If you’ve missed it, the discussion in yesterday’s article has been pretty interesting…
Many people have asked my thoughts on so-called evolutionary diets. I finally got around to typing up a less-than-complete but cursory list. Here it is. If there’s any interest, I’d pair up with an archaeologist to flesh this out and write it up with references, etc.
I agree that higher meat diets rich in good fats and diets rich in veggies, fruits, etc are best in the long run (of course, training affects our ability to handle carbs and therefore they’re not bad if taking in when they are best handled). I have no contention with what many “evolutionary nutritionists” recommend.
It’s their logic for recommending it that becomes a problem.
One of my archaeology buddies often says “just because they were forced to eat that way for survival doesn’t mean it’s best!”
As humans we’re damn adaptable. Want evidence? Well, the “eat that way” in the quote above isn’t universal for ancient man (as many folks would make you think to sell you their paleo-type diet)!
There are populations of ancient man that were more active than others, some that ate meat predominantly, others that ate veggies and fruits predominantly. The diets in different regions were diverse indeed. And they all had the same genes. And had different physiques. And all had a lower incidence of “modern disease.”
This really calls into question the touchstone of many paleo-type arguments - we’ve got the same genes. So what? The same genes as whom?
I think they want us to believe that we have the same genes as these hypermuscular, lean, hunter-gatherer types who ate lots of meat and fat and low carbs. So, logically (huh), we should do the same.
But what if we’ve got the same genes as the more sedentary, low meat-eating, higher carb eating ancients?
Couldn’t we argue that we have the same genes as them and should eat as they did?
Since you don’t know exactly where your lineage came from, do you have to trace your family tree back to your ancient ancestors to find out what to eat?
Or maybe it doesn’t matter so much and this “same genes” argument is contrived.
Perhaps, as humans, our genes don’t force “one way” of optimal eating. Let’s give homo sapens a little credit here! We’re the victor species! Perhaps, we’ve survived the struggle of evolution because our genes allow for survival with many different types of intakes!
You might come back and argue that it only make sense that since the ancients ate the way they did, exercised as they did, had less disease and produced…us…(i.e had evolutionary fitness), our current diets must be the blame for our epidemic of “modern disease.”
But that kind of “common sense” gets folks into trouble. Common folks don’t have enough info to make trustworthy correlational analyses.
If you don’t have a stats background (like I fortunately do), try out the book Freakanomics to learn just how faulty our “common sense” just is - Levitt makes arguments based on data, not “common sense.”
Here are a few things to consider before closing the door on evolutionary fitness:
Perhaps ancient man missed out on modern diseases because he didn’t live long enough to get them?
Perhaps ancient man was much more active (even the more sedentary ones) than we are?
Perhaps stress and lifestyle changes contribute more to physiology, metabolism, etc than we give credit to?
Perhaps ancient man didn’t experience a lifetime of positive energy balance and we do?
Perhaps ancient man’s diet was better suited for our genotype?
Perhaps there are a hundred other factors we don’t know about?
Perhaps making a cut and dry - our ancestors ate like this and were lean, so should we - is the conclusion of a simple mind based on limited facts?
Although it’s popular to say we don’t, our society has evolutionary fitness and may be, gasp, just as fit as our ancestors in evolutionary terms.
Remember, the average ancient lived to their 30s. If that was our mean lifespan, we’d do just fine in terms of evolution - even with all of our processed foods and grains!
Even without modern medicine, we’d still live through our reproductive years. There’s no evolutionary advantage to living longer.
What about fat people? Were there any fat ancients? To suggest not is more than absurd.
Ever seen the Venus sculptures? Ancients CLEARLY had and knew what fat people looked like!
With this post, Im making no claims to the truth. I just don’t know enough to do so.
But I do want to bring up a few things that archaeologists do know and give you guys some things to think about based on what experts in this area do know and what we have no idea about.