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By Rob Archangel, staff writer

Welcome back to the Real Food Summit roundup. Today, I spent a couple hours listening to Gray Graham of the Price Pottenger Nutritional Foundation talk about epigenetics and the hereditary aspects of illness.

That dude really doesn’t like high glycemic foods. He mentioned their alleged dangers probably a dozen times or more, and targets them for messing up our self-regulating good health. As Matt mentioned in a recent video, glycemic index is a lousy way to determine what you should eat or what sort of impact a given food is likely to have on you. Even if a given food spikes our insulin really high and really fast, it is our insulin sensitivity that determines whether this is problematic. ?If we’re insulin resistant, we don’t get the benefits of insulin like its ability to shuttle energy into our cells or to blunt our appetites. Spiking our insulin less avoids the issue; we’re better off trying to improve our insulin sensitivity than to avoid foods which spike it. ?Ironically, it is often the foods with the highest glycemic index, like boiled potatoes, that help us improve that sensitivity more than lower glycemic-load foods like cheese fries.

That said, he did make some interesting points about the non-genetic roots of many of our illnesses. Maybe as little as 2 or 10% of our illness is actually genetically predetermined; the rest is impacted to greater or lesser degrees by our environment, from the foods we eat to the agents we’re exposed to, and to the patterns and practices we or our families engage in. ?That’s the epigenetic stuff, the stuff on top of our genome, and we can make a real impact there, which I think is an important message. We may not always know the best interventions, but we can experiment and find out what works. Rarely are we stuck without hope.

Another observation: he pointed out that Ancel Keys’ work was co-opted by big food processors to ends Keys probably neverendorsed. Maybe there’s an emerging sense of the complexity of ole’ Ancel. ?He’s widely celebrated as the anti-saturated fat guy by conventional authorities, and maligned for the same reason by many pro-fat traditional food advocates. But as Denise Minger pointed out, the story isn’t so simple; he’s neither quite as bad of a scientist as the pro-saturated fat camp would have you believe nor quite as responsible for the proliferation of modern industrial foods. And his participation in the Starvation Study showed, he did make some valuable scientific contributions.

Who else is following the Summit? Any gems I’ve missed?