Is the Keto Diet Right for You?

The Atkins diet introduced back in the 80’s by Robert Atkins was the first ketogenic eating plan intended as a weight loss diet. It was essentially a meat and fat diet broken ever so slightly by a few green leafy carbohydrate vegetables. It pretty much guaranteed weight loss and the absence of hunger.

Atkins ideas were before their time and he was heavily criticized. In recent years, however, much of the value in his diet premise has become quite mainstream. It was the absence of hunger that made it initially successful. However, it was boring and frequently abandoned once the desired weight was achieved – the problem with weight loss diets.

Here is how it worked. You cut your carbohydrate levels to almost nothing. Then when you lost most of the weight you wanted, you started adding back more carbs until weight loss stopped and then you were supposed to stop and eat that forever. This is where the trouble starts. We humans tend to add back in the wrong carbs.

The word “Keto” comes from the liver process that converts body fat into “ketone bodies.” The ketones are then used by the body for energy in lieu of the carbohydrate sugar that isn’t allowed.  When fasting (as in while sleeping or other long periods of not eating) body fat is converted to ketones for energy.  A steady maintenance of low carbohydrate over longer periods of time allows a person to achieve an ongoing production of ketones and weight loss.

The lower the carbs in the diet, the higher the fat in the diet. The calories from fat are supposed to be adjusted downward (lower) as the carbs are allowed to go higher. What frequently happened with Atkins diet folks is they added carbohydrates back into their diet but didn’t change the higher fat consumption.  Oops!

The pattern of percentages allocated to carbs, protein, and fat is referred to by Keto geeks as macros.

From the voice of experience I suggest that counting macros is every bit as hard as counting calories. And in fact you really can’t calculate your macros without first determining how many calories you should be eating. Lots of counting going on.

An intense Ketogenic diet frequently has body composition and health treatment applications beyond any issues of weight loss. At its most intense, the diet usually includes a very small number of vegetable carbohydrates, like maybe 20-30 carbs per day, and LOTS of fat. There will be no fruit, no potatoes, no grains (processed or otherwise.), no beans.

At the grand level, the differences between Paleo and Keto are minor and those differences tend to be “intent” oriented. Paleo intends to prescribe what you can eat based solely on what the paleolithic folks ate. Keto prescribes what you can eat based on the amount of insulin the diet requires for energy digestion and storage.

The minimization of insulin creates the opportunity for body fat to burn and ketones to be created.  Paleo also minimizes insulin but usually doesn’t talk about it. If you need to understand this insulin thing better, read an earlier blog of mine,  The Human Body Design is Magical – Plan B, providing a pretty simple explanation.

Thus Paleo does not do cheese but does allow fruit. Keto is fine for cheese but would really restrict fruit. Otherwise both limit and allow the same foods, just for different reasons. For example, both instruct avoiding commercial grain oils and focusing on olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil.

It is important to remember that an intense ketogenic diet can be very nutrient deficient due to the very low levels of vegetables. Managing those deficiencies needs to be met with supplements. The trick is knowing which supplements. For this reason, the best idea is eating a lot of non-starchy vegetables and eliminating processed foods which are contributing minimal nutrition.

In its simplest form most people can have great Keto success without worrying about macros, calories, fat or nutrient deficiency. I have had conversations with eight people in the last week that simply eliminated sugar and processed food and starches including pasta, bread, all things sweet, minimizing starchy foods like potatoes and rice and eating lots of vegetables.  They report that the weight just seems to melt away with essentially no effort.

A friend just said yesterday that he had figured out that the pasta he had formerly eaten as a base for a shrimp stir-fry was just filler. The part that tastes fabulous is the stir-fry.

Pasta, rice, and potatoes have essentially no flavor of their own. Cauliflower can become faux mashed potatoes or rice. Zucchini can become “zoodles” for zoodles and meatballs or sauce. A tad of creativity can work a miracle. In other words, use whole food vegetables in your diet instead of processed foods. It is within those vegetables that nutrient density resides.

Several things happen with this simple Keto change. The weight starts to come off in a reasonable, paced way. The goal is not quick loss; the goal is losing slowly but surely. Symptoms (aches, bloating, joint pain, etc.) start to disappear. Energy is restored.

Diet change will be easier if you can recruit somebody else to join in the effort. Between the two of you a lot of good recipes can be created and enjoyed. Everyone else will be pretty convinced that life cannot go on without chips, pasta, and French fries.

When your body reaches the right body fat threshold for YOU, you simply stop losing weight. Your body is really pretty smart. You don’t have to think about it. You don’t adjust your diet. Just continue eating a healthy, nutritious diet for the rest of your life.

At the grand level, the differences between Paleo and Keto are minor. Paleo does not allow cheese, Keto does. Paleo allows fruit, Keto doesn’t. Like the Paleo diet, a good case can be made for the Keto diet if you have digestive issues or autoimmune disease(s). Read more about autoimmune disease here.

The high carbohydrate (and calorie) processed foods that generate hunger (a primary cause of overeating) and a source of autoimmune reaction are absent in the Keto diet.The foods included are nutrient dense. One could comfortably eat a simple Keto diet for the rest of their life.

My next column will be around the Mediterranean diet.

Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All about the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Pat is a resident of Montgomery County, AR, president of Ouachita Village, Inc. board of directors (Montgomery County Food Pantry); chairman of the Tasty Acre project; and member of the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors. Her Facebook page is www.facebook.com/patsmithbooks.  Her website is http://allaboutthefood.org/

Is the Paleo Diet for You?

The Paleo diet created by Loren Cordain is designed on the premise that we should only be eating foods that our Paleolithic ancestors could hunt and gather from nature. It isn’t entirely clear that we humans really know what the cavemen ate; after all we weren’t there at the time. But there is general and reasonable consensus that they ate animal meat and plants they could find in the area where they lived.

There has been much hybridization and genetic modification in animals and plants over recent years. It is unlikely we could actually match the diet of the cavemen. For example, the fruit we eat today did not exist in its current form 10,000 years ago. Modifications have made the fruit much sweeter (and much more attractive) than nature apparently intended.

In its strictest form, the Paleo diet includes meat/fish/eggs, non-starchy vegetables, fruit, and healthy fats like avocado, olive, and coconut. Most fruit has minimal fat but note that these fats are extracted from fruit.

Absent in this strict version are dairy, all grain, legumes (beans) and commercial oils made from grain (such as corn, canola, soybean, etc). Our Paleolithic forbearers didn’t have cows to milk, cookbooks to read, someone to somehow extract/process grain into oil. They got all the fat they needed in the meat. Also excluded are all processed foods, sugar, and artificial sweeteners.

The foods excluded in a strict Paleo diet tend to be those that many folks have difficulty digesting and cause autoimmune or allergic reactions.  In the typical autoimmune “elimination” diet, these are definitely the foods on the first elimination list.You can read about autoimmunity on my website, www.allaboutthefood.org.

The Paleo diet can be and frequently is modified although Loren Cordain will not approve. For example, if dairy is not a digestive issue for you, then some will add in dairy. Legumes contain anti-nutrients that impact digestion and reduce the availability of minerals. However, there are ways to prepare beans to minimize those issues. My book has a chapter, “What the Heck is Phytic Acid”, that describes the way to prepare legumes.

A good case can be made for a Paleo diet, particularly if you have digestive issues or autoimmune disease(s). Absent are the high carbohydrate (and by extension, calorie) processed foods that generate hunger and are a primary cause of overeating.

While information you read on the Paleo diet doesn’t mention “ketones,” the mark of a Ketogenic diet, the elimination of processed foods is absolutely going to result in the burning of body fat. That “burning” creates the ketones you will read about in the discussion of a Ketogenic diet.

Following the Paleo diet with reasonable care eliminates a need to count calories. Foods can be made to look and taste good. Whole foods included are nutrient dense. Paleo is touted as a healthy diet but it will inevitably be a weight loss diet if you are carrying extra weight. Weight can be be lost and kept off because adherence to the diet is easy. One can comfortably eat a Paleo diet long term.

Next week we will examine the Keto diet.

What Diet Will Allow You to Lose Weight and Keep It Off?

More and more often I talk to folks who are on a certain “diet.” The big question for them is, how can you keep the weight off permanently? Anyone who has ever done some serious calorie cutting or Weight Watchers knows, weight can be lost and then regained with great ease.

Over the next few weeks my blogs will focus on the currently popular “diets” like Paleo, Keto, and Mediterranean. I will describe each one, highlight the pro’s and con’s, and clarify how this diet might be particularly helpful for some.

My primary purpose is to help you decide which diet will allow you to lose the weight AND keep it off.

Today the discussion is the standard American diet (SAD), the default diet of the vast majority of Americans today. This diet is both high in carbohydrate and fat. This is not a planned diet; nobody goes down a list and purposely selects a SAD diet. It just happens because we have eaten it all our lives and our taste buds like it a lot.

So here’s the deal. Carbohydrate (sugar) and fat are the primary sources of energy in your food. Vegetables don’t have much sugar. Starches have TONS. The amount of total energy you eat BEYOND what is required for your body to keep going will result in lots of body fat and eventually illness.  So with that in mind —

The typical SAD diet is heavy with starchy commercially processed food, stuff like pasta, bread (bread and more bread), chips of every possible combination (double row aisle at the grocery), cereals, sweet any-and-everything, fried any-and-everything.

If you start with pasta (high starch) and then make it taste good with the addition of butter, cream, cheese, you have a high carb starch/high fat food. It is essentially impossible to make a sweet anything without both flour (high carb starch), sugar (high carb) and fat in the crust (high fat); you have a high carb/high fat food. Ice cream is carbohydrate (sugar) and fat.

Fried food inevitably seems to need a batter, flour or cornmeal, (high carb starch) and then fry it up in oil. The oil gets absorbed and voila’, high fat. Bread (including corn bread) is just high carb starch, period. It’s the volume along with the fat you spread on it (butter) or dip it into (olive oil) or ladle over it (gravy which is both flour {high carb starch} and fat {high fat}. And then there are pancakes with butter and syrup.

So you can see how it sneaks up on you. A diet that is a combination of high carb (starch or plain old sugar) and high fat is going to be a major overload of energy and just guaranteed to put on and keep putting on the weight.

Sugar in any form digests quickly in your body, gets delivered to your cells quickly, and your brain suggests (firmly) that you have used up available energy in your blood and should eat again. This is called “hunger.” It’s so hard to ignore your brain.

You don’t get hungry based on the number of calories eaten. You get hungry because the energy consumed from sugar has been used up and appetite rears its ugly head.

The SAD diet often consists of three meals plus innumerable snacks (or perpetual snacking all day.)  The inevitable excess energy consumed (both in sugar and fat) will be stored somewhere in body fat, over and over again.

Whole vegetables and fruits are natural sources of small amounts of carbohydrates, minimal fat, and a plethora of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients you can’t do without. On the other hand, processed foods that are made primarily of starch (wheat, corn, soy, and other grains as well as root vegetables like potatoes) are extremely high in carbohydrates (sugar), tasteless on their own until they are augmented with fat or even more sugar, and nutrient deficient.

Plus plain old sugar and grain based starches are most often the primary causes of autoimmune dysfunctions like arthritis, lupus, etc. Everything likely to spark an autoimmune response is common in this diet. Read more about autoimmune diseases here.

In other words, overfed, undernourished, and sick. This isn’t the best option for good health.

Weight can be lost and managed on the SAD diet by tightly controlling calories. But this is difficult to do (particularly long term) because, regardless of calories, hunger soon returns. Hunger is impossible to ignore. You might exercise enough will power to get past it part of the time but you won’t ignore it.

Counting calories and exercising will-power every day for the rest of your life is an almost overwhelming idea that just takes the joy out of eating. The only pro I can find in the SAD diet is it is convenient. Everything else is a con.

Next week we will take a look at the Paleo diet. Perhaps that will work better.

 

How Does Exceeding Your Body Fat Capacity Make You Sick?

In a recent post, Seriously Now – How Much Can I Afford to Weigh?,  my message was that the fat capacity of any individual, the point at which fat cells are full and cannot store more fat, is the key to the many inevitable manifestations of ill health associated with obesity.

As that post describes, it isn’t how much you weigh. It’s not if you are obese or even if you are thin. Its how much more you can weigh without getting sick.

Your fat capacity (technically called fat threshold) is genetically defined; it is what it is. The question is how does exceeding that threshold make you sick and what can you do about it?  In the end, it all boils down to understanding insulin.

The symptom of diabetes is high blood sugar. Just the symptom. But the cause of diabetes is excessive insulin (technically called hyperinsulinemia) followed by the inevitable insulin resistance. And excessive insulin has many more health consequences than diabetes.

Insulin is a hormone like cortisol or estrogen and many others. Under normal circumstances each and every hormone in your body increases and decreases as required over time and isn’t supposed to stay persistently high. Anytime one hormone stays high for a long time, body cell receptors recognize the error and resist accepting the hormone. It might be floating around in your blood but it isn’t doing its job.

Consider cortisol, a stress hormone.

Quoting from WebMD, “Cortisol receptors — which are in most cells in your body — receive and use the hormone in different ways. Your needs will differ from day to day. For instance, when your body is on high alert, cortisol can alter or shut down functions that get in the way. These might include your digestive or reproductive systems, your immune system, or even your growth processes.”

“— (once) the pressure or danger has passed, your cortisol level should calm down. Your heart, blood pressure, and other body systems will get back to normal. But what if you’re under constant stress and the alarm button stays on?”

When stress and cortisol levels remain persistently high, receptors resist. Consequently all those happy things that are supposed to happen from the normal body use of cortisol get whacked up.

Now let’s consider insulin.

At the simplest possible level, when everything is working as intended, three things are of particular importance.

(1) Insulin permits glucose in the blood to deliver to body cells for the production of energy. It also allows the liver to store a small amount of that energy in backup glucose storage (glycogen).

(2) When excess energy is available (beyond that required for energy production and glucose storage in the liver/) the liver converts the extra into fat and insulin permits that fat energy to be stored as body fat.

(3) And because glucose and fat are not supposed to wandering around in the blood at the same time, insulin also stops fat cells from releasing fat freely into the blood. When insulin is low fat cells are permitted to release fat, also used for energy as plan B.

Here is how resistance starts.

The occasional higher insulin demand attached to a meal (or a piece of cake) is not a problem. But when the diet (or some other factor like stress, illness, medication) results in a persistent amount of insulin in the blood stream, resistance first build up in the body cells, muscles as an example. The message from the cells is “I have all the energy I need and I don’t want any more.”

The resistance fails to permit the delivery of the glucose. Hiding behind all that glucose in the blood stream is an increasing level of insulin working to compensate for the excess glucose. And it works, at least for a while.

Eventually the high blood sugar levels damage the pancreas (the maker of insulin) and its ability to generate insulin is compromised. Then blood glucose goes even higher. Understand that the persistently high blood sugar alone (without consideration of the insulin effect) also damages the kidneys, the eyes, the brain, the blood vessels, nerves, etc.

In the face of insulin resistance in the body cells, the liver is working hard converting the excess glucose into fat, which is then permitted to go into fat storage. Note that the last place that insulin resistance develops is in fat cells.

Excess insulin, excess fat. So you can conclude all on your own that obesity is the result of excess insulin.

NOW, when you reach the fat capacity of your fat storage, there is a new problem. The fat cells now develop their own insulin resistance. “Nope, there is no more room here either, do something else with that stuff.”

And it’s not just an ability to store more fat that is blocked. One of the jobs of insulin was to keep fat in the fat cells when the blood stream is dealing with glucose. But in the presence of insulin resistance, the fat cells don’t hold on to the fat already there. It starts to spill over into the blood. Fat and glucose are not supposed to be present continuously at the same time.

Remember that the look and feel of a person’s body fat may not reflect the capacity problem. There are examples in my previous article. But the problem is exactly the same, obviously obese (diabetic or not) or looking fine (but diabetic). The fat has to go somewhere. Nothing just disappears in the human body.

When your capacity for subcutaneous fat is reached, energy is already not storing properly. Blood sugar goes higher and higher. Your cholesterol and triglyceride levels get too high. You start to have heart trouble. Your blood pressure goes up. Your (other) hormones get messed up and you have lots of symptoms. And your liver has to figure out where to put that excess energy that can’t be stored in your fat cells.

The only option open is to stuff the fat in and around your muscles and body organs like the liver, pancreas, kidneys, and heart. So you have non-alcoholic fatty liver and then the doctor gets really excited.

We have now arrived at the end of the journey that started with continuously high levels of insulin and ended in a very bad place.

The fix for this problem has to come from where it started –  with high insulin. What usually starts accumulation of body fat from high insulin is diet.

It sometimes takes only a small reduction in body fat to get below your fat capacity threshold. This may not take extraordinary effort. Rather, even just a reduction in carbohydrate foods that require a lot of insulin may be all that is required. These are invariably processed foods in sacks and boxes, primarily including sugar (pies, cakes, cookies) and starches – starches like grain (wheat, corn, etc as in flour and cereal) and root vegetables (potatoes).

It is actually remarkable how quickly body fat can disappear with that dietary change.

Sometimes we hate changing. But considering the long term health implications of high insulin described above, it is certainly worth a shot.

Just remember that whatever dietary change you employ, it needs to be permanent and not a one-time shot. Otherwise you just put the fat back on and the cycle starts all over again.

Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All about the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Pat is a resident of Montgomery County, AR, president of Ouachita Village, Inc. board of directors (Montgomery County Food Pantry); chairman of the Tasty Acre project; and member of the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors. Her website is http://allaboutthefood.org/

What do Diabetes and Epilepsy have in common?

This morning I watched a youtube presentation from the latest low-carb summit (Low Carb Breck 2018) by Dr. Eric Kossoff, specialist in epileptic children and ketogenic diets.  It brought back a memory. Two years ago I wandered the aisles in the health food store in Hot Springs looking for a low carb protein powder I could use to make faux pizza crust. As a diabetic I don’t “do” grain but occasionally would like to create a substitute. The sales clerk was very interested in my mission because her daughter is epileptic and treated with a ketogenic diet. Apparently this diet had almost completely eliminated her daughter’s seizures. So the question is, what do diabetes and epilepsy have in common? Continue reading

Are you a captive of your genes – what are genes?

Has anyone in your family had cancer, heart disease, or diabetes? Does that means you are destined to have these or any other conditions? Your thought, “It’s just in my genes?” Or are you of the notion that this is just bad luck and your luck will be better?

You can’t see them or touch them but your genes are literally who you are. But that doesn’t mean you are their captive. Read how I tested my DNA, what I learned about myself, and what it might mean for you.

What are genes and do I care?

You have no idea what causes any of those (or any other) illnesses. You think maybe there is a cancer or diabetes “gene” hiding out somewhere. You have no idea how to avoid something that is “just in my genes.”

Take a deep breath. Except in the rarest of cases, there is no one cancer, or any other disease “gene.” While the “genes” you inherited from your parents are definite players in your health, understanding them can make it possible to prevent or avoid conditions that will just make you feel bad before you finally just roll over and die.

We are all going to die, sooner or later. It’s just a question of when and how miserable we are willing to be before it happens. You are totally in charge of deciding what you accept as inevitable. You are rarely a slave to your genes unless you decide to be.

This first post in the series Are You a Captive of Your Genes answers the first question. What are genes and what do they do?  Clear that up right away so everything else will make sense.

What the heck are genes and DNA?

Inside every cell of your body (trillions of them by the way) are 46 chromosomes, half supplied by your mother and half your father. Within each chromosome is a really long string of DNA, packaged together into about 20,000 genes.

The DNA within that complete set of your 20,000 or so genes (a package called your  genome) is the operational instructions that make you, you. It would be nice if there was a written operations manual for your body like there is for a car, but it’s just too dang complicated. Scientists have only just recently completed a gene/DNA inventory and they will be trying to write the manual forever.

Anyway, one thing we know is that essentially every single cell in your body has the exact same set of genes, all 20,000 of them. The cells are associated in unique configurations so that you will have body parts and organs. Obviously an eye, your skin, and your heart (as examples) are there for different reasons. They don’t look and act the same. That means that genes required for eyes are sitting silent in heart cells because they aren’t needed.

Some genes, on the other hand, aren’t making body parts. Rather they are used in every  cell to maintain and keep your system working. These genes are sometimes silent and sometimes active (called expressed) depending on the situation.  Sorta like your hot water heater. When the water gets cold, the heater turns on. When the water gets hot enough, the heater turns off.

The string of DNA in any one gene could be from 300 to over a million nucleotide pairs long. So that will give you an idea how long that DNA string is.

This short animation created by Stated Clearly does a really nice job of covering the basics. Take a look before you read on.

The video is very good at showing normal. However, in real life there are many variations not necessarily meeting the standard for normal .

Do our inherited genes “match”?

The DNA strands in your genes are packed together in sets, one copy from each of your parents. But the DNA from our parent’s genes don’t necessarily match perfectly at the nucleotide level and thus begins variations in DNA sequences that can make a unique difference is how an individual’s body works.

Here is the deal. There is no perfect genetic makeup. Every Hyundai Elantra (my car) may be constructed and operate exactly the same. but the human body just doesn’t work that way. Why? Because we inherit our DNA from two living, breathing human beings who are not identical.

DNA sequence variations occur when the copies from the two parents don’t match. Happens all the time. These variations are called SNPs, pronounced snips and also called “polymorphisms.”

So, you ask, are these mutations? Not really. A gene mutation is a very rare occurrence unique to you that is usually caused by some event. A polymorphism (SNP) is a common variation in DNA shared sometimes by many people. At a pretty benign level, for example, SNP variations say whether you have blue eyes or brown eyes.

As the video showed, genes code for proteins  Everything in your body is made of protein. Many of those proteins are enzymes  that kick-start various processes. Those enzymes usually require nutrients (vitamins, minerals, amino and fatty acids) in the food you should be eating as co-factors for the enzymes. Our genes and the enzymes they produce could be perfectly normal but won’t work because the nutritional co-factors are not present. I explained enzymes and nutrients in my book, It’s All about the Food.

So how do I figure out what /will or won’t happen? What are my risks?

You are at risk of an accident when you get behind the wheel of the car and pull out on the road. But that doesn’t mean you actually will. It depends on the condition of your car and tires, your driving skills, what fool you get near on the road, the weather, if you text and drive, etc. etc. Do you get the point?

Consider the various systems in your car to be composed of genes (parts). When your car is cruising down the road, those systems are working together in perfect harmony.. When one system, say the electrical system, has a problem what is the symptom? If the window won’t close on the driver side, this doesn’t stop the car from running but it’s going to get a bit soggy in there if it rains.

Let’s stretch this car idea out a bit further. Here is how the car works, at least partially, as described by David McGuffin. 

“When the ignition key is turned in a car, the battery sends a high voltage jolt of electricity to the starter, which transfers the electrical energy into mechanical energy as it cranks the flywheel. As the flywheel is turned, fuel is injected and exploded in the pistons, which are connected to the crankshaft, gears and axle”.

A lot of places for things to go wrong. The more deficiencies in any of those individual parts OR connections between those parts, the more potential for failure you have. Maybe things work fine if you don’t go over, say, 30 mph. Maybe things work fine unless its raining or you turn on the AC.

Clearly some things are wrong. iIf you can’t fix the problems, this is your sunshine, cool weather, slow driving-around-town car.

Your body is exactly the same. It has a lot of genes with long strands of enclosed DNA. Some of those genes seem to be of minor import (think window won’t open) . Others can cause a varying cascade of operational difficulties depending on the number of variations in the DNA strands.You don’t want to have a sunshine, cool weather, slow driving-around-town body if you can help it..

There are likely to be symptoms. Generally speaking the more strand variations (SNPS) within any one gene or the more variations within any one connecting system of genes, the more potential for failure. Often if you stay within certain bounds, problems can be avoided. Step over the line ——

This is vastly oversimplified but I think it makes the point.

Symptoms?

For most people, ongoing symptoms are a clue that their genetics may be at play. Symptoms can be minor and easily avoidable, like an inability to eat oranges. Symptoms can also be major, ongoing streams of digestive issues or major health conditions. I have very few symptoms but I do have a few. For example, I am a type 2 diabetic.

With absolutely no knowledge of DNA and its implications, I have almost accidentally  (albeit a bit late) elected lifestyle, diet, and environmental controls that have minimized the negative potential associated with my SNPs. Now that I have some understanding of my genetic makeup, I can see how many symptoms I might have had, had I not made those lifestyle choices.

So what did my DNA test tell me?

There isn’t a book handed down from above that explains what each and every SNP means or might cause. The complete mapping of the human genome was only recently completed, providing an inventory of genes and DNA. Remember those number mentioned above? To have accomplished that at all is remarkable.

With that amazing accomplishment scientists continue asking and answering more and more questions, researching the relationship between SNP variations, the operation of the body, and illnesses. They are only beginning to discover the consequences of variations.

That means what I tell you in this series of posts is just what science know so far.

Upcoming posts

I have some SNPs suggesting increased risk for certain kinds of cancer. I should point out that, to my knowledge, no one in my mother or father’s families had cancer. But the whole bunch on my dad’s side had diabetes AND smoked. Read about DNA and cancer in my next post.

I have some major SNPs in several connecting systems that interfere with the metabolism of folate, vitamin B9. Most of us have no idea what folate is or why its important. But the implications of those SNPs can be really big.

The vast majority of people (that would include you) have some version of these SNP variations, probably different from mine. This may not sound like a big deal to you but I encourage you to watch for Part 3 – MTHFR before you decide that for sure.

I also have multiple SNPs reflecting an increased risk for type 2 diabetes. No kidding (sarcasm)! I know now that I am a type 2 diabetic so these SNP variations don’t exactly come as a surprise. I might have figured that out and addressed it many years ago if I had known to be interested in my family history. Or I might have just thought I might be lucky. As I said above, stack up the variations and your chances increase. What that means to me (and probably you) will be in Part 4 – Diabetes

Other interesting news not warranting a future post.

Lots of good news. I found some SNPs that are protective against heart attacks. The only heart attack in either of my parent’s families was the result of an enlarged heart caused by childhood rheumatic fever.  And I do NOT have the APOE gene SNP that is quite risky for a variety of health issues, the most significant of which is Alzheimer’s. Nor do I have the gene polymorphism that interferes with the metabolism of vitamin D.  Reductions in risk are good news.

On the other hand, I have four gene polymorphisms (SNPs) individually reducing by up to 60% my ability to converts beta carotene from plants to vitamin A. Vitamin A  is a critical vitamin and there are two alternative sources, one from plants and another from animal foods. God has lots of these little back up plans.

So I’m running short on the beta carotene to vitamin A conversion option, The other source of vitamin A is active (doesn’t require conversion) in animal protein and I do eat my share of that. So this is not big deal to me. But if I were a vegan or a vegetarian I might be in trouble without this knowledge.

In summary

Each of your parents bequeathed you half of your DNA. That DNA is paired together in 20,000 or so genes. and essentially every cell in your body has an identical set of genes. The pairings of the DNA within the genes do not always match. The variations in pairings (called SNPS)  can change how effective your genes are in doing their individual jobs. Sometimes those SNPs will protect you from or put you at risk for diseases or chronic conditions.

If for some reason a gene isn’t doing its job effectively, eventually you will have symptoms, a clue that something is awry. However, you are totally in charge of deciding to accept awry as inevitable illness. You are not a slave to your genes unless you decide to be.”

Watch for the next post – You are not a slave of your genes – cancer – to learn how you and I can minimize our risk for cancer. .  .

.Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All About the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Pat is a resident of Montgomery County, AR, president of Ouachita Village, Inc. board of directors (Montgomery County Food Pantry),  chairman of the Tasty Acre project, and member of the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors.