You are ‘what you eat,’ but you are not ‘where you live'


Researchers from the University of Turin, Trieste, and Padua examined the food choices of six populations along the Silk Road. Their work, published in PNAS, discovered that our food preferences depend more on age, biological sex and other cultural factors rather than where we are born or live.

"We found that preference for certain foods was informative of the preference for other foods, or that, in other words, the food likings could be combined to assemble a discrete number of 'food signatures;” said Prof. Luca Pagani, senior author of the study and associate professor of Molecular Anthropology at the University of Padua. 

Eating habits that the researchers could link to the country of origin was only 20%, which is rather high when compared with its genetic counterpart (1%) but still not sufficient to explain the differences observed, despite the thousands of kilometres separating the geographical areas under study.

Translating differences in genetic makeup and food preference between countries into "genetic" and "food" distances, researchers plotted the difference on a geographic map for comparison with the actual geographic distances. The emerging map showed culture to be only slightly more comparable to geography than genetics for the analyzed groups, consistently with what emerged from the rest of the results.

“No matter where you live or where you were born, our choices (at least those related to nutrition) depend more on your sex, age and other cultural factors", concluded Dr Serena Aneli, first author of the study and researcher in the Department of Public Health and Pediatrics Sciences of the University of Turin.