Genomics

A hard truth I have come to realize is that fine dining and lobster dinner go together about as well as cats and vacuum cleaners. But I’ve always been imbued with a warm fuzzy feeling when I entice my cat to snuggle up to ol’ Power Suck before I hit the ON switch, so, sure enough, I’m in a fine dining establishment peering down at a prettily perched piece of the Pacific in the form of the above-mentioned crustacean.

Ties, tiaras and tuxedos were the sartorial preference of this joint yet I was handed a plastic bib and a set of nutcrackers. No crayons. Larry, the lop-eyed lobster and I viewed each other suspiciously. “Call me Ishmael!” I whispered as I lit into this disgusting denizen of the deep.

I grabbed the claw and, with a mighty crack, released that choice meat from its brittle shell which snapped like a day old fortune cookie that had fallen into a really big vat of liquid nitrogen while in the Gobi desert right next to an amplifier (you Pulitzer folks paying attention?), but with unfortunate results. Not only did some pent up juice shoot straight up into my left eye, but a wee piece of shell went hurtling across the room like a cruise missile, narrowly missing a distinguished appearing woman who was sipping at her bisque. I’m sure I could detect a momentary look of disdain, from both her and the lobster.

Unlike the bottom-feeding lobster, who can eat whatever is lying on the ocean floor including snails, crabs and Jimmy Hoffa and still keep herself looking marvelous and sweet to the taste, we are what we eat, which is why many of us resemble a Whopper with a side of poutine.

Enter the amazing science of NUTRITIONAL GENOMICS.

Many diseases are caused by what we toss past our gums. How, you ask? Perhaps I’ll tell you. Certain nutrients actually interact with our genes by binding to DNA transcription factors. Genes, of course, are responsible for putting together our proteins including pleasant lovely useful proteins that do everything from deciding how much of our dad we look like to how disease-free we are. Genes, however, that are interfered with in their intricate production of proteins can start making wonky proteins that may make us sick, homely and start voting NDP. Thus, over time, a particular diet affects gene expression of proteins. Nutritional genomics, the study of diet/gene interactions, will usher in a fascinating new era of consumer genetics. Our genes decide if a certain nutrient ie. Coco Puffs, will be OK for our particular body or if it will, in fact, create malignant Coco Puffomas on our kidneys.

Imagine going into a restaurant, handing over a disc containing your genetic profile and being given a menu of those foods that will do you no harm. It is coming. It hurts me to admit that I already know that I likely have a malignant gene for Rogers Chocolates. So call me suicidal. Viva death by chocolate!

Yet, despite our genomes, our body can often successfully repair nutritional damage. While a team doctor at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta I was taken aback by the fact that there were five McDonalds restaurants set up in Olympic Village. Not only were they open 24 hours for the athletes’ (and doctors’) snacking pleasure, but everything was completely free! For 17 days! And guess where the athletes ate. I am not making this up. I’m not allowed to. The Olympics: fuelled by Coke with a side order of Quarter Pounders.

The 50m backstroke was won by a guy pumped up on Happy Meals. Sadly, however, a pre-swim feast of Big Macs spelled disaster for the Equatorial Guinean swimmer (of Sydney fame) who sunk to the bottom of the pool and ended up doing his best impression of a lobster.

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