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You are what you eat. - Gtx0 ?>


You are what you eat.
Posted: Posted March 27th, 2009 by chiarizio
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(Not sure which subforum this belongs on.)

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It's been said, "You are what you eat".
It's even been said, "You are what what you eat eats."
So;
Are you what what what you eat eats eats?

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This may be a magical question; or a cultural one; or a scientific one.
And if it's a cultural one, maybe a "Cultural TC" would be appropriate.

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Realistically;

Your own body fat tends to incorporate the fat of whatever you've eaten with few changes. (The same isn't true of proteins and carbohydrates, though; at least not to the same degree).
So you can check an animal's fat and tell what species it has been eating.

In that sense, "you are what you eat".

But, most of an animal's fat tells more about the animal itself than about its diet. At the present time you can't tell what a carnivore's prey were eating by checking the carnivore's fat.

So, in that sense, you are not what what you eat ate.

Or, at least, a forensic pathologist who had only your fat to examine, could tell maybe what your typical diet was, but not what the diet of your meat-animals was (if you ate mostly meat).

Nevertheless some scientists of food say there is some point in worrying about the diet of your own prey-animals.

I don't think anyone but linguists worried about multiple central embeddings ask much about whether or not you are what what what you eat eats eats.

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Nevertheless some scientists of food say there is some point in worrying about the diet of your own prey-animals.

Doesn't that have more to do with bacteria and other parasites they can transfer over?

Posted March 28th, 2009 by Xhin
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Xhin
 


But, most of an animal's fat tells more about the animal itself than about its diet. At the present time you can't tell what a carnivore's prey were eating by checking the carnivore's fat.
...
Or, at least, a forensic pathologist who had only your fat to examine, could tell maybe what your typical diet was, but not what the diet of your meat-animals was (if you ate mostly meat).


Sure we can. Don't just look at the fat; look at what the fat is made up. Isotopic chemical analysis.


Nevertheless some scientists of food say there is some point in worrying about the diet of your own prey-animals.


Sure as hell is.

We don't know what the exact effect of different isotope weights are, but worrying about prions is a good idea.

Posted March 28th, 2009 by Blake
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Blake
 

Sure we can. Don't just look at the fat; look at what the fat is made up. Isotopic chemical analysis.

That will not tell you the species of the prey's food (much less let you identify one particular thing the prey ate, which a forensic scientist would probably ideally like to find out).

It might tell you which kingdom (plant, animal, whatever) the prey's food came from, but probably not which phylum, and almost certainly not which class, order, family, or genus.

In an SF context it might tell you something about which planets the prey's food was raised on. I'm not sure, but if the predator, or the prey, or the prey's food, could time-travel, maybe it would tell you about which era or epoch the prey's food came from?

But I don't understand why you suggest it might let you identify the prey's food, or the species on which the prey fed. Maybe you have a good reason and I just haven't guessed it? Do you have a source for the idea you had in mind? Is it on-line?

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Nevertheless some scientists of food say there is some point in worrying about the diet of your own prey-animals.Doesn't that have more to do with bacteria and other parasites they can transfer over?
I don't know, but I can point you to the source; if I could read it maybe I would know.

But it looks like, as Blake says,
... prions ...
is one of the main points. A steer that's fed on beef-products from animals with BSE is likelier to also contract BSE. (BTW most prions aren't disease-prions (in fact fungi seem to use them for recognizing "self"); most can't survive cooking; most can't work outside the genus in which they originated; and most disease-prions are found only in the nervous system. But it's always been a bad idea to eat members of your own order (for us that means "don't eat primates"), and the recent British Creuzfeldt-Jakob's outbreak showed that some BSE prions could be found in muscle, could survive cooking, and could infect mammals of a different order.)

It came from Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food".
http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_12699.cfm http://www.betterhealthnews.com/2005/11/11/what-it-the-proble-with-eating-beef/ http://www.beyondpesticides.org/dailynewsblog/?p=370 http://www.milfordoysterhouse.com/food.html
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Are you what what what you eat eats eats?

Maybe that should have been,
"Are you what what what you eat has been eating ate?"

Posted March 28th, 2009 by chiarizio
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[quote="chiarizio"]
That will not tell you the species of the prey's food (much less let you identify one particular thing the prey ate, which a forensic scientist would probably ideally like to find out).

Mmm... it kind of can. Isotopic analysis is like spectography of a distant star. You get a bunch of lines of isotopes, which have various concentrations (by ratio) in different foods. Corn, other vegetable matter, sea food, other meats...

We can use it on any body tissue that contains juicy information sources like nitrogen and carbon. Hair is particularly useful, because we could break it down by day or even meal if we were particularly careful.

We should be able to differentiate fatty tissue based on how old the tissue is and when it was formed, though, separating out more basic amino acid chains from the cells that don't get cycled around as much- could probably find age based on D isotopic decay into H.

Carbon and Nitrogen are the major ones we use now, because they're easy. If we were careful with the samples, there are a number of molecular lipid soluble vitamins and even a few poisons and metabolites that we could pick out to further determine the source of food.

Other isotopes could provide further information about the food sources, and mineral concentrations further still.



It might tell you which kingdom... and almost certainly not... genus.


It's not liable to give you DNA, and like spectrographic analysis, a combination of things can look like another thing- it's a complex process of reconstruction that has to be done by eliminating things and looking at what's left.

With quite a few things, though, one can determine the probable species (corn, for example, has a very strong isotopic signature- it could be another species that we don't know of, though, that has the same signature as corn).


In an SF context it might tell you something about which planets the prey's food was raised on. I'm not sure, but if the predator, or the prey, or the prey's food, could time-travel, maybe it would tell you about which era or epoch the prey's food came from?


Yes and yes. However, only if you knew the time/location. If it could have been on any planet, you could not determine the time. If it could have been at any time, you could not have determined the planet. You'd be going based on radioactive isotopes for time, so you need to know the location to determine when.

Posted March 28th, 2009 by Blake
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Blake
 

Mmm... it kind of can. (And other remarks that are more specific but too long to quote. e.g.:) ... corn ...
I didn't know that! Where can I find out about it?

Posted March 28th, 2009 by chiarizio
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Mmm... it kind of can. (And other remarks that are more specific but too long to quote. e.g.:) ... corn ...
I didn't know that! Where can I find out about it?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isotope_analysis#Archaeology

Wikipedia, for one. There are many university sites dedicated to such projects, and I've even priced the process before- there's a place in California that does it pretty cheap (sample must be dried and ground, though).

Posted March 28th, 2009 by Blake
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Blake
 


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isotope_analysis#Archaeology
Wikipedia, for one. There are many university sites dedicated to such projects, and I've even priced the process before- there's a place in California that does it pretty cheap (sample must be dried and ground, though).
Great! Thanks.
But when I read that I don't get the impression that you can tell what what your subject's food ate ate.
Has anyone ever used such methods to deduce that some Native American tribe mostly ate turkey which was mostly corn-fed? Much less, that they mostly ate turkeys which mostly ate bugs and worms which mostly ate root-vegetables, or some such conclusion?

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Incidentally;
Don't most real-life human cultures, not eat carnivores?
That is, if a human eats a vertebrate which habitually ate animals, isn't it usually the case that the human's prey's prey were not vertebrates?

In fact, on land, if a land-vertebrate eats another land-vertebrate which ate animals, isn't it usually the case that the prey's prey were either invertebrates or fish (or both)?

On dry land, I think, most carnivores mostly eat herbivores; especially most meat-eating humans do.
I imagine that in the sea, though, there's a strong tendency for fish to eat fish who eat fish.

Posted March 29th, 2009 by chiarizio
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On dry land, I think, most carnivores mostly eat herbivores;


This only applies to mammals because mammals are the only terrestrial vertebrate group in which a large percent of species have become herbivores. In contrast, the vast majority of bird and reptile species are carnivorous. Where the ecosystem is made up of more species of birds and/or reptiles than mammals, they make up the largest part of the food chain or food web - that of the minor predators.

Posted March 30th, 2009 by Cerne
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Cerne
 


Has anyone ever used such methods to deduce that some Native American tribe mostly ate turkey which was mostly corn-fed? Much less, that they mostly ate turkeys which mostly ate bugs and worms which mostly ate root-vegetables, or some such conclusion?


We could easily say "This person ate a large amount of meat that ate a large amount of corn".

And we could know that the person did not eat the corn directly, based on the concentrations.

Determining the specific types after that would be an issue of data analysis. If we had enough controls, and used enough vitamins, minerals, and their isotopes, and separated things out into their respective layers and the like, we could determine most of this, yes- it has not, however, been done beyond "these people ate animals that were fed on corn" because the rest can be more easily determined by examining other details.

The effort of figuring what you want out that way, while possible, would far outstrip just looking in their stomachs or digging for bones, or looking at bone deposits, tooth erosion, and environment to deduce these things.

With a small "core sample", the size of a hollow needle- a hair, skin layers, fats, muscle, veins, blood, bone, marrow- one could pretty much determine anything about diet that one wanted to know within the past few weeks or months- and for some details, even going back a few years (antibody proteins, for example- fat also stores information for a long time *if* it hasn't been burned and cycled).

The cost of doing so, however, would be absurd.

Posted March 30th, 2009 by Blake
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Blake
 

@Blake; Thanks.

@Cerne; Thanks.
I can't be sure what you mean to say, though, since "herbivore" means "eats plants (and almost nothing else)" while "carnivore" means "eats vertebrates".
There are animal-eating animals that eat only invertebrates; they are usually called "insectivores" (even if the invertebrates they eat are mostly not insects).
In an ecology where all of the fauna are cold-blooded, perhaps half will be carnivores and the other half other sorts.
But in an ecology where most of the fauna are warm-blooded, the carnivores may be as few as 10%.
Birds are warm-blooded.
Don't significantly more than half of the birds subsist on a diet not mostly made of vertebrate meat? That would include those that eat arthropods and molluscs as well as those that eat seeds and nuts and fruit and drink nectar from flowers and so on.

For all I know, I would imagine that reptiles and amphibians could be nearly half made up of species whose diet includes significant vertebrate prey, though the truth is I only know of carnivorous reptiles, not of carnivorous amphibians.

And I suppose there are plenty of piscivorous birds, and other carnivorous birds whose prey are mostly cold-blooded.

But, still, isn't it true most birds don't eat vertebrate prey that has eaten vertebrate prey?

Posted March 30th, 2009 by chiarizio
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