December 8, 2019
Listen in as we interview Judith Finlayson, author of “You Are What Your Grandparents Ate” where she explains that how our grandparents ate and lived their lives has a direct bearing on who we are today.
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DARLENE: Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition. If you're making breakfast or cleaning up the kitchen, stop and sit down because you're going to want to listen to every word of today's show. Judith Finlayson, a very special guest, is joining us today by phone. She is the author of an amazing new book called You Are What Your Grandparents Ate. Think about that for a minute.
MARCIE: Yes, think about that.
DARLENE: In her book Judith explains what you need to know about nutrition, experience, epigenetics, and the origin of chronic disease. So what she's really saying is where is all this chronic disease coming from? So did you notice that she listed nutrition first?
MARCIE: I love that; yay.
DARLENE: You know, and Dishing Up Nutrition is a show and a podcast all about nutrition. I think we have a lot to talk about. We now have Judith on the phone, so I'm going to introduce Marcie. You heard her voice; and myself to her and to all of you. You know, I'm Darlene Kvist. I’ve been a licensed nutritionist since 1996 and I love how nutrition helps us live better lives. I think it's quite possible that I came out of the womb shouting “food matters” because I've been trying to get people, people close to me at least or a lot of people to eat better since 1972.
DARLENE: So Judith, I want to introduce our co-host. You heard her voice. It's Marcie Vaske. She’s a very experienced licensed nutritionist and she co-hosts Dishing Up Nutrition many times with me.
MARCIE: Yes, we always have fun.
MARCIE: Well welcome.
JUDITH FINLAYSON: Well thank you. It's great to be with you Marcie and Dar. And we're all on the same page with the motto “food matters” for sure.
MARCIE: That is right.
DARLENE: That’s great.
MARCIE: That's right. Well, we've really enjoyed reading your book. It’s fantastic.
DARLENE: And we haven't been able to read every word. I have to be honest, but we read a lot of it.
MARCIE: We did. And so you're here today to fill us in on all the rest.
DARLENE: That’s right.
JUDITH: Well, hopefully.
DARLENE: Marcie has got a few questions for our listeners.
MARCIE: Yeah. You know, I think to get us started, I just want to kind of ask our listeners some, some key questions to just kind of think about this morning. So do you have heart disease?
DARLENE: A lot of people do.
MARCIE: They do. Do you have high blood pressure?
DARLENE: A lot of people have that.
MARCIE: Yeah. Do you struggle with obesity or extra weight?
DARLENE: What, 75%?
MARCIE: I know, right? Do you have diabetes? And lastly, do you have concerns about your memory? Are you wondering… so if you've answered yes to one or more of these questions that I just asked you, I know that Judith, our guest today and author of You Are What Your Grandparents Ate is going to help share how maybe our grandparents are to blame for this. I mean, we always had to blame someone, right?
DARLENE: Yup. So Judith, explain to us, to our listeners how, how grandma and grandpa ate or even our great-grandma and grandpa's ate are affecting us today. We'll just jump right into this.
JUDITH: I'm going to start by giving you a kind of long background story that I hope you'll find it interesting.
DARLENE: Oh, we will.
JUDITH: And it kind of zeros in on, on some of the key elements here. And it's about an area… I write about this in the book. It's about an area of the U.S. known as the “stroke belt”. And the stroke belt is a cluster of states in U.S. where the rate of stroke is exceedingly high. It's intrigued epidemiologists who are scientists who study quadrants of disease in large groups of people since the 1930's because they recognize that the vulnerability of stroke seems firmly rooted in birth and early life. And they concluded that because they found that when people who were born in the “stroke belt” moved to other places, they took the risk of stroke with them.
DARLENE: Oh, that's very interesting.
JUDITH: So the, so the question, so David Barker is a British, was a British epidemiologist who really got the ball rolling on the whole science, area of science, now known as the developmental origins of health and disease. And that is the science that forms the basis, the core of You Are What Your Grandparents Ate. He got interested in the “stroke belt” because he could see that the long-term effect of poor nutrition were taking a toll on women's bodies because they were so poorly nourished themselves because of the generations of poverty, corruption, that characterize the areas that were located in this “stroke belt” that they couldn't meet the demands of a developing fetus when they got pregnant. And basically, as you all know, a mother needs to consume enough nutrients to adequately provide for the fetus to transfer anything that she gets from food to the fetus, which helps it develop.
The problem is that sometimes mothers don't have enough nutrients and if they don't have enough, the fetus will draw on the reserves that are in the mother's body. And this is where the intergenerational element of the “stroke belt” comes into play. If that mother was not well nourished herself, she doesn't have the nutrient reserves to provide for the fetus either in her body because she wasn't well nourished as a fetus or because she's not consuming enough nutrients in her diet. What happens on one level of development is if there are not enough nutrients to survive for fully formed development: healthy, robust development, the fetus will begin to trade off the growth of one organ for another with the view to shielding the most important organ being the brain and the heart. So think about the kidneys. The kidneys are going to be one of the first to go because the fetus doesn't really need it; it doesn’t need the kidneys because the mother's body does those functions for it. So it will conserve resources. The whole developmental strategy will be to conserve resources by sacrificing development of the kidneys. And that means that those kidneys will develop fewer nephrons, which are the components of the kidney that filter the blood.
JUDITH: After birth a kidney with fewer nephrons is going to need to punch above its weight to do its job. This increases the risk of hypertension and kidney disease and we know that from all kinds of statistics and studies.
DARLENE: So, so Judith, for our listeners just connect. So if the kidneys are not working well because of malnutrition, then that leads to hypertension or high blood pressure and possible strokes.
DARLENE: Yeah. Yeah. So I think, you know, honestly Judith, a lot of people would not be able to connect that, you know, that whole scenario. So then the next question I'd have to ask is, okay, if the mother was malnourished and so that affects the fetus's kidney function, does that continue onto the next generation as you know, as a, as a grandchild? Did you understand my question?
JUDITH: Yeah, it's complicated. And, I think we're going to deal with that a little bit later when we get into the science of epigenetics, which is a little more complicated. And also, there are things that you can do, which I think we will get into later. If you are born… these are vulnerabilities and they are vulnerabilities that have been linked with chronic disease, not only kidney disease. I use the nephrons as an example and the kidneys. But there are other changes that can take place as the result of intergenerational poor nutrition. And they are largely related to metabolic health problems later in life; doesn't mean, doesn't mean that you're necessarily going to have those problems, but it does mean that you are at a greater risk for having them.
DARLENE: So you know, one of the things, Judith, I think that would make sense as we go on with the show is for you to go through a couple of examples of where there has been malnourishment and then the effects of that. And then the other thing that we need to do is, okay, so we've had that. So what do we do now; right now? How can I protect my health? You know, so just to kind of set that up as we, you know we do have some breaks that we have to go.
MARCIE: We do and we have one right now so this will be a good time to let everybody digest what we just said or what Judith just said. So you are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. We are talking with Judith Finlayson, author of You Are What Your Grandparents Ate. You will want to pick up a copy of this book. It's awesome because as you have just heard in the past few minutes, this book really contains a lot of unique and very specific information, which has been so well researched and pertains to really all of us.
DARLENE: It does.
MARCIE: Yes. We'll be right back.
DARLENE: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. Judith Finlayson’s book, You Are What Your Grandparents Ate, has so much basic nutrition information that I suggest that you use it as a kind of a reference guide to if you have a nutrition question. You know, she has included topics such as why we need magnesium and we talk about that all the time.
MARCIE: All the time.
DARLENE: Diet and cholesterol, women and heart disease; and really so much more.
DARLENE: We are back with Judith. So Marcie, do you have a question for her to start with?
MARCIE: Yeah, well, I think let's just kind of jump back, take a step back quick to, if Judith, if you could kind of tell our audience, talk about more, more times that there's been malnutrition, you know, more like the Chinese famine I think you spoke about in the book or wrote about. If you could just kind of talk about that a little bit more and how that affected individuals.
JUDITH: Well, yeah, nutrition is very important. There've been now hundreds and hundreds of studies looking at the link between developmental health and poor nutrition, in, in the world. It's linked, one of the key links is low birth weight, and low birth weight, is one of the factors that is a result from poor nutrition; five and a half pounds or less at full-term. And that has been linked with the development of many chronic diseases, from heart disease and diabetes, obesity, stroke. I know you want to talk a little bit about autoimmune diseases because the metabolic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, are, are very linked, with poor diet. And the more we, we study that, the more those links show up. The autoimmune diseases are slightly different. They've really just started relatively speaking to look at those and no one knows for sure. But the early research seems to suggest that environmental factors, and that would include poor nutrition, processed foods in particular. But toxins: and something known as the “hygiene hypothesis”, which you probably know about; and that is that, you know, we spent most of the 20th century really trying to beat pathogens into submission by developing drugs like antibiotics and so on. But one of the theories and you know, the emerging evidence is supporting it is that in killing off all the pathogens, we also killed off a lot of the very beneficial bacteria. You know, our, our bodies are microbiomes. They’re really a very delicate balance between that period that are very beneficial and those that are pathogenic. And, in our, you know, quest for cleanliness and whatever, we have killed off many of the good bacteria and this may be linked with autoimmune diseases.
DARLENE: So we've gotten too clean, haven't we?
MARCIE: I just wrote that down. We are too clean.
JUDITH: A little bit of dirt never hurt you. I have a little section in the, in the book called… just a little short section called, “Is your dog a probiotic?” And the answer is yes.
JUDITH: Yup, let your dog give you big slurpy kisses.
MARCIE: That's right.
JUDITH: Their bacteria is very good for you.
DARLENE: Hmm. So, you know, Judith, you know, let's talk about, just a little bit about, the Dutch Hunger Winter Health Crisis that went on I think because a lot of our listeners are maybe a little bit older, just kind of like myself. And you know, we can actually remember the end of World War II or it's kind of back in our memory. So, connect some of the health issues that have occurred after that.
JUDITH: Well, the Dutch Hunger Winter is a very interesting story from a research point of view because it was a very focused period of time. It was during the second World War and the Germans closed off all the supply of food and so on. They closed down the railways and whatever, so no food could get into northern Holland. So all of the women who were pregnant during that time were subject to extreme famine. That's where they talked about eating… They were lucky to take in about 400 calories a day. And there was a huge amount of stress as well because it was the war. But from a research point of view, this, concentrated situation was very beneficial because they had one-fifth of women who were pregnant during a specific period of time that they could study. The interesting thing about the Dutch women was that they were well fed prior to the, the winter when they didn't have any food when they were starved. And they were well fed when the war ended again, unlike the examples that I gave you from the “stroke belt” where you had generations of poor nutrition that had intergenerationally taken a toll on women's bodies. So what you had in Holland were relatively robust women who didn't get enough to eat while they were pregnant. When they went back and studied, when they came across all these records, and went back and studied them, they found that the babies who had been born during that period were twice as likely to have heart disease, more likely to suffer from obesity and type-two diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol than babies who had been born under normal circumstances. So that was a clear and very well defined period that showed up really very vibrantly the results of poor nutrition during pregnancy.
DARLENE: Amazing, isn't it? So you know, Judith, would you talk about where is this “stroke belt”? I think people would be really curious. What states would that… would Minnesota be one of those states?
JUDITH: No, no, no, no. It’s the southeastern United States. It's not Minnesota.
MARCIE: Okay we’re good then.
JUDITH: The states that were most affected by the Civil War: some places like South Carolina. Louisiana sometimes doesn't make the cut. But those southern states in that little concentrated area. And, and they've been studied a lot by epidemiologists. It's a very interesting…
MARCIE: We're just going to take; we have to take one more break here, Judith. You are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. Judith Finlayson is sharing her knowledge and understanding of the connection between today's chronic diseases and what your grandparents ate.
DARLENE: Well, welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. What can you do to eat better for long-term health and weight loss? You know, because of the mixed messages about nutrition, let me suggest a plan that is based on a well-rounded menu of eating real food. The Nutrition 4 Weight Loss plan is not a quick fix or a fad diet.
DARLENE: It's just real food. You know the best quality you can eat, the better it will be. And it will produce results but it produces health results. You know, it's just; we don't just look at the number on the scale.
MARCIE: We don't. So the next Nutrition 4 Weight Loss series starts the week of January 13 at all seven of our locations. And you can do it online anytime you want.
DARLENE: So sign up today. This is the last day and save $75 because our Winter Wellness Sale ends today.
DARLENE: So you can call (651) 699-3438 or you can sign up online at weightandwellness.com. So we're back to our discussion.
MARCIE: Yes, we are. We’re back talking to Judith. And I think what we want to… we've talked a lot about, you know, female malnutrition during pregnancy, but what are some of the components around male malnutrition? How does that, you know, jive with that? Like, you know, if the dad was maybe a smoker or a drinker or, you know, how is that affecting the fetus?
JUDITH: I'm so glad you asked because while we had the break, I've been sitting here thinking, gosh, we're doing a blame-it-all on mom.
MARCIE: I know we can't do that.
JUDITH: And, and, and, and that's not the case. So, so let me just, we have some… there, there are all kinds of interesting statistics on this, but, one of the most interesting come from a study done in 2017 on the Chinese famine. And it showed that famine… they were looking specifically at high blood, risk for high blood sugar. And they found that when both parents had experienced the famine; the Chinese famine was the famine they were looking at in this particular study, the high blood sugar was the highest in that group where both parents did. And that was a risk of 11.3%. When it was just the mother, though, listen to this because this is really interesting. Just the mother with 10.6%, and just the father was 10%. So the father, the father's influence on producing offspring that had high blood sugar was almost as high, just half a percent basically less then the mother's influence.
DARLENE: Very interesting.
JUDITH: The other important take-away from that study was the risks were passed along to the second generation. So if your grandparents had experienced famine, you were also more likely to have high blood sugar. We've shown, they're now studying things like drinking too much and finding that that affects sperm in a way that increases the risk for things like attention hyperactivity disorder.
JUDITH: You know, one of the early studies was done by British genetics who showed that young men who smoked around the time of puberty were more likely to have sons who were overweight. And, that’s because, what happens around puberty is that the sperm cells are forming. And if a young man experienced… like there's a study that showed that if women ate too much around the time of puberty, their grandsons were more likely to die young. Also, studies that show that if women ate too much… with women… No it was, it's famine, and that increases the risk that their grandchildren, granddaughters will die young.
DARLENE: Really? Wow.
JUDITH: These results are basically come from the science of epigenetics, which shows that impacts like poor nutrition create biological… what amounts to a biological memory on reproductive cells that is carried on through the generations. That's a gross over-simplification, but it's basically what happens.
DARLENE: So Judith, I think that some of the listeners might be saying, “Well, I didn't have very healthy grandparents.”
MARCIE: Now what?
DARLENE: So now what is right Marcie: Now what; because this, I could see people just saying, “I give up.”
MARCIE: Yeah. What am I going to do? This is all against me now. It's in my genes.
JUDITH: Yup, yup. Well they shouldn't do that.
MARCIE: Ok, good.
JUDITH: We haven't really spent a lot of time explaining epigenetics.
DARLENE: Let's do that.
JUDITH: And gene expression.
DARLENE: Yes, let's do that.
JUDITH: You are born with all of your genes and they are fixed. And that's why people kind of think “Gee, you know, I got a bad deal and I’m, you know, it's too bad; game over. But that's not true because we now know from the science; it's not necessarily your genes. Most genes are not, most of these were not the result of a genetic problem. They're not directly linked to a gene. Some are like hemophilia, but those are very, very small in number. Most of these are in what we call multi-factorial, which mean that a large number of genes are involved in the disease. And each of them have a very small role to play. How that will develop basically results from something called gene expression. And these genes are fixed but the environment in which you do operate is not. And so they are turned up, turned down, based on things like nutrition. Exercise is another one. So we can actually show by studying gene expression that doing things like improving your diet or exercising, even a moderate amount, improves, really has quite a dramatic effect on gene expression and can therefore balance off some of these vulnerabilities that you may have received from your grandparents.
DARLENE: Hmm. Very good.
MARCIE: Yes. That’s a mouthful.
JUDITH: I can, I can tell you one of the most famous studies on this and I talk about it in You Are What Your Grandparents Ate because it really does show the value of nutrition. It's a mouse study and these mice that were bred to be very beautiful, but the people who were breeding them hadn't realized that in breeding for these beautiful creatures, they had, were, were perpetuating a faulty gene. And, when the researchers gave them a collection of vitamins, they were able to take very sickly mice and not only make them healthy but make two generations of the offspring healthy simply by delivering this little package of micro nutrients.
JUDITH: And that really for me the most compelling study of the benefits of the nutrition because it wasn't generational. It wasn't just the poor sickly mice, but their offering whose health was dramatically improved.
DARLENE: So what, what parents are eating now, right now, we can influence our grandchildren's health if we know what we're doing.
JUDITH: Yeah, absolutely. And, and you were talking earlier about real food.
JUDITH: You know, people want some kind of magic bullet.
DARLENE: Yes we know.
JUDITH: It's really very, very simple. It is real food. Eat whole foods; not refined foods. Processed foods are terrible. I have all kinds of evidence in the book and studies showing all the bad things that processed food do to your body; and also to your descendants’ bodies. Because you know, if you're a female, the egg that are forming that, that you use to develop a baby; your egg, that, that mate with the sperm were actually formed while you were in your mother's body. So if you're the grandmother eating well; eating whole foods that are nutritious, can be directly linked to the quality of the eggs that your daughter will have and therefore the quality; the health of your grandchildren.
MARCIE: It’s fascinating.
JUDITH: So it's just, you know, so the basic rule is eat real food, whole foods, not too much. Michael Pollan really had that one right. Don’t eat anything that your grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.
MARCIE: We're always saying that.
JUDITH: With the chemical names and also, get off your butt.
JUDITH: Sedentary behavior is the other big negative one. And you know, we have all kinds of studies and I talk about them in the book that show, that, that…
MARCIE: We need to take a quick break. Judith. I'm sorry to interrupt, but let's talk about these studies when we come back. So you're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. We want to thank Judith Finlayson for researching and writing her wonderful book, You Are What Your Grandparents Ate, and for sharing your expertise about possible reasons for today's epidemic of chronic diseases.
DARLENE: All right.
DARLENE: Well, welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. I want to remind you to take advantage of our Winter Wellness Sale, which ends today. So we're offering 15% off of all of our new Nutrikey products and $75 off of our Nutrition 4 Weight Loss program and $100 off of our one-hour follow-up consultation when we do two of them or $100 off of our initial two-hour consultations.
MARCIE: That’s a lot of deals.
DARLENE: A lot of deals. Just call (651) 699-3438 or you could look online at weightandwellness.com. And we're going back to our discussion.
MARCIE: Yes, let's do that. You know, first, on our way our way out; we were just thanking you, Judith, for being on the show with us. You know, sometimes at the end of the show we don't get time to do that so well, but I also want you to share with the audience what is your website? Because I know listeners tuning in today are going to want more information from you. Do you want to share that information?
JUDITH: Well, thank you for asking. It's judithfinlayson.com.
MARCIE: Okay. And then are you ever going to be in Minneapolis to come visit us in studio?
JUDITH: I'd love to.
DARLENE: We would love it.
JUDITH: I don't have any immediate plans, but you never know. So if I, if I do end up in Minneapolis and I actually have fond memories of Minneapolis because I grew up just north of there and that was the big city. I used to go to Minneapolis for the weekend. So I'd love to come back. I'd love to revisit Minneapolis.
DARLENE: Ok. It would be really fun to have you in studio and have this discussion. I think our listeners would be able to understand it better and we could dig in deeper. That's right.
MARCIE: We could.
JUDITH: It's very complex and you know, it took me over 300 pages to explain it all in the book, but, once you kind of get it, it all makes perfect sense.
DARLENE: Yes. And I think what it does is it helps to take away possibly some of the guilt that people have today about their own health. They think, “Well, it's something I did or didn't do.” And possibly that's true, but there's another reason for some of this, so…
MARCIE: And I like the idea that you have the opportunity to make a change, you know, with this epigenetics that we're talking about. You know, you, you, you have the opportunity to either turn down that gene as you were saying Judith, or turn it up, you know, so it gives a lot of hope and control.
JUDITH: Yeah, absolutely. And as I said before, the, the, the, the background information of how all this happens, it may be very complex, but the solutions are, are really alarmingly simple. And that's a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle. You know, not sedentary behavior. And also toxins come into this; trying to avoid toxic exposure. That's something that we don't have a lot of control over so, you know, it's something to really watch out for.
DARLENE: But we don't have to go golfing on golf courses that have been treated with a lot of pesticides and chemicals. I
JUDITH: That’s right.
DARLENE: I mean that's, that's the knowledge that people need to have. So Judith, let's go and talk because we talk about this all the time; about avoiding processed foods. But I think if you could talk a little bit about that and another thing: I don't know if we have enough time, but when people are thinking in terms of having a child, what do they need to do with their diet? How do they need to look at this a little bit?
JUDITH: Processed foods are really in North America, they are really the killer because as you know, they're high-calorie, low-nutrient. So what that means when, when epidemiologists have looked at this, what they're seeing is three generations of people living on the standard American diet, which is high on processed foods. And so many, many Americans are suffering. You know, we've talked a lot about the famines, the Dutch Hunger Famine; the Chinese Famine. But in fact, many Americans suffer from a similar nutrient effect, which they call high calorie malnutrition. And some epidemiologists and have linked this to the epidemics of chronic disease in the states. You know, the runaway rates of diabetes, heart disease, because three generations of Americans have been really leading predominantly diets focused on processed foods and we're seeing effects and the intergenerational effects of high calorie malnutrition, which have been linked, in fact with the fact that, you know, people are now… For years and years, we were expecting to live longer. Now suddenly that curve is, is changing and people are losing years off their projected lifespan.
DARLENE: So we have to somehow go back to getting people to eat real food. And I know we keep saying this is such a simple message, but it's so hard for people to do.
MARCIE: It really is. They say, you know, “It's too much work” or something you know, instead of just grabbing that quick sandwich somewhere.
DARLENE: So have you, have you personally always been a real food person or did you go through it?
JUDITH: Yeah, probably. I mean, I, I've never eaten a lot of processed foods and I think that's because I've always been a cook. I love to cook and I love eating good food. So I've always liked the taste of good food and processed foods just never tasted good to me. So, you know, I never really liked them. So in that sense, I guess I was very lucky. I mean, my mother used to make me oatmeal every morning; hot cooked oatmeal, and it's still my very favorite breakfast.
DARLENE: But I bet it was real oatmeal and it wasn't the kind that was… I say it was someone had eaten it before you even got it.
JUDITH: No, no. It was real oatmeal. She cooked it on the stove.
JUDITH: And you know, good for her. I'm enormously grateful now when I look back for all of the nutritious breakfasts.
DARLENE: So if a couple others are planning to have… Oh, I think maybe we lost, maybe we lost her. Judith? You know, I think if we think in terms of if people are going to have a child, if they're thinking about pregnancy…
DARLENE: We know that it's probably in the book she talks about that we need to… they need to start looking at their nutrition at least a year before they even attempt to get pregnant.
MARCIE: That's right, and trying to change their foods, eating those real foods, getting rid of the processed foods. I mean it, you know, 27, 30, I mean, however old you are, when you decide that you're going to do that, you're not thinking about what you're, you know, I'm eating better for my grandkids, but that's what we're saying today.
DARLENE: I think the other thing though was really interesting in what Judith said was that we have had three generations of people eating the standard American diet and they're their malnourished.
DARLENE: Overfed but malnourished. And we can know that there's such an epidemic of diseases now.
MARCIE: Right. And we're living shorter, so…
DARLENE: And it's, whether it's heart disease or whether it's cancer, but we have a high rate of disease states. And so somehow people are going to have to turn, turn the clock back a little bit.
DARLENE: And start eating real food.
MARCIE: That's right. And I think we have Judith back on now.
DARLENE: Oh, okay.
MARCIE: So here she is.
JUDITH: Yes, you do. We had a technical glitch.
MARCIE: That happens.
JUDITH: Well, at least it didn't happen at the beginning and that's even better. So what we were talking about maybe… Oh, I guess Marcie’s telling us we're going to have to roll it along here. Judith, you're a great guest and we really appreciate you being on this morning with us and we do, we would love to have you be on in-studio at some time in the future, so…
MARCIE: Yes, very much. Thank you, Judith. Our goal at Nutritional Weight & Wellness is to help each and every person experience better health through eating real food. It's a simple yet powerful message. Eating real food is life changing. Thank you and have a great day everybody.