On Deep Nutrition and Genetic Expression

Thanks to the publicity surrounding the human genome project, most of us think we know something about genetics. However, genetic science, like nutritional science, is still in its infancy. Until recently, for example, we used to think of genes as set in stone. You either had good genes or bad genes, and they determined whether or not you would get breast cancer, have crooked teeth, or get an astigmatism in your middle age. Modern genetic research has shown us otherwise. It turns out these things are more heavily influenced by nutrition — yours, your parents’, and your grandparents’.

Now, rather than talking about whether or not you “have” a particular gene, genetic scientists talk about how the genes you have are expressed. The study of how inherited genes are “turned on” and “turned off” is called epigenetics.

Dr. Cate Shanahan wrote perhaps my favorite book on the subject, Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food. I recently interviewed Dr. Cate so that she could explain the implications of this emerging science to us in layman’s terms.

Me: How did you first get the idea to write your book, Deep Nutrition? Why did you choose to write it?

Dr. Cate: I started writing when I became overwhelmed by the amount of medical research that did nothing to explain chronic illnesses, or what to do to actually cure them. I wanted the world to know that there was research to support eating a traditional diet, tons of it. A traditional diet had not even been anthropologically defined.

The spark was lit at my office in Kalaheo, HI. One busy afternoon a colleague was shaking her head over what to do for a diabetic who’s blood sugars were sky high, over 300, in spite of taking insulin and multiple glucose-lowering pills. The patient was terribly overweight and had just about every diabetic complication, including kidney failure and heart failure. Frustrated, she said “It’s like none of the cells in her body work right.”

I could not get the image of a cell struggling to work properly out of my head. I imagined it’s membrane with complicated protein transporters and ion channels, and its internal chambers and enzymes trying to operate with all that extra sugar swirling around and wondered what the sugar itself might do that could interfere with a cell’s basic functionality.

Something made me crack open my biochemistry book and, skimming through, my finger stopped over a word I used every day but had not thought about what it really meant, glycated.

Your glycated hemoglobin reading is a direct measure of how high your blood sugars are on an average day. A normal person has a level under 5.5. A person with diabetes has a level over 6.0 (in between 5.5 and 6 is called prediabetes). The higher the number, the more likely you are to have premature arterial disease, kidney failure, blindness, and more. For example, if your number is over 8, you are considered extremely high risk.

And here’s the thing that suddenly made all the difference to my understanding of this disease we call diabetes: Glycation is a spontaneous reaction, so our bodies cannot control it.

With this realization came a burst of insight. Because glycation can occur inside and outside a cell, it means a person with high blood sugar would suffer from internal and external cell damage that could potentially interfere with any number of vital cell processes.

At that point, in the year 2002, I had already educated myself about the reality that saturated fat is not the cause of heart disease and understood the role that the oxidized fats in common foods like salad dressing and cereal would play in damaging cell functionality. Now, with this understanding of glycation, I was able to see how eating carbohydrate-rich foods would inevitably cause the damage that would render cells insensitive to not just insulin, and therefore cause diabetes, but to potentially all other hormones! Including thyroid, estrogen, testosterone, and more.

The two reactions, glycation and lipid oxidation, feed off of each other. So a diet high in vegetable oils and glucose/fructose-rich foods — the very diet nutritionists were advising my diabetic patients to follow — would accelerate their disease and lead to the development of new ones. I started a search to see if there was any scientific research to support the idea that oxidation and glycation reactions were the underlying cause of things like hypertension or atherosclerosis or cancer. And of course there was. Tons of it.

By then I felt like I needed to keep track of my findings, so I started writing things down. But it took seven more years to put Deep Nutrition together because I felt like I wanted to incorporate all the amazing things about the inner workings of the human body that could be brought together to tell the story of health and disease simply by understanding how food affects our body at a cellular, even molecular, level.

Here’s a video that beautifully illustrates the complexity of a dynamic, living cell:

Me: Can you briefly explain the concepts of genetic wealth and genetic momentum?

Dr. Cate: Genetic Wealth is the idea that if your parents or grandparents ate traditional and nutrient-rich foods, then you came into the world with genes that could express in an optimal way, and this makes you more likely to look like a supermodel and be an extraordinary athlete. Take Angelina Jolie or Michael Jordan, for instance. They’ve got loads of genetic wealth.

Genetic Momentum
describes the fact that, once you have that extraordinary genetic wealth, you don’t have to eat so great to be healthier than the average person. It’s like being born into a kind of royalty. You always have that inheritance around and you don’t need to work at your health in the same way other people do.

These days, for most of us, it was our grandparents or great grandparents who were the last in our line to grow up on a farm or get a nutrient-rich diet. In my case, I have to go back 4 generations to the Irish and Russian farmers who immigrated to NYC where my grandparents on both sides could only eat cheap food; sometimes good things like chopped liver and beef tongue, but often preserves and crackers and other junk. So my grandparents were far healthier than my brother and sisters and I.

The Standard American Diet (SAD) has accelerated the processes of genetic wealth being spent down, genetic momentum petering out, and the current generation getting sick earlier than their parents and grandparents. This is a real, extreme tragedy on the order of end-of-the-world level losses of natural resources. Genetic wealth is a kind of natural resource. And loss of genetic wealth is a more urgent problem than peak oil or the bursting of the housing bubble. But of course nobody is talking about it directly, only indirectly, in terms of increased rates of chronic disease.

Take autism, for example. Why is autism so common? I don’t think vaccines are the reason for the vast vast majority of cases, since subtle signs of autism can be seen before vaccination in the majority. I think the reason has to do with loss of genetic wealth. We know that children with autism exhibit DNA mutations that their parents and grandparents did not have. Why? Because in the absence of necessary nutrients, DNA cannot even duplicate itself properly and permanent mutations develop.

(Here’s an article on one kind of genetic mutation (DNA deletions) associated with autism.)

Fortunately, most disease is not due to permanent letter mutations and therefore a good diet can rehabilitate a lot of genetic disease that is only a result of altered genetic expression. To put your high-school biology to work, it’s the idea of genotype versus phenotype. You might have the genes that make you prone to, for example, breast cancer (the BRCA1 mutation), but you might not get the disease if you eat right because the gene expression can revert back to normal.

Me: In other words, most disease is not hard-wired into our genetic code. Rather, it surfaces as the result of genetic expression — something that can be altered with nutrient-dense, traditional food. In the book, you spend a while unpacking the idea of “second sibling syndrome” in order to demonstrate how siblings with nearly identical genetic inheritance can express those genes differently. What is “second sibling syndrome”?

Dr. Cate:
It’s the set of consequences that come from a kind of gestational sibling rivalry. These days, most mothers can not nourish themselves optimally before conception or during pregnancy. And close-birth spacing exaggerates the differences in health between siblings. There’s benefits and drawbacks to being first.

The first born gets first dibs at all the nutrients in mom’s body (minerals from bone, fatty acids from brain, etc etc). So there are definite advantages to being first if your mom did not follow an optimal diet. If baby number two is born in short order, mom’s body will likely be depleted of one or more nutrients for baby number two because baby number one took all she could spare. This relative deficiency means baby number one usually has a wider jaw and higher cheekbones than number two, for instance.

These days, being baby number one has a special disadvantage of its own because most women eat far to many carbs. This often makes their bodies relatively hormone insensitive, which means that their uterus will not perform optimally the first time around. And that performance can impact baby’s skeletal growth and symmetry. For baby number two, uterine blood vessels and hormone receptors and other infrastructure have all be laid down, and the uterus grows faster for number two. Because of this, baby number two is often more biradially symmetrical and has features indicative of optimal hormone sensitivity compared to number one.

You can see examples of the trend here.

Me: You recommend people eat according to the Four Pillars Of World Cuisine in order to improve their genetic expression and help create genetic wealth. What are the Four Pillars, and why do you recommend them?

Dr. Cate: A traditional diet can help genes function better, and you will pass that improved function in the form of optimized growth down to your children. The Four Pillars of World Cuisine define the key components of a traditional diet.

When I started writing, there was no agreed-upon consensus as to what our ancestors ate. There was no paleo-diet movement where people could come together and hash out the most logical answers to the simple, central question. There were only a few scattered books and most still clung to the idea that the natural world is stingy with her resources, so food, and especially fat, was hard to come by. I had read A Revolution in Eating and Health and The Rise of Civilization and The Original Affluent Society, and all pointed to an easy abundance that people could simply collect when they chose to.

So we started with an anthropologic approach. We can assume our ancestors’ relationship with nature would have been the same 100,000 ago it would be today, that is, we would search for seasonal foods and use all that we possibly could. So we defined the Four Pillars very simplistically. We started with the idea that people would eat whatever didn’t make them immediately sick, and prepare or store it however they could. No matter where people live, we all have the same sorts of resources: Local plants and animals, and the firewood and storage chambers that would retard or facilitate decay during storage. We also eat food fresh sometimes. So we broke it all down into four common practices and procedures that we found common to all the traditional cuisines and cultures we studied and came up with these.

  • Fresh food
  • Fermented and Sprouted foods
  • Meat on the Bone
  • Organ meats

Each has special health-promoting benefits that are unique to their category. And since our genes evolved with constant exposure to these foods, as we did with vitamin C, we evolved a dependency on them that is uniquely human.

Me: Why did you write your follow up book, Food Rules?

Dr. Cate: After researching and writing Deep Nutrition, I found myself dispensing a whole bunch of little tidbits to more and more patients. When Michael Pollan’s Food Rules came out, saying: Eat food, Not too much, Mostly vegetables, I thought I had to respond.

With Luke’s help, I compiled my in-clinic advice to my patients into a much more practical, much more health promoting set of rules that help people to recognize the healthiest foods available in stores, cook them to optimally preserve or enhance their nutrients, and be mindful of how to coordinate eating with sleep and activity to optimize the health-promoting power of your meals. Plus I’ve got a bonus section, Doctor’s Orders, that helps people navigate the healthcare system, avoiding the worst drugs and asking your doctor for the most important tests. Many of the tables and the appendix are made to be xeroxed easily to take shopping with you.

Me: How do you think Food Rules can help the average eater? Do they need to read Deep Nutrition first?

Dr. Cate: Food Rules
is a nutritional amuse bouche. Deep Nutrition is a main course. And like an amuse bouche, I designed it to not to replace Deep Nutrition, but to accompany and complement it. I have heard from patients (and you can read in the reviews on Amazon) that it was extremely helpful even though they’d read Deep Nutrition more than once.

I wrote Food Rules so that one could read a rule or two or three during the morning constitutional—if that’s the only place one has a moment to read. One woman read it while sunning on the beach and went on to give her kitchen a healthy makeover and lose 40 pounds and get off a handful of prescriptions.

Because its such an easy, quick, readable guide it makes a wonderful gift for the busy people in your life!

Me: Do you have any questions for Dr. Cate? If so, ask them in the comments!


  1. Becky D says

    The book “Deep Nutrition” changed my life and my future. As someone who has had 3 generations of women before me be diagnosed with Alzheimers, my biggest fear was that I had no choice – it was in my genes and there wasn’t much I could do except delay the onslaught. Dr. Cate gave me hope, and a blueprint for changing all of that. I just wish I’d known this 10 years ago for my Mom.

    • says

      Downs syndrome is a result of chromosomal replication mistake and is more common as mom’s age. Like all gene replication errors, Down’s also is less likely to occur in the setting of good nutrition. Once a child with Down’s is born, nutrition remains the key tool in promoting optimal development and will reduce the risk of the many diseases Down’s is associated with, most notably diabetes.

  2. Cory says

    I have a baby who I have every reason to believe has second-sibling syndrome. One of the first things I thought when I first saw her was that her face was narrower than her older sister’s. Is it possible to use optimal nutrition to “cure” second-sibling syndrome?

    Also, my older daughter is remarkable healthy and attractive. Since neither my husband or I had nutrition remarkably better than average (my father grew up on what was, for all intents and purposes, a subsistence farm, but that’s all), how did we get her?

    • KristenM says

      Hi Cory,

      I’ll let Dr. Cate answer your first question. My gut instinct on that one is that you can’t “cure” it completely because many important things are determined in the womb. BUT, you CAN assuage it, particularly if your child is still young (first few years) by concentrating right now on feeding her the most nutrient-dense foods possible and completely avoiding the displacing foods like grains and sugars.

      As for your older daughter, I think you answered your question. Your father grew up a subsistence farmer. That means his parents grew or hunted everything they ate, and that he himself was raised this way in his early (most formative) years. There is no room in that diet for the displacing foods of modern convenience. This sounds like a case of genetic wealth.

      Remember, the egg that you grew from was formed in your GRANDMOTHER’S womb (when she was pregnant with your mother)! This goes WAY back….

      • says

        I couldn’t have said it better myself, Kristen.

        The good news is that facial bones develop most rapidly in early childhood and then again at onset of puberty, so the window stays open for a certain degree of ‘catch-up’ growth.

        • says

          …speaking of catchup growth: I grew almost an inch in my mid 30s once I got off the veg oil and carbs/sugar and onto a well rounded diet of traditional foods.

          The point is, all sorts of off-the-charts, break-the-rules things can happen with good nutrition and healthy living (lots of sleep and well rounded exercise).

  3. Shannon Baukhages says

    It is so reassuring to hear a physician chime in on this traditional eating movement. I am not a physician, but I am a medical professional, so I find it somewhat disconcerting that more medical doctors have not (or seem not to have) come on board. Thanks, Cate, for the reminder about glycation and lipid oxidation – I need to get out my biochem book and reacquaint myself!

    • says

      You may already be aware of two great resources for health professionals who believe in the power of nutrition: The Nutrition and Metabolism Society, and The American Society of Bariatric Physicians (mostly, but not all, are low-carb and boldly recommending real fats). The NMS costs $10 to join and the ASBP has an allied health professional category for membership if you are interested.

  4. says

    Wow. I am going to have to come back to read the rest of this, but this echoes my thoughts on the subject almost perfectly. I do think that genetics plays a part, but so does diet and so do toxins. I think this shows the one part (diet) very well. My son has autism and so I have been mulling over this a great deal. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Michelle says

    Thank you so much for this article. I am going to buy the books! I just wish I could spread the word more with people who are not defensive or tell me I am wrong, rather listen with interest and then research for themselves. I am proud to be a food nerd too!

    • KristenM says

      You can do what I do (chicken out in real life conversations, and save all your gusto for an online blog)!

      {{I’m only partially kidding, you know.}}


  6. says

    I actually just finished reading deep nutrition today. So much good information, and really interesting. I’m pretty sure I suffer from second sibling syndrom, but am determined to do what I can to give my children the genetic boost I didn’t get.

    Any thoughts on how to approach my parents and siblings with this info? They think the way I eat is weird and extreme… ironic considering the junk they put in their bodies.

    • KristenM says

      Rule Number One: You can not be too kind, too gentle.

      Lead by example. Don’t be too preachy. I like giving people non-polemical books to help open dialogue, but that’s because I’m an avid reader from a long line of avid readers.

  7. says

    Even mainstream Dr. Oz is coming around to the power of nutrition. I heard him say on a recent show “I believe that carbs are the root evil cause of obesity in America” and a few minutes later on the same show he said “if you eliminate obesity you eliminate most chronic disease.” So put the two thoughts together, and you have a glimmer of hope.

  8. Katie says

    Can a woman with second sibling syndrome have healthy children if she eats a nutrient dense diet pre and during pregnancy?

  9. Jennifer says

    This article blows my mind. SO good. I just ordered both books. And now my mind is wandering. My third child (and last) is 14 and looks smaller than most of his friends. Not THE shortest but he doesn’t have the thick neck and height and large feet that most boys his age have. We’ve 90% stayed away from junk food/soda/sports drinks/processed cereals and fast food like MOST ALL of his friends. He eats better than every other kid I know, yet he’s smaller and thus seems to have some disadvantage at sports (coaches like the BIG boys). Any advice to growth and easing our mind that we ARE doing the right thing even though visibly he looks a bit undergrown? We haven’t always been strong with a good diet, but I’d say it’s been for the last 3 years. Your post above made it sound like we could make up some things at this point in his growth. ANY thoughts are appreciated on this subject.

    • says

      You might want to jump into the Four Pillars Chapter when you get it, to get a quick overview of the principles of a traditional diet, and make sure to pay close attention to the labels in everything you buy to avoid the toxins that interfere with growth.

  10. Corinne says

    Dr. Cate,

    My 1st grandchild died at 2 days of age from a gentic FOD (fatty oxidation disorder). Specifically, his disorder was MCAD (Medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase). My son & his wife were told that each child they have has a 1 in 4 chance of having MCAD, & a 2 in 4 chance of being a carrier. With a mutation that comes from both parents, can a tradinal foods diet make a difference? No doubt a healthy diet will make a huge difference in all other aspects and give a child a healthier body to deal with the disorder, but is it possible to correct defects on the genetic level?

    I look forward to reading your book. Thank you for this helpful and informative interview Dr. Cate and Kristen.

    • says

      There’s reason to believe DNA has enough ‘intelligence’ (in Chapter 2 we discuss why we use this term) to potentially be able to correct what are effectively type-o’s. Maybe not all, but perhaps some.

  11. Erica says

    It is said that Angelina Jolie had braces when she was a child. Many other celebrities have had some orthodontic treatments as well, including Jessica Alba.

  12. Carolyn says

    Dr. Cate,
    I recently read both of your books. Fantastic! We came to the traditional food world after my children were diagnosed with Celiac Disease. We now eat a gluten-free form of the Weston A. Price Foundation recommended diet. Can you suggest any testing that should be done to insure their guts are healing and there are no nutritional deficiencies that have not been resolved? Thank you!

  13. Sherrie Hake says

    Dear Cate,
    The set of your books looks amazing! I have requested our local library to carry them as they do not yet. My restrictive budget stops me from purchasing them which leads me to a question. Would you be willing to send me a copy of each to read and then review for you? If this would be a possiblility, please email me privately at simplybasic@ymail.com.
    thanks so much!

  14. Gabe says

    ‘Carbs’ are not inherently bad! The idea is to avoid food toxins as much as possible and to me these are cereal grains, legumes, and PUFA. Most of the rest is fair game depending on where you are starting from. Saturated fats protect the body from harmful oxidation and have been shown to restore liver health probably partly due to decreasing absorption of bacterial endotoxin. Also, eating starches and sugars along with SAFA lowers the GL of a meal. The last thing I will point out is that the stress response is suppressed by glucose, protein, and salt. Keep these in the diet in adequate amounts and you should do well. I would like to point everyone to the work of Raymond Peat, a physiologist, nutrition researcher, and historian.

    • KristenM says

      Hi Gabe,

      I’m not aware of anyone saying that carbs are inherently bad. Who are you arguing with here? Have you read either of Dr. Cate’s books to see what her nutritional recommendations are?

      • Gabe says

        I’ve read ‘Deep Nutrition’. I’m not arguing with anyone but there still remains a “carbophobia” amongst the commenters. Mainly, I’m referring to sugar and it’s demonization. Everything needs to be taken in context. Add to that, ‘glycation’ results from glucose, protein, and fat, not just “sugar”. To me we have only scratched the surface and part of what I loved about the book was the emphasis on what traditional cultures had figured out culturally.

        • says


          Thanks for reading Deep Nutrition. What you’re essentially saying, in the most intelligent and respectful way, is “I find your condemnation of sugar unconvincing.”

          And that’s okay. To paraphrase Obe Wan Kenobi, “You must eat what you feel is right, of course.” No one is telling you what you can or cannot eat. Our books are meant to provide information with which people can make more informed choices. We understand that you choose not to cut sugar from your diet, as I’m sure you understand why we’ve decided to reduce sugar in our own.

          Luke Shanahan

  15. Alia says

    I am curious about autosomal dominant genetic problems, we have been told that we have a 50% chance of passing on a genetic defect. It has varied wildly in severity with every person affected in the family. I have a few of the physical affects, my son and father more severe ones; including missing a set of ribs and an ear with Microtia. I am curious if there is anything to be done to help lessen the severity for future generations in our family.

    • says

      The phenomonon called penetrance (the degree to which a gene expresses itself) is very likely to respond extremely positively to proper nutrition. In other words, you can have a gene associated with a disease, but never see any signs of the disease. Our ability to really testgenetic diseases is very crude, we don’t know what we are detecting in many cases. It could be the protein coding sequence, or it could be something that turns the gene on or off at the wrong time. In cases of the latter, then you have the most hope for nutritional correction of genetic disease.

  16. Leila says

    Hi Dr. Cate!

    I have a very strong history of breast cancer on my father’s side (his mother, and both his sisters were diagnosed pre-menopausally). My youngest aunt has been tested and does not have the BRAC1 mutation. However, my oncologist (who I see for preventative measures)has made sure I’m aware that there could be other genetic mutations that researchers just haven’t found yet that could be responsible for the strong history, or that it might not be genetically linked at all. My question to you is what steps I should take nutritionally to decrease the chances of getting breast cancer. I already excercise reguarly and limit alcohol, and I eat a nutrient dense diet for the most part. I’m wondering if you recommend cutting out alcohol altogether, or if I should eliminate grains, or if there is somehting else you recommend.

    Thanks for your help!

    • says

      As much as I don’t want to recommend cutting alcohol, living in Napa, since any consumption is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer I think that’s probably best. But there are other more important steps. In Food Rules, I have a Rethink Cancer segment in the Doctor’s Orders section that I hope will put your ability to control cancer risk in perspective.

  17. Mike F says

    Dr. Cate,

    I’m over halfway through Deep Nutrition and I absolutely love it! The implications of what you are asserting in the book are quite profound! I’ve purchased a copy for my younger sister (I’m child #1 and she’s child #4) who is in college and not sure what to major in, she has more than a passing interest in nutrition but I think she is leaning towards business. It will be interesting to see what she thinks of the book and if impacts her future.

    I promise that you are already assured a 5-star review from me once I finish the book however as someone from the other side of the political spectrum I think you took a turn a bit too far in the last few pages of chapter 6 (and a couple other small digressions hence). There are plenty of rich, famous, and privileged people that have horrible diets. This problem, I believe, is a lack of education across the board, not just for us peasants.

    I do have two questions for you, if you’d like to answer. What are your thoughts of the dietary advice of the Weston A. Price Foundation and/or their book Nourishing Traditions? I found it odd that in your resources you mention their Real Milk campaign but didn’t mention the foundation directly.

    Question #2. My wife is not on board with a lot of these concepts, mainly organ meats and raw milk. For my two year old son I’ve been purchasing him pasteurized (Not ultra-pasteurized) homogenized milk from mainly pasture feed cows. I’m trying to get a feel for how much I’m losing in nutrients from the processing of this milk. So on a scale if raw, unprocessed, grass-fed milk is 100% nutritious and ultra-pasteurized, homogenized factory famed milk is 0% nutritious what would be pasteurized homogenized grass-fed milk be in your honest opinion?

    • says

      Hi Mike
      I would identify myself as being off the modern political spectrum entirely, so I can’t begin to guess where you are coming from. However, starting Jan 2012, Luke and I are doing a weekly column for the Napa Register that will be called the Stock Report where we will be examining whether or not one can actually eat healthy in the Napa Valley without being an heir(ess).
      I think Weston Price and the two organizations that carry his name PPNF and WAFP both do great work. And I drink processed milk and lots of extra cream in my coffee now, thanks to the recent ridiculous withdraw of Organic Pastures products from CA shelves. But as soon I can, I’ll get the good stuff.

  18. Real Food RD says

    Thanks for doing this interview. Deep Nutrition is one of the few books that I can recommend without reservation. There are so few nutrition books out there that don’t have serious flaws or credibility issues despite some good points.

    My husband and I have been working on building up our reserves for the past year and hope to start our family soon. I had some very attractive grandparents, but I was the last child and my mother was the last child in her family so things kind of petered out for me. I can’t wait to see what we will be able to do for our future child’s health.

  19. says

    These are THE BOOKS we recommend to our clients who ask about the role nutrition plays in their oral health.
    The combination of thorough research and Dr. Cate’s ability to explain the concepts presented in the books so simply and clearly, make these books a MUST HAVE for anyone looking to really grasp the significance which the role of the diet plays in creating optimal health!
    To Your Health!

  20. Debbie says

    I am going to school to be a Nutritional Therapist Practitioner and have been overwhelmed by all we are learning and this has put it all together for me. Epigenetics yahoo! It is so amazing to be able to turn your life around and the lives of others through good nutrient dense foods.

    • says

      Thanks Debbie,

      There is both good news and daunting news in the central message of the Deep Nutrition philosophy. The good news is, if you know precisely how to reconnect your cells and your living DNA to what remains of the natural world, you and your children have the best chance of being gifted with extraordinary health.

      The scary news—the part no one wants to think about because it is so daunting—is that there’s less and less nature to go around; I hate saying it, but there will be less nature tomorrow than there is today. Those children (and parents) who come to grips with this reality and build that appreciation into their dietary strategies will be busy loading their genes with as much genetic wealth as possible, while they can. Those who fail to do so…well, we know what that looks like. Just check the health statistics.

      As a Nutritional Therapist Practitioner, you’ll be acting as a kind of medium, using your knowledge of food, source, and technique to reconnect your clients’ DNA to the natural world upon which that DNA depends. Most people now appreciate how we need to spend some time in nature to feel sane, to maintain our sense of psychological and spiritual health. With folks like you leading the conversation, maybe we’ll all learn to appreciate that, in order to be healthy, nature needs to spend some time in us.

      All the best,
      Luke Shanahan

  21. Megan B says

    Hello Dr. Cate,

    I’m very intrigued by your information in this article and look forward to reading your books as soon as I can get my hands on them! I have two questions for you.
    1. In your research have you come across or looked into the Eat Right for your Type diet? Do you find any validity in this approach and would it fit within Deep Nutrition?
    2. I live in Canada where unpasteurized milk is actually illegal, is it worth the risk of trying to buy it under the table so to speak? Or are there alternatives like Kefir that can by used instead?

    Megan :)

  22. says

    Hi Megan,

    Cate’s had a busy week, so I’ll offer a provisional answer to serve until such time that she can get a few minutes to properly respond.

    As for the Eat Right for your Type Diet: If that diet has worked wonderfully for you, then—of course—who would argue with results? If you trust those authors (because you’ve enjoyed astonishing results by following their advice) then you might most benefit by asking them how they might build Deep Nutrition philosophies into their diet. But keep in mind, Cate and I feel that the benefits of “typing” may be overrated. Considering that scientists now believe that all people of all “races” are separated, at most by (a diaspora spanning) some 50,000 years, one modern human isn’t really that terribly different from another.

    Read Deep Nutrition for the full explanation.

    In the meantime, rest assured that a small group of serious nutrition researchers—here I’m talking about folks like Cate, the Jaminets, Gary Taubes, Sean Croxton and handful of others—are all on the constant lookout for any new information that might be of use to you and your better health. That’s their passion. So if you stay tuned to their websites and their books, you can feel confident that, if there’s anything crucial to know from the “Right for your Type” camp or anywhere else, you’ll definitely hear about it. Trust me, these people are hip to all the various diets and their claims. And they build whatever is useful into their nutritional philosophies so that they can then present that information to you.

    One of the concepts of Deep Nutrition is that enduring diets around the world are, once you look under the (biochemical) hood, strikingly similar. So although it’s true that different people peculiar nutritional needs, they will all benefit by building their diets on a foundation of what we call “the Four Pillars” of world cuisine.

    To your second question: There are alternatives. If you can get quality artisanal cheeses or other products (like kefir) made with unpasteurized milk, then that’s a good thing. If you can locate a source of good raw milk, then of course you must consider carefully how well those farmers care for the cows, adhere to animal hygiene and a clean environment, etc.

    If you care about choices, and you care about your health (which you clearly do), then you might send an email to your local politicians letting them know that if they dare to do something as ridiculous as making it illegal for you to purchase real milk, then they will not receive your vote, ever.

    If the Eat Right 4 Your Type folks get back to you, please do let us know. We’d be very interested in their response.

    Luke Shanahan
    co-author, Deep Nutrition

  23. says

    I read “Deep Nutrition” and found it very interesting. The part about “Second Sibling Syndrome” is intriguing. I was looking at a photo of my grandfather and his EIGHT siblings taken in the early 1900s and again in 1931. The older siblings have nice broad cheek bones and wide jaws. The two youngest have very narrow faces and small jaws. There was close to a twenty year age difference between the oldest and the youngest. Could this be an example of mom’s genes getting tired and spread thin? My great-grandmother was the oldest surviving child from her generation and she had nice cheekbones and a strong chin/jaw. Her youngest brother by twenty years had a narrow face and small chin/jaw. These were German immigrant farm folk living in southern Illinois, so I am sure they ate very traditional diets.Would this “second sibling” effect also be the result of the poor farm wife popping out baby after baby over the span of twenty or more years? Would you be interested in seeing these old photos?

    • says

      Hi Lydia,

      Most definitely. I know you read our book, and so you already know the answer. But for those who haven’t read it yet: the described degeneration of skeletal robusticity is quite likely the result of (or, I should say, an aspect of) Second Sibling Syndrome. That’s why we call it “Second Sibling Syndrome,” because each subsequent child (when not enough time is allowed for mom’s body to replenish) is afforded relatively less nutrition in the womb.

      The Syndrome is the result of nutritional insufficiency. This insufficiency can result from a modern “shallow nutrition” diet, or from insufficient spacing between pregnancies, or (commonly) a combination of the two.

      The question behind your question is, “Can a traditional diet erase the need to space out children in order to ensure that baby #10 is as healthy as baby #1?” The data says no. This is why traditional cultures took care to maintain a 4-P diet AND to space out pregnancies.

      Good question!

  24. Lindsay says


    I just found out that I am pregnant with my second child and I am concerned with second sibling syndrome. Once my baby is born, he/she will be 25 months younger than their brother. I currently eat and have been eating a traditional food diet for the past five years, but I am still worried that I did not wait long enough between pregnancies. Is there anything else that I can do? How severely less nourished do you think my next child will be in comparison to their sibling? I should also note that I am still breastfeeding my son, who is 16 months old. I’d greatly appreciate any advice.

  25. Elfreda says

    Your book Deep Nutrition was recommended by a friend. I was wondering if you have found any information as it relates to genetic kidney disease and nutrition. I have Polycystic Kidney Disease and wonder what my body is using or has excess of that creates a cyst. Also, my son has ADHD. We did the Feingold diet with no noticable results. Would Deep Nutrition have any affect in reversing this ADHD?

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