The summer of 1968 beckoned and looked very promising. Balmy days for us kids often spent butterfly collecting, trading comic books, listening to baseball on the radio, and playing afternoon stickball, a uniquely New York City street game involving a stick --usually appropriated from an unwatched broom-- and a hard pink rubber ball manufactured by the AJ Spaulding Company universally referred to as a “Spalldeen.”
However my dreams for such a bucolic near future came to a screeching halt one afternoon when I was greeted by my little brother at the door with news that we would all soon be flying in an airplane! That sounded exciting enough, but further elaboration disclosed a darker truth: We would be flying to the village of my mother’s birth in North East Spain. My knowledge of the place was minimal at best: I had only seen rather quaint photographs with scallop-cut edges of what appeared to be a ramshackle, sleepy and sun baked town populated by sunburned farmers with dazzling white teeth clustering around a new tractor, scooter or calf. It looked foreign, smelly and somewhat ominous.
Soon enough we headed for the airport to begin our journey. Modern, security-frazzled, airline customers may not realize or remember just how much of an event traveling by airplane was in the mid 1960’s. Washed and scrubbed, wearing rayon shirts and thin ties, mother in Sunday best complete with pill box hat, we journeyed the Atlantic in the marvelous Boeing 707.
Fully jet-lagged we landed many hours later at Barcelona airport and were greeting by a deputation from the village, 150 screaming, waving and wildly gesticulating Catalans, for this was, as I would soon be told “Catalonia, not Spain.” From Barcelona we soon began our travels westward, into the Llobregat river valley and the mountains of the Montserrat, strangely carved peaks that are the results of eons of erosion by now-extinct giant rivers. This is an enchanted land; not for nothing are Catalan artists overrepresented in the Surrealist art movement.
Winding down roads of choking dust, we made our way to the town, or pueblo. Until then having grown up in the restrained, plasticized and sanitized habits that characterized the USA in the 1960’s, I was in now way prepared for the coarse, almost brusque mannerisms of these folks. The gesticulated wildly, seemed to argue about everything, screamed at each other from their windows and talked at an amazingly rapid-fire rate of delivery. It’s phenomenally fertile land, and the local people are rumored to be the only people in Spain who can “make bread out of stones.” The closest town, which is at the border between Catalonia and Aragon, was described as being “renowned for its figs, and the thick-headedness of the inhabitants.”
Culture shock soon set in. A shy kid to start off, I was soon just happy to find a quiet place and read my bon voyage present, a huge book on the Battle of Gettysburg. Unlike my little brother, who was muy sympatico, eating in the café and yelling at the soccer games on the one TV like everyone else, I just felt alienated. One had to be careful with their choice of friends. The headless automaton jumping around my aunt’s kitchen spurting blood all over the place was just shortly before the chicken with two different colored eyes that I had so carefully observed that morning. Cute, friendly rabbits were soon rendered into grotesque hanging parodies of the “visible body” model that I had built that Christmas.
Being the wonderful people that they are, my family soon began to try to get me to come out of my shell. One of my uncles took notice of my liking of history, and soon we were off in his tiny car, visiting Visigoth and Roman ruins. Another uncle, a simple but lovable farmer, would take me out to his fields, hold a finger up to his lips so as to say “let’s keep this secret to ourselves” and begin pushing aside sagebrush, rubble and other weeds, revealing a lovely Roman husband and wife gravestone. Gradually, I began to open up to this wonderfully simple and pure world.
Around midday we would break for lunch and siesta, which never varied all that much; a medium sized fish, called a “sardine”, stuck on a branch and placed around perimeter of a small fire, some olives and almonds from the field, followed by a peach or pear. Since it was still too hot to go back to work we’d look at clouds or the distant hills and at one point I asked him what lay beyond those hills.
“Saragossa.” He said.
“And beyond that?”
“And beyond that?”
“The Basques. But they are different than us, and a little crazy.”
It would take a lot for a Catalan to call someone else “different”, and to a Catalan, the Basques may well be the only qualifying group. Like the Catalans, the Basques are very independent minded, with great cultural sensitivity and were consequently heavily repressed during the Franco dictatorship. Similarly, they have experienced a phenomenal cultural renaissance in the years following his death.
An ancient people, or more correctly a “people island,” they have resisted virtually all attempts at assimilation, forced or otherwise. In the Basque language there is no name for “Basque”. There is a name for the language that Basques speak, Euskera and a Basque is simply defined as a Euskaldun, someone who speaks Euskera.
But we would have to go back farther still to get a grip on the Basques. You have to go back to a very cold, dry time without agriculture. The Basques, you see, are sort of living fossils, probably the most direct link we genetically possess to a distinct people that can be traced back to the Pleistocene Age.
The upper right-hand corner of Spain has some of the most interesting dialects to be found in the world over such a small piece of geography. Catalan, the language of my family, is an ancient Latin derived tongue, probably closer to the Latin of the Romans than either modern day French or Spanish.
For a romance language, Catalan has a surprising number of consonants, with the free use of the letter x as an example. But for all its unique qualities, Catalan is a relative newcomer, the Romans having inhabited the area roughly two-thousand years ago. Prior to that the population was a hybridization of two earlier groups, rather short, dark haired and eyed indigenous people, called Iberians and taller, lighter transplanted Celts who arrived a few hundred years prior to the Romans in search (like their modern-day counterparts) of a warmer climate. These two groups intermingled freely, fused and produced what historians called the “Celt-Iberians.”
Yet these modern languages are distinct from Basque Euskera or any of the Semitic or African languages as well. English with it clipped and nasally sounds; German with its guttural mega words; French, with its mellifluous hints of romance and Hindi, with its beautiful Sanskrit writing all share Indo-European as a common ancestor.
Several years ago I read a book about the history of my hometown Brooklyn, New York. Brooklyn is a borough of New York City --along with Manhattan, The Bronx, Staten Island and Queens-- the last of which it shares the western most part of Long Island. In print and film, the borough is renowned in part for the myriad characterizations of the typical Brooklynite: A rather flinty, blue collar, conservative type. In a flash of typical Brooklyn wit and insight the author chose to begin the first chapter with the line “The Ice Age ended in Brooklyn.”
Now, this sentence says a lot in a little. And it’s true as well. Long Island is made of something called a terminal moraine, which is just the debris that piles up at the front of a glacier --a large long-lasting river of ice. Glaciers deposit moraines much like that pile of snow delivered to your driveway right after a blizzard, courtesy of the local municipal plow trucks.
“Hey pal, I’ve got to put it somewhere.”
The terminal moraine that was part of a large glacial formation called the Wisconsin Glaciations, and which, in addition to providing the scenic backdrops for Saturday Night Fever and Marty, created a land bridge between Siberia and Alaska that allowed Eurasian hunters to migrate to the Americas, a land mass sometimes referred to as Beringia. The Wisconsin Glaciations were in turn part of a worldwide series of glacial movements usually just called “The Last Ice Age” and which featured other major glaciers in Scandinavia (The Weichsel Glaciations), Great Britain (The Devensian Glaciations) and in Switzerland (The Würm Glaciations). The general glacial advance began about 70,000 years ago and reached its maximum extent (called the “Last Glacial Maximum”) about 20,000 years ago, continuing onwards to about 12,000 years ago. In Europe, the ice sheet reached as far south as the Baltic coastline of Germany.
During the times of Last Glacial Maximum, ice covered most of Northern and Eastern Europe and blocked passage between China and the West, except for the very hardy animals able to negotiate the chilly mountain passes in summer.
We currently live in an interglacial period, the interval of warmer global average temperatures that separates ice ages, and if anything our climate seems to be getting warmer. This current interglacial period has lasted for about the last 11,400 years, so we’ve grown quite accustomed to a more warmer and humid climate that that which greeted the early European, Asian and American immigrants.
This ice sheet was dense permafrost, probably not much different than present day Antarctica. Immediately below and to the sides of this huge ice field were enormous areas of polar and alpine deserts, empty of life except perhaps for a few hardy grasses and some lichens.
Like snow and rocks, people form moraines as well, probably by being in the avant-garde of migrations in search of better hunting grounds, or maybe just being pushed ahead and out of harm’s way of other, more powerful, groups and tribes.
Been very busy with the redesign of the NAP website. Part of the problem is that I am Perl/PP/Unix centered and the NAP software and server are ASP Microsoft .NET. No matter, I enjoy learning this kind of stuff.
Generated quite a bit of new content. NAP needed simple FDA compliant explanations for the GenoType Diet formulas, and I wanted to release some additional information on the GenoType profiles that had been prepared for the book but not used. So I combined both jobs these into six monographs:
As I've been tinkering with this new blog software, I've become acutely aware of the importance of skins and themes. For the uninitiated, a theme (the more 'proper' wording) or skin (what everyone calls them) are a set of variables that a programmer often adds into a program that allows people to change the appearance of the program in ways that make it more personalized. For example this blog uses a variation of a skin called 'Nautica', which give it a rather pleasing blue palette. To get a better idea, you can browse the various skins for the blogging program Wordpress.
As I went along I began to see the GenoType characterizations as skins of a sort. If blood groups, secretor status an whatnot are the body, then the GenoTypes would be the choice of wardrobe.
For example, look at this graphic:
If we compare the basic type A characterizations and diet, we would see that type A has problems from a mostly tolerant immune system, a greater risk of heart and artery problems, and a greater risk of cancer. Reasonable enough, since that is what the research literature suggests. Type A's have less p53 tumor suppressor activity and their arteries are more prone to inflammation.
However, under simple blood type association, there is really no prioritization of this information.
If we look at the GT3 Teacher program we would see that the diet is skewed more towards cancer protection. It is in the GT3 Teacher that the p53 tumor suppression susceptibility winds up. GT5 Warrior on the other hand, seems to carry the arterial risk; probably because of the two, they are the more thrifty type. Thus if you GenoType as a blood group A Teacher, you will be wearing the 'cancer prevention skin.'
Technically if you are type A you could wear several skins, however if you GenoType as a Teacher, the Teacher skin will be the most therapeutic for you. Same with type O: You might need the 'metabolic syndrome' skin (GT2 Gatherer) more than the 'catabolic inflammatory' skin (GT1 Hunter).
Ditto for the B's and AB's.
Hopefully this will help folks see how values can change when one migrates from the BTD values to the GTD system. Somewhere in the allowable GenoTypes for people with type A blood, there will be that old BTD avoid, however, if it is not in your new GenoType values (or if it flipped to being actually beneficial!) it is because its BTD avoid status was less relevant than the benefits it provides under your new GTD skin.
One of the features that can be of most use when GenoTyping someone is actually one of the hardest to come by: Getting the ABO blood groups of your parents.
Its importance should come as no surprise, since epigenetic changes are largely influenced by the patterns of gene activation and silencing that occur as part of
- The heritable epigenetic component (you start off with the patterns of gene expression that your parents give you)
- The prenatal environment (there are two major bursts of methylation activity in the fetus: at about 8-12 weeks, then again in the last trimester)
- The immediate postnatal environment (these are mostly related to gene expression due to hormones such as growth factors)
In fact one of the studies that got me interested in the largely unrecognized effects of blood groups as a modulator of the epigenetic environment was a study that looked at childhood ear infections and blood groups. However, unlike most epidemiologic correlation type studies, this one looked at the blood group of the child’s mother.
Maternal blood group A gave a relative risk (RR) for intervention of 2.82. The noted occurrence of an attack of acute otitis media (AOM) before the first birthday gave a RR of 6.13. When these two factors were used together, the RR climbed steeply to 26.77.
Now to understand just how strong this association is we should look at exactly what a RR (relative risk) is. Basically it is just the odds (over 1) that something will occur over it being random. An RR of 2 (about the RR of elevated cholesterol causing a heart attack) means that people with elevated cholesterol are twice as likely to get a heart attack as people whose cholesterol levels are more desirable. Thus the study is saying that if you are a kid with an ear infection in the first year of life, and you mother is blood group A, you are 26 times more likely to have a recurrence.
Here is a chart I made which compares relative risks for several common problems and factors associated with that risk. Obviously, this is a very strong association.
Are the effects of having a blood group A mother and getting ear infections the result of some sort of fetal programming? We know that some studies have linked the ABO antigens to cellular differentiation (the process where developing cells move from general embryonic 'germ' types to cells with more specific functions, like a pancreatic or epidermis cell.)
ABH antigen expression was considered as suggestive evidence for the assumption that blood group antigens could serve as early immunomorphologic markers of endothelial differentiation of mesenchymal cells, thus specifying the location of future blood vessels. Extending the conceptual framework of blood group antigens' significance we consider them as being possibly involved in the process of fetal morphogenesis.
In epigenetic terms, we may wind up being more interested in your parent's blood types are that perhaps we need be with yours.
Every once in a while, amid the junk mail, bills and catalogs, I receive a letter which surpasses all prior. In a wonderfully sycophantic endeavor this gentleman writes to ask me for a complete set of my works so he can continue on his mission to educate the Indian public about healthy living. Apparently the gentleman does it free of charge.
Sir, your books are on their way.