MadSci Network: Immunology

Re: Do you get sick because of what you eat or ,is it your ethnicity?

Date: Fri Jan 9 03:16:58 2004
Posted By: Steven Reid, Staff, Immunology, IDRL
Area of science: Immunology
ID: 1071021357.Im

If you don't eat healthily - lots of fruits and vegetables - you could 
get sick.  Fruits and vegetables contain lots of vitamins and minerals 
that are essential for healthy humans.  So if you didn't get them you 
might be in poorer health and keep coming down with colds etc.  For 
example, scurvy is a deficiency in vitamin C which can be avoided by 
making sure you eat fruits containing vitamin C.  Unlike some other 
animals, humans don't make vitamin C and need to obtain it through diet.  
So if you don't eat a healthy and balanced diet - lean meat, lots of 
fruits and vegetables and exercise, your health will suffer in the end.  
So long term, the type of diet that you have can affect whether you will 
end up with heart disease or other problems.

As to ethnicity, it's a really interesting question.  You could think 
about ethnicity in a genetic way.  You don't get sick because of your 
ethnicity, but some genetic groups are more prone to certain diseases.  
Where you come from, or more importantly where your ancestors come from 
may influence your genes and which diseases you may be more susceptible 
to.  This doesnít mean that you will get a disease if you come from a 
certain country Ė only that there may be a higher risk.  Letís have a 
look at some simple population genetics.  Imagine 10 families move to a 
new village in Scotland called Old Glasgow. They have lots of children 
and some of the children from the 10 different families eventually get 
married and have children of their own.  These children will have traits 
from both the mother and the father.  Some new people move to Old Glasgow 
and the village gets bigger, introducing new people who get married to 
and have children with those of the 10 original families and so on.  In 
the end, lots of people in Old Glasgow, over lots of years, will have a 
genetic link Ė imagine that they are really distantly related.  You can 
imagine that if there havenít been many people moving into the area 
introducing new genes, whole areas of people can be genetically similar 
i.e. distantly related.  Letís go back to Old Glasgow.  Imagine that 8 of 
the 10 families had parents with red hair and lots of the children had 
red hair.  Many, many years later, people from that area would have a 
higher incidence of red hair than in other places or countries.  In the 
same way as you could introduce a predominance of hair colour over many 
generations, you could also increase disease susceptibility.  

For example, diabetes mellitus (DM) is more common in Finland than in 
China.  Why?  Because lots of the people in Finland have a difference in 
an amino acid in a protein that makes them more susceptible to DM.  
People of Chinese origin more often than not, don't have this amino acid 
difference and are less likely to have DM.  People in the west coast of 
Scotland have a higher incidence of many diseases - partly because the 
population there is made from fewer people and genetic susceptibility to 
certain diseases is increased.  Psoriasis is more common in Caucasians 
than in Asians.  Most people who have sickle cell anaemia (a disease in 
which the oxygen carrying red blood cells are deformed and canít carry 
enough oxygen) are of African descent.  

So ethnicity doesnít make you ill Ė more like the genetics of where you 
come from.

I hope that answers some of your question.

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