Rambam Grand Rounds

Tell Me What You Eat and I Will Tell You Your Sociotype: Coping with Diabesity

Elliot M. Berry and Sabina De Geest


The term sociotype has been introduced to describe the dynamic relationship of an individual with his/her social environment throughout life. The sociotype is a conceptual framework to highlight, in addition to bio-medical pathways, the psycho-social and environmental factors necessary to understand responses to life stresses and patient self-management for chronic illness. The sociotype interacts with genotype expression through mate selection and metabolic programming, and with the phenotype to determine adaptation throughout life from birth to old age. Following on the work of Antonovsky, Engel, and McEwen, and others in the life and social sciences, the sociotype details and expands the many factors generally included in the environmental influences on a person’s life identified here as the domains of health, relationships, and environment. Physiological mediators for sociotypic influences include: adrenal steroids and the sympathetic nervous system (allostatic load), and oxytocin (social neuroscience). The biological pathways are multiple through nutrition (essential dietary-derived amino- and fatty acids for neurotransmitter synthesis, caloric restriction, and diet–gene interactions), epigenesis, and metabolic programming. Nutrition influences growth and development, fertility and longevity, and also determines susceptibility to non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, and particularly diabetes and obesity, through in-utero effects, the development of intestinal flora (microbiome), and chronic stress. Thus the sociotype and nutrition are reciprocally related in both health and disease.

Rambam Maimonides Med J 2012;3(2):e0010