Is dietary advice a personal thing?

Biohacking is a growing trend whose followers regard their own bodies and brains as machines that can be optimized by adding “fuel” of various kinds. Diet and various supplements are essential parts, and many biohackers follow extreme diets and eating schedules. All activities – physical exercise, meditation, sleep, and more – are carefully regulated. The effect is measured in different ways, preferably in real-time with heart rate, blood pressure/blood sugar meters, thermometers, etc. Some have even operated electrodes into their bodies to be able to measure and stimulate various functions.

For most of us, this is quite extreme, but at the same time, it pinpoints something important. Namely that we are affected a lot by both how we live and what we eat, and that different people are affected in different ways. For example, some people seem to be able to eat as much legumes as they like, while others get a stomach ache from a small amount. Some can go a whole day without food, while others will almost faint at ten o’clock in the morning if they have not had a proper breakfast. How much alcohol different people tolerate is another example. And why can I no longer eat as much as I did when I was younger?

What really decides? There is constantly new research in the field. It is apparent that things as heredity (genetics), environment (epigenetics), and intestinal flora shape each of us into individuals with unique needs.

An example of the former is our ability to tolerate lactose. In most parts of the world, that ability disappears after childhood. But among native northerners, many adults can still drink milk. It is believed that this is due to a genetic change – mutation – that occurred about ten thousand years ago. Up here in the north, the supply of food was minimal. Starvation gave those who could convert milk sugar to glucose an advantage and favored this genetic heritage.

And the environment affects us! There are, e.g., exciting studies that show that the mother’s way of life both before (also applies to the father) and during pregnancy impacts the child’s future health.

The intestinal flora – the set of billions of bacteria in the gut that form an essential part of our immune system – is also an important part of the puzzle that makes up our metabolism. It varies a lot between different individuals, and attempts have been made to divide people into groups according to which bacteria dominate in their gut. The intestinal flora begins to develop when we are born. It is greatly affected by which bacteria we encounter early in life. That is why research on the importance of vaginal birth versus cesarean section and breastfeeding versus breast milk replacement is so necessary and exciting. And that also applies to when we ​​then choose to expose the youngest children to potential allergens such as peanuts and fish to teach the immune system that they are not dangerous.

Most people agree that a diet high in fat and red meat decreases the intestine’s ability to exclude harmful substances from reaching the bloodstream. In contrast, a varied diet with lots of vegetables, whole grains, and acidic products feeds the good intestinal bacteria that help keep both the gut and us healthy. Personally, I think it says a lot that it is possible to transplant intestinal bacteria from a healthy person to a sick person and get rid of certain diseases.

…and here are some links to research articles related to the subject:

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langas/article/PIIS2468-1253(17)30154-1/fulltext

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3752894/

https://www.thelancet.com/series/preconception-health

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7336325/

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