Healthy Eating and Wellbeing Influences Generations to Come
Every action has a consequence and this is even true in terms of how our diet affects those who will be born after us. The diet you eat today will affect the bodies and worlds of your children and grandchildren. From epigenetics to environmental sustainability, your own eating habits—for better or for worse—will influence generations to come.
Internally diet affects our health. We all know that. But are you also aware that diet has been shown to affect us on a genetic level? DNA, the very basis of who we are and the genes we pass on to our children, is affected by diet. It makes sense that what we eat today will affect our children in the future.
Pregnant mothers are especially tasked with consuming a healthy diet because the nutrients they consume are sent directly to the foetus, but future fathers-to-be also have a less direct but equally important responsibility to their children. A man’s diet consumed even before having children has been shown to have an effect on his children after they are born. 1
Eating well can affect multiple generations
Beginning in the 1930s, Dr. Francis M. Pottenger performed a 10-year-long study examining the effects of nutrition on cats through multiple generations. Dr. Pottenger’s ultimate results found that feeding cats a nutrient-poor diet resulted in nutritional damage after just one generation. After the third generation all the cats were unable to reproduce. Despite major differences in the metabolisms of cats and humans, we can clearly infer from his study that the quality of nutrition in one generation has powerful effects on not just one generation but possibly multiple ones.
Several studies have shown how healthy eating and wellbeing can be passed through the generations and how eating well can positively influence the health of babies. 2
The importance of a healthy diet
After they are born, our children and grandchildren will benefit from being exposed to a healthy diet. Children who are raised in homes where the family sits down and eats a healthy meal together on most nights are much more likely to practice the same healthy behaviour later in life.
They too will make healthy family meals a priority which in turn will be passed on to their own children.
From an external viewpoint, eating a healthy, environmentally conscious diet can affect the world future generations live in. Agriculture and farming have evolved rapidly since the end of World War II, when researchers discovered leftover nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (from explosives) made excellent fertilisers that produced enormous crop yields. Since then, selective breeding and genetic engineering have created agricultural practices far different from what our bodies and environment are used to.
Generation health and wellness
While huge agricultural corporations have taken up unsustainable practices in order to produce maximum profit, a counterculture has arisen that seeks to return to a more natural way of food production. Sustainable, organic, local farming does not use synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fertilisers.
Farmers often use ancient techniques for crop and field rotation that rely on natural replacement of soil nutrients that are more sustainable than repeatedly fertilising year after year.
Meats, fruits and vegetables from these sources tend to be a little more expensive. But due to the law of supply and demand, the more people who adopt such a diet, the lower these prices will become. The more people take an environmentally friendly approach to purchasing food, the more likely we are to give our children a healthy planet.
You are what you eat
We’ve all heard the saying that goes “You are what you eat.” Perhaps a more enlightened version would be to say, “You, your children and your grandchildren are what you eat.” Consuming a healthy diet cultivated from sustainable sources will affect the world and the health of generations to come. When you consider how closely healthy eating and wellbeing are linked, not just for you, but for those who will follow you, it’s another strong reason why we should all be concerned with what we put in our bodies.
- Gunnar Kaati, Lars Olov Bygren, et al. “Transgenerational response to nutrition, early life circumstances and longevity.” European Journal of Human Genetics (2007) 15, 784–790; doi:10.1038/sj.ejhg.5201832