Our Grandchildren Suffer From Our Meat Consumption

It’s no longer any surprise that your health can be impaired by eating the modern diet of fast food – high in calories and low in nutrients. But did you realise that what you eat may negatively affect the adult health status and lifespans of not only your unborn children, but also your unborn grandchildren? And this is not just scaremongering, it’s based on rigorous multi-species research.

In his excellent book “Fast Food Genocide: How Processed Food Is Killing Us and What We Can Do about It” 1 , Dr Joel Fuhrman explains how evidence is accumulating that: “an unhealthful diet, excess body weight, and especially overeating protein create adverse consequences that are imprinted on genes and passed on to future generations. 2 

Mother and father share responsibility

And it’s not just the maternal line that’s involved; the paternal line is also implicated. This means that your diet and lifestyle, as a potential mother or father, can significantly affect not only the infant health but also the adult health of your children and grandchildren, as well as play a part in determining how long they will live. If you’re a parent and/or grandparent, your children’s and grandchildren’s lives will already be influenced (via a processed referred to as ‘transgenerational phenotypic effects’) by the diet and lifestyle choices you made before they were even conceived.  This paternal influence is supported both by robust animal experiments 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 and detailed reviews of human observational studies 10 .

A 2014 review 11 concluded that the studies they looked at: “…demonstrate transgenerational associations between grandpaternal/paternal exposures and health outcomes that are most unlikely to be due to ‘cultural’ inheritance/social patterning or genetic inheritance in isolation.”

Pause for thought

There are plenty of studies 12 13 14 15 that look at the complex issue of the precise epigenetic 16 mechanisms involved in causing parental and grandparental influences. However, setting those aside for the purposes of this particular blog, what perhaps should give us considerable pause for thought when we, as adults and, perhaps even more importantly, when our offspring, as they progress through their childhoods, repeatedly consume foods that can have a profound effect, not only on our own health and lifespan, but on the expected health and lifespan of each person’s descendants.

The Överkalix study

On page 130 of Fast Food Genocide, Dr Fuhrman refers to a fascinating study 17) of the grandchildren  of people born in Överkalix, Sweden. They also looked at historical records of harvests, food prices, and other information to establish food availability through the generations. Data from a number of previous studies 18 19 20 21 22 were included in the latter research project. These are outlined in the table below along with a brief summary of each study’s findings.

Transgenerational Studies from Överkalix, Sweden Research

The take-away finding

The take-away finding from all this is that a generation’s diet had health effects on three generations. Two groups of people were compared: those who had lived through a period of overabundance of meat and those who had lived through a period of food scarcity.  Those who ate a lot of meat in their childhoods produced children and grandchildren who were: “…significantly more likely to develop cardiovascular disease as adults“. On the other hand, those who grew up during periods of relative food scarcity (that is, low meat consumption) had grandchildren who lived considerably longer. And we’re not talking about just a few months longer: “Those people who ate the most meat produced children and grandchildren whose life spans were cut decades short.”

It’s not just junk food – it’s the animal protein

Don’t you find this shocking? And it wasn’t the modern fast-food that was responsible; rather, it was simply eating too much animal protein. We’ve already looked at some of the harm associated with animal protein 23 24 25 , but this puts a whole new multi-generational spin on the damage it can do when eaten to excess – something that is happening pretty much everywhere that the SAD (standard American diet) reaches 26 27 – even if you are a rat on a diet of burger and fries 28 .

It doesn’t make sense…or does it?

It doesn’t seem intuitively obvious why getting lots of meaty protein would be a bad thing for you and your descendants. However, when it’s looked at from an the perspective of evolutionary systematics 29 , it makes perfect sense.

To understand this we need to look at the inextricable relationship between the relative sizes of predator and prey populations.

As Dr Fuhrman states: “Predators and their prey coexist in a circle of interdependence; what happens to one, affects the other. Nature allots a certain amount of each prey to each predator because if predators ate too many of their prey, they would exhaust their food supply and could eat themselves and their prey into extinction.

Canadian Lynx & snowshoe hare populations

A good example of this is research 30  that looked at how the number of Canadian lynx within a specific area is related to the number of snowshoe hare (which are, more or less, only prey they have in their subarctic environment). Every ten years, there’s a population explosion of hare, which always follows a period of decline in the lynx population. The latter decline in lynx numbers always occurs after the former period of population explosion in their prey.

That is, just after the particular generation of lynx has been able to feast on an overabundance of animal protein (from the hare population explosion), lynx numbers drop – thereby allowing the by-then depleted hare population to recover. The idea that a predator’s life expectancy is shortened by excessive consumption is supported by other research 31 .

Nature protects against extinction.

During the period when a particular prey is low in numbers, it would not be beneficial to predator or prey if that species went extinct – that is, if there were still lots of predators decimating the remaining reduced prey population. So, Nature has engineered it so that too much protein causes changes to the DNA of the predators, causing their life spans AND the life spans of two subsequent generations to be shortened, thereby allowing prey numbers to recover. If the predator numbers recovered too quickly (let’s say in one generation) then they could: “…eat themselves into extinctionThis example shows that nature maintains ecological equilibrium by diet-induced DNA changes that alter the expression of predator DNA in response to how much food the predator eats.” 32

Protein-mediated longevity relates to humans as well

It’s not just studies on lynx that show strong evidence for the evolutionarily conserved nature of protein-mediated longevity. There’s extremely strong evidence from other studies 33 that the same mechanism is at play within species ranging from invertebrates to humans.  This is a perfect example of the individual being sacrificed for the collective.

Paleo proponents beware

When too much food is available to any predatory species, that species will eat too much food. We don’t normally think of ourselves as predatory, but when we consume meat, that’s exactly what our genes think we are.

Since our modern dietary lifestyle (with the constant availability of pre-packaged meat) is so utterly and uniquely unnatural when viewed from a wider historical perspective, it’s possible to see why those who eat more animal protein have more diseases and die younger – and rather shockingly now to you, perhaps – why their children and their grandchildren will also have more diseases and die younger. Research 34  that looked at Palaeolithic human skeletons showed that few of them survived beyond middle age. And when/where humans did become apex predators – eating most of their calories from hunted animals – the evidence suggests that they died even younger.

Eat plants and live longer

IGF-1 35 production  increases when we eat more meat. When we eat plants in place of meat, credible studies 36 37 38 39 40 show that human lifespan increases in length.

Final Thoughts

The foregoing covers a field of research that’s evolving and uncovering more about both the evolutionary systems involved in and the human implications of our current over-consumption of animal protein. And remember, we’re not just talking about big slabs of beef; almost all modern processed foods (except those specifically labelled as being vegan) will contain some animal protein – be it from dairy, fish, insect, mammal or bird origin. Just look at the ingredients on a handful of prepared foods at your local supermarket to get an idea…

Even if we remain sceptical about the above – so that we can continue to indulge in animal protein, irrespective of the potential damage to our health – surely replacing some meat with plants in our and our children’s diets is a sensible thing to do for the health of our descendants.

If you are interested in listening to Dr Fuhrman explain in his own words why certain modern dietary practices are described as a ‘genocide’, I have included a a detailed (1 hour 40 minute) video 41 of one of his lectures from The Truth About Health conference 42 .

Joel Fuhrman Lecture at The truth About Health Conference


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  12. Front Genet. 2016; 7: 182. Published online 2016 Oct 24. Nutritional Influence on Epigenetic Marks and Effect on Livestock Production. Brenda M. Murdoch, Gordon K. Murdoch, Sabrina Greenwood, and Stephanie McKay. []
  13. The interaction between epigenetics, nutrition and the development of cancer. Bishop KS, Ferguson LR. Nutrients. 2015 Jan 30;7(2):922-47. doi: 10.3390/nu7020922. Review. PMID: 25647662. []
  14. Sciencedirect: Epigenetics of Aging and Longevity. Translational Epigenetics Vol 4. A volume in Translational Epigenetics. 2018, Pages 229–250. Chapter 11 – Early Nutrition, Epigenetics, and Human Health. Simon C. Langley-Evans, Beverly S. Muhlhausler. []
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    European Journal of Human Genetics volume 10, pages 682–688 (2002 []
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  19. Kaati G, Bygren LO, Edvinsson S. Cardiovascular and diabetes mortality determined by nutrition during parents’ and grandparents’ slow growth period. Eur J Hum Genet 2002;10:682–8 []
  20. Bygren LO, Kaati G, Edvinsson S, Pembrey ME. Reply to senn. Eur J Hum Genet 2006;14:1149–50 []
  21. Senn S. Epigenetics or ephemeral genetics? Eur J Hum Genet 2006;14:1149; author reply 49–50 []
  22. Pembrey ME, Bygren LO, Kaati G, Edvinsson S, Northstone K, Sjostrom M, Golding J, Team AS. Sex-specific, male-line transgenerational responses in humans. Eur J Hum Genet 2006;14:159–66 []
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  24. Want Heart Failure? Try the Atkins Diet… []
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  28. Scand J Pain. 2017 Oct;17:316-324. doi: 10.1016/j.sjpain.2017.08.009. Epub 2017 Sep 18. The impact of the Standard American Diet in rats: Effects on behavior, physiology and recovery from inflammatory injury. 
    Totsch SK, Quinn TL, Strath LJ, McMeekin LJ, Cowell RM, Gower BA, Sorge RE. []
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  30. FUNCTIONAL RESPONSES OF COYOTES AND LYNX TO THE SNOWSHOE HARE CYCLE. Mark O’Donoghue Stan Boutin Charles J. Krebs Gustavo Zuleta Dennis L. Murray Elizabeth J. Hofer
    First published: 01 June 1998 https://doi.org/10.1890/0012-9658(1998)079[1193:FROCAL]2.0.CO;2 []
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  33. Cell Metab. 2014 Mar 4; 19(3): 407–417. Low Protein Intake is Associated with a Major Reduction in IGF-1, Cancer, and Overall Mortality in the 65 and Younger but Not Older Population. Morgan E. Levine, Jorge A. Suarez, Sebastian Brandhorst, Priya Balasubramanian, Chia-Wei Cheng, Federica Madia, Luigi Fontana, Mario G. Mirisola, Jaime Guevara-Aguirre,j Junxiang Wan, Giuseppe Passarino,f Brian K. Kennedy, Pinchas Cohen, Eileen M. Crimmins, and Valter D. Longo. []
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  38. Arch Intern Med. 2012 Apr 9; 172(7): 555–563. Red Meat Consumption and Mortality: Results from Two Prospective Cohort Studies. An Pan, PhD, Qi Sun, MD, ScD, Adam M. Bernstein, MD, ScD, Matthias B. Schulze, DrPH, JoAnn E. Manson, MD, DrPH, Meir J. Stampfer, MD, DrPH, Walter C. Willett, MD, DrPH, and Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD. []
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  41. Joel Fuhrman Video: Fast Food Genocide – Our Nutritional Heritage leading us to Health Tragedies []
  42. The Truth About Health Conference 2018 []