01:34 GMT +320 October 2018
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    Brave New World

    Are You Really What You Eat?

    Brave New World
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    John Harrison
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    In recent years the whole conversation about sections of society being dumbed down because of the quality of the food that they eat is bring voiced. This, however, is an extremely complex subject and it is easy to over simplify. In this program a Russian biologist introduces some of the issues involved.

    Alexander Oleskin, a Doctor of Science at Moscow State University, and an expert in the link between biology and human societies joins the program.

    Alexandre states at the beginning of the program that there are differences between the diets of people living in different geographical regions, particularly between the diets of people living in the North and the South. He points out that such differences were first pointed out but the French writer and philosopher Montesquieu, and that his writing laid the framework for what later came to be called biopolitics. Alexandre stresses, however, that microbes living in our guts drastically change the composition of what we eat. "Like customs officers, these bugs go through the food that we take in. They remove some of the food components and at the same time enrich the food with their own products which seem to have an impact on our nervous system, our psyche and therefore on our behavior…."

    Host John Harrison explains that there is a theory that people who are on a low income eat, generally speaking, more carbohydrates than people who are further up the income ladder and that their awareness, not just weight, is affected by this. Alexandre gives a qualified yes to this theory. "But food is not the only problem we are facing; stress levels also play a large role….Stress can increase our desire to eat, Chinese, even the most affluent, are stressed…." A heated discussion ensures as regarding young Chinese, many of whom, in the opinion of the host, are obese simply because they eat too much junk food. Alexandre argues that Chinese food is not very carbohydrate-rich, and it is possible to classify people into types, and that the same type of food will have a different effect on different kinds of people.

    As to the argument whether or not what type of microbes live in our guts is dependent upon the food that we eat, Aleixandre says that this is a chicken and egg question: "Primary colonization of the intestine occurs very early, right after birth, and there is even evidence that colonization occurs even during pregnancy….There is an argument that foods only aggravate the problem which already exists in the very beginning." John Harrison argues that the food that upper-class people eat is different from the food that ‘ordinary' people eat. "I certainly have to agree with that in general, except that we have to include the additional complicating factor that the microbes exist in-between the two variables or systems — the food and the organism…"

    Discussion turns to the role that exercise plays in our overall health. Alexandre says: "People are different, people have been classified into four temperaments-the sanguine, the phlegmatic, the choleric and the melancholic. Nowadays we have modernized versions of these qualifications, and one option is to somehow hook them up with the microbiota." Alexandre introduces other factors in the conversation such as genetics in our tendency or lack of ability to put on weight," and so of microbes. "Our microbial friends to some extent can aggravate the troubles or mitigate the results of poor diet, to some extent, if we know how to deal with them correctly. This is where my professional interests step in.

    What we eat is naturally extremely important, but so are other background factors, concludes Alexandre.

    We'd love to get your feedback at radio@sputniknews.com

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    diet, biology, society, food
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