A few years back I was scrolling through some headlines and I came across an article, titled something along the lines of What Your Grandma Ate Affects You and it caught me eye. That makes sense, right? I have a box stuffed to bursting with the recipes of my dad’s mother. Her most famous meals and sheet cakes have long outlived her. Food is cultural. It’s family. It’s heritage.
Reading the article, though, I found that they weren’t talking about family food cultures at all. They meant LITERALLY. As in my very DNA, my genetic makeup, my -what I now call- my “Health Inheritance” has a whole heck of a lot to do with what my GRANDMOTHERS ate. (Newer research holds dad’s responsible too, by the way.) According to the study, done with lab rats, I am 30% more likely to develop breast cancer if one of my grandmother’s consumed typical American diet.
The article introduced me to the word “Epigenetics” so of course I had to go do a little more digging and what I found was MIND-BLOWING.
But let’s rewind a little bit.
Because I NEED to talk to you about cats. If you read my story, you’ll know that back in the history of Heather, I did a whole heck of a lot of researching vegan and raw foods. And back then I learned of this study that Raw Foodists especially love to talk about. It was conducted back in the 1930s by a Dr. Francis Pottenger. It was a 10 year, multigenerational study on cats. I forget his reasons for beginning the experiment, but the bottom line was: He broke this group of cats into a control group and a study group and the control group was fed raw meats while the study group was fed cooked, processed meat.
Pottenger found, almost immediately that his study group began to be more lethargic than usual. Less playful, less interested in doing cat-like things, and eventually developing some degenerative diseases and other health concerns. Meanwhile, the control group continued in excellent health and plenty of cat-like behaviors.
The cats did their cat things, and a second generation was born and a third generation… All the while the control group being healthy and active and happy and the study group becoming more and more sick. These cats developed all types of degenerative diseases and many of the conditions we see so often today like obesity and diabetes and heart disease and allergies and hypothyroidism and infertility.
And here’s the kicker. Only a very small handful of kittens were born to that fourth generation of the study group. And all of them died before they reached adulthood. ALL OF THEM DIED. A group of cats -over 100 cats were involved in this study- produced a generation of cats unable to reproduce itself. A dead stop to a life cycle that has worked since the beginning of time.
So, I’m reading this article about my grandma and breast cancer and I’m thinking of how I don’t know one single person -not one single person- who hasn’t had at the very least one loved one die from cancer, and then all the sudden I remember that study I’d read years earlier about cats and I realize the two are very much connected and then all I could thing of was this country that I love and how very VERY doomed we are if we don’t make some changes and NOW. Because we are ON this third and fourth generation. We are now at a place for the first time ever in the history of the world that WE are expected to outlive our children, assuming we can even conceive and birth those children in the first place.
So I looked into learning more about this thing called Epigenetics I learned that there is HOPE. Because yes, while we’ve inherited our genetic presets, we also have the ability to turn on and turn off those genetic markers, those genetic presets in our own bodies, through our own choices. I can’t help my grandmother’s sweet tooth, but I can help mine. And just because diabetes is up and down and dripping off of my family tree, doesn’t mean that it’s just a matter of time before I have it too. I have choice.
We chose how we think, eat, move, and play and those choices will make all the difference to the quality and outcomes of our lives, so chose well, right?