Debunking myths on genetics and DNA

Friday, January 8, 2016

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans are here. And Americans should read them.

Rigatoni pomodorini e tonno. 

Today the FDA released the updated Dietary Recommendations for the USA. The whole document is available on the Internet for free, and you should read it:

People are going to hate me for this post, but I'm going to post it anyway because somebody needs to say it. When I open Facebook, half of the posts are about how women should love their bodies. What gets me is that nobody says that loving your body is not only about accepting the way you look. Overweight is not healthy. You are not loving your body unless you adopt a healthy lifestyle.

From the guidelines released today:
"In addition, the eating patterns of many are too high in calories. Calorie intake over time, in comparison to calorie needs, is best evaluated by measuring body weight status. The high percentage of the population that is overweight or obese suggests that many in the United States overconsume calories. As documented in the Introduction, Table I-1, more than two-thirds of all adults and nearly one-third of all children and youth in the United States are either overweight or obese."
I look around and I don't see a healthy society. What's even more saddening is that I see young people getting more and more overweight. This is particularly bad because the way the body stores fat is something that is shaped during childhood. Epigenetic marks that regulate the usage and storage of nutrients are set during childhood and are highly affected by the diet. So, a diet high in fats will make a person prone to diabetes and all sorts of health problems.

But this is epigenetics, not genetics. This means that these marks are reversible if you catch them in time. On the other hand, if you don't do anything about it, these epigenetic marks will be passed on to your children and, chances are, to your children's children. In fact, I believe that many of the overweight kids we see today have inherited the marks from their parents. Coupled with an unhealthy lifestyle acquired from home, you have a recipe for disaster: more health bills and a lifetime dependency on medications and their side effects.

America, is this where you want to go?

I grew up on a Mediterranean diet and I never had to go on a weight loss diet in my life. Contrary to what you've been told, carbs are not bad for your health unless you have diabetes or an allergy to gluten. And on a side note, the growing rate of allergies is again the biproduct of unhealthy life styles. And let's face it: anything will make you fat when overconsumed. The key to health is balance

The Mediterranean diet is one of the easiest to adopt and it's scientifically proven to provide long-term health benefits [2,3]. Below you can find two of the many papers on how adherence to the Mediterranean diet was found to lower the risk for certain cancers and circulatory diseases. You can find many more on Pubmed

Pasta makes for fast and easy recipes, and you can add proteins and vegetables for a complete meal. I shared some recipes here. The image above is another super easy one: Rigatoni Pomodorini e Tonno. All you need is a box of pasta, a can of tuna fillets (I prefer the ones that come in a glass jar, they are a bit more expensive, but the taste and quality are way better), a small container of fresh cherry tomatoes, olive oil, and oregano. 

Half the cherry tomatoes and sauteed them in two tablespoons of olive oil for a few minutes. Add the tune fillets, salt, pepper and oregano, and let simmer for a few minutes. Cook the pasta al dente, drain it and toss it in the pan. Mix well and serve. Voila', a healthy meal is served. :-)

[1] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (2015). Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, Eigth Edition DOI: 10.1037/e516742014-001

[2] Mancini, J., Filion, K., Atallah, R., & Eisenberg, M. (2015). Systematic Review of the Mediterranean Diet for Long-Term Weight Loss The American Journal of Medicine DOI: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2015.11.028

[3] Schwingshackl L, & Hoffmann G (2015). Adherence to Mediterranean diet and risk of cancer: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Cancer medicine PMID: 26471010


  1. That does sound yummy. Do you think I could substitute chicken? Hubby HATES tuna.

    I think what you said needs to be said. Accepting yourself is great, but we should also strive to better ourselves and be healthy. There's a reason people who lose weight feel better. You can love yourself and still lose weight if you're overweight.

    1. yes, exactly!

      and I bet it would be yummy with chicken too! though if you haven't tried the tune fillets that come in a jar, you might want to give it a try because compared to those the canned tuna is yucky! This is what I buy (and yes, it does cost a bit more, but for a reason):

      But absolutely, tried it with chicken and let me know :-)

  2. I have to wonder if a part of the obesity problem for we Boomers stems from our parents experiences in the Great Depression. They saw privations then that haven't been seen since in the developed world. I know my mother fried everything in bacon grease and was forever adding butter to most anything.
    Certainly that is not the whole issue, but I do suspect it's part of it.
    Great post, Elena, thanks and I'll keep an eye out for tuna fillets in a jar!

    1. yes, my grandma overfed all of her kids because the starvation she suffered during the war was still such a vivid memory for her.

  3. Well said! Carbs are not the enemy. We consume a lot of carbs at my house, and my wife and I are both within our target weights and with low BMI's. People who go on high protein diets don't understand the damage that can also do to a body.
    I'll never forget visiting London with my wife a few years back and seeing all the thin British people walking around. Sadly, you could easily spot the Americans - they were the fat ones.

    1. people need to understand that this is the new plague of our society... it needs global intervention, and unfortunately, I'm starting to see the same trend in Europe too ...

  4. One more comment if I may, Elena. Another societal factor that contributes to obesity as a whole is "food deserts" a counter-intuitive term that means that healthy food is simply not available in some areas. Generally food deserts are found in low income areas where people tend to walk to the 7-11 for giant slurpees and Twinkies because a) they have no transportation and b) the nearest grocery is several miles away.

    1. That's an excellent point Mike. In fact, we've driven through parts of NM that were exactly like that and all you could see was walmart. The sad reality is that eating healthy these day is a privilege reserved to those who can afford it. :-(

  5. I love pizza and pasta, so I think I would find it quite easy to follow that kind of diet. Scary to think that obesity is something you can pass on. It's a vicious cycle and definitely something we're seeing a lot in the UK too.

  6. Thanks, Mom. I knew you cared about me and I promise to do better. Love the recipes by the way. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  7. I think one of the biggest things is what people eat. We consume way too many prepared foods rather than eating whole, fresh things. Rather than reaching for celery, they go for french fries, etc.


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