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jeudi 11 février 2016


Microbiome as a word had not been coined, when I became aware of something mysterious in the workings of our food and body. Being a student at that time, my interest was from a cultural and quotidian point of view. I even coined the word, Genetic food, even though I am sure people had used it before.
When we moved to Australia from Asia, the food consumed was the general fare of Australia; and being in an Eastern European Jewish milieu, a lot of food of the Ashkenazi Jews. I began noticing that certain food gave my body pleasure but many others didn’t please it. I was not sure about my ancestral diet but Greek food was freely available and my body seemed to like it. All these long before Mediterranean Diet became popular.

I felt that people must eat or imitate their ancestral diet to the best of their abilities, as Australia and USA were my background countries I was familiar with. When I completed my Endocrinology studies, I was immensely dissatisfied to learn that just medical knowledge alone was not going to help people in the greater scheme of things I envisioned. Further education in Anthropology was an eye opener as the vista enlarged of the human condition. Anthropology taught me to question, ask the question WHY rather than accept the common wisdom of WHAT so prevalent in Medical Practice.
Even as a medical student I had questioned WHY that is the British immigrants to New Zealand had a higher rate of Peptic Ulcer Disease than the native NZ population?
Before Interleukin-6 measurements, my thoughts were in the direction of Inflammation in the body, rather than the epidemiological, things which can be measured, explanation of the association. Also I realized that epidemiology cannot explain the individual’s susceptibility using what makes a group sick. The probability of an overweight patient developing diabetes, had less to do with the commonly accepted epidemiological roots, but rather than the individuality of something in his body. On the third day after the drastic surgery of Gastric Bypass in obese patients, even before a loss of weight could occur, Diabetes may disappear altogether. (Now touted as the cure for type 2 Diabetes). If you accepted that the disease of DM type 2 was due to pancreatic exhaustion and thus irreversible, how come in a very large proportion of patients with type 2 DM, the disease does disappear, with reinstitution of Insulin secretion?
I remember my colleagues making fun of me about 10 years ago when I mentioned to them that the High Cholesterol so prevalent in the population is due to inflammation in the body, rather than enzymatic mal-wiring.
It now seems that Microbiome, the 100 trillion strong mostly bacterial inhabitants of our body, is very important in deciding what disease we may become susceptible to, and in some cases, as our understanding increases, will even help heal the disease.
Rob Knight’s recently published talk on TED, is good to whet your appetite about this fascinating field
This is my understanding of why there is so much cholesterol elevation and treated, why the rate of obesity has risen to catastrophic proportions..
Our microbiomes define who we are metabolically. You look like the way you do because your mother and father. In the same way the microbiomes decide what you are, metabolically. The grand difference is that Microbial DNA has only about 10 % similarity with another, whereas the human genome may have 99% similarity.
That is why the diet does not work, because 90 per cent of the people prescribed the diet, are rejecting or unsuitable for the diet. The Israeli scientists have come up with a personalized diet which takes into account YOUR microbiome and not what the food does to someone else, but how the food will react with the microbiome of someone else.
(My sister cooks the best Genetic Food
Even though I have lived the major portion of my life in Australia and USA (plus four European, two Caribbean), the microbial origins are none of the above. I prefer Bananas to Apples; Hamburger is not an appealing food, I am always drawn to Asian food (including what I consider to be my Genetic Food). You may try to explain this as cultural or natural (Jack Goody might have explained Cultural and Natural are not the same). Ayurvedic physicians prescribe food according to the Dosha, the physiognomy and other characteristics, much closer to the truth that the allopathic physicians who unfortunately have only “broad spectrum” medications and dietary recommendations. As one of my teachers remarked, it is like using a Machine Gun to kill a fly!
Any day I prefer to eat Hummus/Baba Ganoush/foul madames/kibbe/chanklish/meshe/ with whole grain pita bread with olive oil and zatar on it.
(eating in Bangkok with Pak Joe and Pak Lim)
I like Roti Canai and Teh tahrek
Bun Ga xao in Vietnam or Bun Bo Hue
Sundanese food agrees with me, Thai cooking is appealing.
I am sure I am pleasing my microbiota, so that they are happy and not angry and producing inflammatory molecules, that may give me insulin resistance even if I am not overweight, some form of heart disease to boot. Now we also know that the microbiota can combine with certain physical disorders such as chronic kidney failure to affect cognition.
 (Padang Food, Bogor in Indonesia)
(Food in Cambodia)
Michael Pollan is a well-respected advisor to the American Public and has written many easily readable books about Nutrition in America (or shall we say Bad Food in America, No one would criticize a nice pasta from Prima Pasta in North Miami Beach? Would they?) Map of his microbiota is available on line and you can see that he is practicing what he preaches to the welfare of his microbiome.

So, this afternoon, I shall have a spanakopita and Chai!
Bon apetite, mes amis Les Microbiomes!

There is one particular type of cuisine, not a generic one but a varied one which I am not sure pleases my MicroBiome
It is the food served on Airlines and their Lounges