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.
On my main site I've finally bit the bullet and begun to migrate all the blogs from the arcane and unsupported 'Greymatter' blogging software to a very nice package called 'B2evolution.' The difference between the two is astonishing. The new format, much like this blog, is a modern platform that supports moderated comments, allows bloggers to tag their entries, and organize blogs by category. Plus these new programs and much easier to style, so they just look better. B2evolution also supports multiple blogs, so administration looks to be a snap.
Here is a link that will take you to the new blogging platform, in this case Susan Graham's page. Other blogs are accessible from the tabs at the top. The 'Retired' blog features all the great blogs written by folks who are no longer active. Heidi Merritt's great 'On The Diet' column has been converted to the new format as well. Once this gets reorganized by categories, newbies to the diets will have a real resource.
If anyone out there is interesting in blogging, and is willing to commit to a regular blog for at least three months, just leave a comment with your email. I'll get back to you. If you are an retired blogger and want to reactivate your blog, I can do that for you as well. If you are a current active blogger, please contact me so I can arrange a walk-thru for you.
In general, with few exceptions, such as Suzanne, Paul, Debra, Melissa and a select few others, most blogging careers don't seem to pan out over the long run. I believe many folks start out thinking that they will have all this terrific information to share, but then discover that consistent blogging is not all that easy to do. We seem to feel that we have to write some 'major' type of entry and so the first few words never get onto the page. That certainly need not be the case. Many of my best blogs start off with the most trivial of observations and evolve as I continue to write. The trick is to just write what you feel.
I’ve recently begun to notice that some mornings I get a rash on both cheekbones. It goes away in about a day, so I never thought much about it. Martha changed the detergent that we use on the bed sheets, but that had no real effect. I though it might be related to putting my hands on my face (since I write computer code in the AM and often prop my chin on my hand when debugging lines of code). But changing my 'pensive posture' had no effect either.
The last few nights I’ve crashed on the sofa in the den since I’ve been trying to catch up on the wonderful HBO series on John Adams. Surprisingly, these few nights, despite sleeping propped up on the most uncomfortable throw pillows imaginable, produced no rash. However this last night Martha came out and gave me one of the bedroom pillows. Next morning, alas, the rash was back. This got me thinking that something was in these pillows, or I just don’t get along with the pillow covers.
So off we went to Linens N’ Things, a franchise full of extraneous stuff you can buy for your house. I picked up a few hypoallergenic pillows (the old ones were down) and some new covers. The pillow covers had a few interesting, if unsettling facts included with the label:
- Your mattress will double in weight every ten years from dust mites and their droppings.
- 10% of the weight of a two-year-old pillow is composed of dust mites and their droppings.
Household dust, by the way, is a mainly human skin cells that have sloughed off. It is estimated that the entire outer layer of skin is shed every day or two at a rate of 7 million skin flakes per minute. Tests of indoor environmental dust in homes and offices have shown it to be primarily (70-90%) composed of skin flakes.
Tried the new pillows last night and so far no rash.
While at Linens N’ Things my daughter Emily and I played our new game which we call “Try To Find Something In The Store Not Made In China.’ It took a while but eventually I found a chopping block that was made in the U.S. Virtually 90% of the stock of this store was stuff ‘Made In China’. I’m told that the percentage in Wal-Mart is even higher.
Now, I have nothing personal against the Chinese, but I do not like the long-term significance of this trend. We in the US are being lulled and seduced into over-purchasing inexpensive goods from China, which destroy our local industries, increase credit card debt, and send our currency over there. Since the Chinese are not terribly interested in American products, they send the money back here in the form of business loans, many of which fronted the now collapsing home mortgage market.
I remember laughing in history class at how the local Indians sold Manhattan to the Dutch for $24 worth of mirrors and glass beads. Yet we're doing the same thing; the only difference being the substitution of modern day equivalents; plasma TV screens and vibrating recliners.
On top of it all, China is still as repressive a government as it ever was. There is no true freedom of speech, and rural workers are almost considered second-class citizens. Never mind what they are doing in Tibet right now and that their policy in Darfur is cynical beyond belief. Add the recent heparin scare and the mercury and lead in the painted toys and I'm thinking 'hey, this system does not need to be rewarded.'
So I’ve adopted what I call my 'New Organic' policy: Just like I am willing to pay a bit more to feed my family organic produce, I am now also willing to pay more to clothe my family in goods made in other countries besides China. I will pass up on the need to purchase George Foreman Grills, Fabreeze Room Fresheners and resin lawn furniture unless I can find products that are made by the inhabitants of democratic countries with decent human rights policies, ethical manufacturing standards and proper environmental responsibilities.
Yes, there will be less things in my life, but maybe that is the real hidden benefit of it all.
Despite numerous attempts by many people to let Dr. Andrew Weil know that his traditional criticisms of the Blood Type Diet have no basis in fact, he still insists on peddling his absurd take on my work. In a recent interview for a Canadian website, Weil repeats the same criticisms he has used for the last ten years --despite the fact that they are as inaccurate and ignorant of the basic facts now as they were a decade ago.
Among other things, Dr. Weil says:
This is nonsense. I know of no evidence suggesting that prehistoric people ate diets related to their blood types. The studies D'Adamo cites have been published only by him and not in any scientific journals. By the way, dogs and other animals have blood types similar to those of humans. It would come as unwelcome news to some dogs that they should be vegetarians.
This tone suggests to me that Dr. Weil has not actually read any of my books.
I've never suggested that prehistoric people ate diets according to their blood types. No doubt they should have, but how would they have known? The blood groups were not discovered until 1900.
I have suggested that the variations in our different digestive physiologies stem from adaptations over time to changes in diet that were in part coded by the immunology that governs the gut. And that this immunology is significantly under the influence of ABO blood type.
Dr. Weil avoids or just plain neglects the physiologic links between digestion and ABO blood types. This lets him parody my theory as some sort of 'caveman-fiction.' The effects of secretor status on immune and metabolic function; the connection between lectins and allergies; the influence of blood type on intestinal enzymes; links between stomach hydrochloric acid levels and gut bacteria; the fact that the very foods we eat have 'blood types' --all of this receives no mention.
These findings and facts are part of over 7,000 peer-reviewed studies on blood groups published in the medical literature over the last century. Now, I know that allopathic (MD) education does not teach any of this, so I don't blame Weil for being initially uninformed. Everyone has got to start somewhere. However he does not exhibit any curiosity on the subject nor a desire to investigate it any further. If he'd have contacted me, I'd have probably shared them with him. Instead we're left with the rather smug assumption that since he's never heard of any of this, it must not exist.*
Folks, that is an attitude that they usually do teach you in allopathic medical school.
I've always gotten a kick out of his "Well, animals don't eat right for their type" argument. If he knew the species genetics of ABO blood groups he might be surprised to learn that the ABO gene locus resides on different chromosomes in the various species. In hogs for example, having type O blood gives you a full coat of black hair. By Dr. Weil's account, every human who is type O blood should also have black hair. Dogs, by the way, are a very cancer prone species, and do fare much better on something other than an exclusively carnivorous diet.
The late Arthur C Clarke said it best in his First Rule of Scientific Prediction:
When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
* Dean Ornish repeats a similar mantra to audiences that he is 'unaware of any studies linking heart disease to blood types', when even the most cursory of searches on MEDLINE would show 200+ articles since 1966 (and probably over 300 from 1950).
I'm almost done with the clinician implementation of the SWAMI GenoType package. I think it is very good.
I'm sure that there will be some debugging ahead, but we've been using it in the clinic and so far it appears to be quite stable. Beyond that, I just have to write the User Manual and the Admin Guide. If you are using nutrition in you clinical practice, you may want to incorporate this software. For more information, you can click here.
Now, I like writing computer code, but even I'm getting a bit burned out on the thing. I'm looking forward to getting some cycling time in, though the weather has not been all that cooperative.
Dr. Natalie and I just did up a new clinic newsletter. You can read it here.