Archiver > GENEALOGY-DNA > 2006-12 > 1165697553

From: Alan R <>
Subject: Re: [DNA] Ellen's Paper
Date: Sat, 9 Dec 2006 20:52:33 +0000 (GMT)
In-Reply-To: <014b01c71b24$8383e420$640fa8c0@Villandra2>

I have noted a couple of comments from the list re: my
own comments on the selection/ diet idea in Ellen's
paper. I think my comments have not been picked up as
I intended. I doubt the potato has anything to do
with genetic patterns at all. The comment re: stature
relates more to the relative nutritional benefits
(before it all went wrong in the famine) of the potato
and buttermilk diet compared to the bread diet than it
relates to anything to do with genes. The famine
itself may have featured some selective processes in
terms of who survived the great hardship and who
didn't but no data on this exists or is likely to ever
be available.

All I was trying to say was diet in every country has
gone through radical changes over time (c. 10,000
years) so its not easy to say this sort of diet or the
another sort of diet favoured one haplotype or
another. I then took a very subjective look to see if
similar dietary history coincided with similar genes
in Atlantic Europe. The lack of a cereal based diet
is something that has been a feature of the Gaelic
world for at least 2000 years. Bread was very rare in
the Gaelic world. Visitors as late as the 16th
century commented on that fact that even the most
powerful men in the country had practically no bread
(I think it was a Spanish visitor to Donegall).
Instead, they ate a lot of dairy products and a little
meat, fish and game. Cereal was of course known
everywhere in western Europe by 4000BC but there was a
huge emphasis on cattle and cattle products in the
Gaelic world with a little supplementary
cereal-largely oats (porridge/ oatcakes) and barley
(beer). The Gaels counted their wealth in cattle.

My basic point is that most of Europe switched to a
bread based peasant diet in the Medieval period or
earlier while the Gaelic world did not, featuring a
dairy based economy (which suited the land/ climate)
with seasonal nomadism (tranhumance or 'Booleying' as
it was known locally). There is a very general
similarity in dietary histories, climate, hardship and
society across Atlantic Europe but many aspects are
not so different from elsewhere (say southern
Scandinavia or the Alps) where the genetics are
significantly different. So, I suppose I am really
saying that I am not convinced that diet and climate
and selection based on them explain the distribution
of haplotypes. Selection could be one factor but I
think the history of population movement and/ or
population isolation has a lot more to do with it.


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