cells, called radial glial cells (RGCs).
The new research shows that the upper layer neurons develop from a distinct population of diverse stem cells.
Dr Santos Franco, a member of the US team from the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, said: ‘Advanced functions like consciousness, thought and creativity require quite a lot of different neuronal cell types and a central question has been how all this diversity is produced in the cortex.
‘Our study shows this diversity already exists in the progenitor cells.’
In mammals, the cerebral cortex is built in onion-like layers of varying thickness.
The thinner inside layers host neurons that connect to the brain stem and spinal cord to regulate essential functions such as breathing and movement.
The larger upper layers, close to the brain’s outer surface, contain neurons that integrate information from the senses and connect across the two halves of the brain.
Higher thinking functions are seated in the upper layers, which in evolutionary terms are the “newest” parts of the brain.
The new research is reported today in the journal Science.
Growing the stem cells in the laboratory could pave the way to better treatments for brain disorders such as schizophrenia and autism.
You are what you eat, the saying goes. And, according to two new genetic studies, you are what your mother, father, grandparents and great-grandparents ate, too.
Diet, be it poor or healthy, can so alter the nature of one’s DNA that those changes can be passed on to the progeny. While this much has been speculated for years, researchers in two independent studies have found ways in which this likely is happening.
The findings, which involve epigenetics, may help explain the increased genetic risk that children face compared to their parents for diseases such as obesity and diabetes.
Epigenetics refers to changes in gene expression from outside forces. Different from a mutation, epigenetic changes lie not in the DNA itself but rather in its surroundings — the enzymes and other chemicals that orchestrate how a DNA molecule unwinds its various sections to make proteins or even new cells.
Recent studies have shown how nutrition dramatically alters the health and appearance of otherwise identical mice. A group led by Randy Jirtle of Duke University demonstrated how mouse clones implanted as embryos in separate mothers will have radical differences in fur color, weight, and risk for chronic diseases depending on what that mother was fed during pregnancy.
That is, the nutrients or lack of thereof changed the DNA environment in such a way that the identical DNA in these mouse clones expressed itself in very different ways.
Of mice and humans
Building upon this Duke University work, a new study led by Torsten Plosch of University of Groningen, The Netherlands, delineated the numerous ways in which nutrition alters the epigenome of many animals, including adult humans. The paper has been submitted to the journal Biochimie with lead author Josep C. Jimenez-Chillarón of the Paediatric Hospital Sant Joan de Deu, in Spain.
The researchers said that the diet of human adults induces changes in all cells — even sperm and egg cells — and that these changes can be passed on to offspring.
Such effects on a single generation have been known: Children born to mothers during the Dutch famine at the end of WWII had susceptibilities to various diseases later in life, such as glucose intolerance and cardiovascular disease, depending on the timing and extent of the food shortage during pregnancy.
In 2010, Jimenez-Chillaron and his colleagues took this a step further and found that overfed male mouse pups developed the telltale signs of metabolic syndrome — insulin resistance, obesity and glucose intolerance — and passed some of these traits to their offspring, which then developed elements of metabolic syndrome without overeating.
But what still is missing, Jimenez-Chillaron told LiveScience, is an understanding of how such information is remembered from generation to generation. Unlike a gene mutation, all of the epigenetic inputs to the DNA environment should be forgotten when a newly formed embryo begins to divide.
“The dogma is that during the process of meiosis [cell division], all epigenetic marks are erased,” said Jimenez-Chillaron. “But our work, as well as [the work] from many others, suggests that this is not completely true. Although the majority of epigenetic marks is erased, some marks are spared for unknown reasons.”
Attack on the DNA
A second study, led in part by Ram B. Singh of the TsimTsoum Institute in Krakow, Poland, published this month in the Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, examined nutrients that affect the chromatin. The chromatin is like the chemical soup in which DNA operates.
Aside from creating epigenetic marks, Singh’s group speculates that these nutrients also can cause mutations, both good and bad. But the evidence is still inconclusive.
Hints of this were reported in a 2011 paper in Nature by Stanford University scientists who found lingering, positive effects on longevity from nutrition on three generations of the C. elegans worm.
“It is possible that eating more omega-3 fatty acids, choline, betaine, folic acid and vitamin B12, by mothers and fathers, possibly can alter chromatin state and mutations, as well as have beneficial effects…leading to birth of a ‘super baby’ with long life and [lower risk] of diabetes and metabolic syndrome,” Singh told LiveScience. “This is just a possibility, to be proven by more experiments.” [10 New Ways to Eat Well]
Both teams of scientists said that cells in an early state of development are more prone to epigenetic changes from nutrition than adult cells, hence the most notable changes are seen fetuses and infants.
Yet it may be only a matter of time, they added, until there is evidence of how we pass along to subsequent generations the consequences of our own nutritional habits.
Christopher Wanjek is the author of a new novel, “Hey, Einstein!“, a comical nature-versus-nurture tale about raising clones of Albert Einstein in less-than-ideal settings. His column, Bad Medicine, appears regularly on LiveScience.