Your Hair Knows What You Eat
The sources of the information are amino acids from food that contain chemical traces of the protein in your diet. The researchers discovered this by collecting and analyzing hair samples from barber shops and beauty parlors. All told, they accumulated samples from almost 700 people in 65 U.S. cities. The samples told them that whose diets were highest in protein derived from corn-fed animals, which in turn correlated with socioeconomic level. Study leader Jim Ehleringer, a distinguished professor at the University of Utah’s School of Biological Sciences, noted that the findings were not biased by personal recollections, or mis-recollections that can occur in dietary surveys. As an integrated, long-term measure of an individual’s diet, the findings can be used to better understand dietary choices among different age groups and different socioeconomic groups, Dr. Ehleringer wrote. He and his team also used driver’s license data to calculate trends in body mass index for specific zip codes and found that certain isotope ratios correlated with obesity rates. They concluded that this information draws potential connections between diet, socioeconomic status and health.
James R. Ehleringer et al, “Stable isotopes in hair reveal dietary protein sources with links to socioeconomic status and health.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, August 3, 2020, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1914087117
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