Recently, I’ve been trying to change my diet to one that is healthier and more ‘natural’ focused. From an evolutionary standpoint, our diets probably consisted mostly of vegetables and plants and some nuts (when the season was right); meat was probably more on occasion, as it was clearly harder to acquire with less tools. While this is a general conclusion, it would really depend on the resources in a given environment. Thus, an interesting question is how diet affects the genetics of a population over time. An example of this is Inuits, living in a cold climate whose primary diet is fish/fatty animals forces them to ingest a fair amount of fats, and over time they have developed lower testosterone levels (when compared to say, Scandinavian men).
Now, a thought of analogy came to my mind when thinking about this.
The brain of a child has yet to differentiate, so that early experiences have a somewhat larger impact on creating structure in the brain. Thus, we can think of early childhood experiences as creating a general framework or structure, and later life experiences almost ‘filling in’ or ‘fleshing out’ that framework with more experiences and details, which have less impact on creating the overall structure. The thought of analogy is:
How does diet play a role in creating this early overall ’structure’ or ‘framework’ in the brain? Put another way, how does early life diet affect how the body responds to different diets later in life? Does early diet ‘predispose’ an organism to process food and nutrients in a certain way?
Basically, the thought is that a child’s body and brain ‘learn’ what kind of nutrients they are getting at a young age, i.e. high protein (lots of meat, maybe savannah), high carb (lots of grains, plains), etc. The brain then begins to ‘get used to’ or ‘expect’ this kind of diet, and then signals different genes to turn on and turn off in response to this diet; some of these genes could be told to turn off forever, meaning that adulthood expression would be much different! There are probably genes that are for short term food processing(such as processing lactic acid, for example - the gene gets promoted with enzymes when lactic acid is detected in the stomach) and genes for long term processing and weight loss.
Some evidence of this would be how we know that early diet can affect height and growth. Namely, if children are malnourished through puberty, they have a smaller height on average. This is because the body and brain ‘identify’ that there is not very much food in this environment, and so the child’s growth is stunted to conserve energy in the long run, as a small organism expels less energy than a larger organism. When I say this, I mean that the body was not subjected to certain cues that indicated that it should grow tall; these cues could be, for instance, a certain threshold of nutrients that the body has ingested over time, which cause a certain growth promoter enzyme to bind to a gene that led to the creation of different proteins that ultimately led (or didn’t lead) to some sort of expression.
Thus, the early life diet has probably has a huge effect on later life, such as weight management / nutrient absorption / fat storage & loss / muscle growth.
The vision is that you would want to turn on as many good ‘long term’ genes as possible, such as the ones that easily convert fat into energy, have a low fat percentage / high muscle content, etc. From here, the question is:
How would you tailor an early life diet to match the desired adulthood characteristics?
For example, if I wanted to do everything I could to be Basketball player, maybe I would eat high protein and meat all the time to promote the long term genes to activate.