The Paleolithic Age (Old Stone Age) began some 2.5 million years ago in Africa and ended about 10,000 years ago in the Middle East, with the first ancient farms. Human genetics evolved and adapted to a hunter-gatherer way of life over 100,000 years ago. Built into our genes is a lifestyle where daily food had to be hunted, fished, or gathered from the natural environment. Nature determined what our bodies needed thousands of years before civilization developed; long before people started farming and raising domesticated livestock.
The last 10,000 years are when we transitioned from hunter-gatherer to agriculture: modern living. Until that time, everyone ate meat, fresh fruits, and vegetables. And DNA evidence shows that basic human physiology has changed little in 40,000 years.
The differences between our ancient hunter-gatherer ancestors and our more modern, agricultural descendants is quite eye-opening.
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors were as tall or taller than modern Americans and Europeans. In fact, early farmers were notably shorter than their ancestors. For example, in Turkey and Greece, preagricultural men were 5 feet 9 inches tall and women were 5 feet 5 inches tall. By 3000 B.C., the average man had shrunk to 5 feet 3 inches and the average woman to 5 feet.
Despite having no medical care, infant mortality rates were low for the hunter-gatherers, and more than 10 percent of their population lived into their sixties. They had no cavities or bone malformations common to malnutrition and no vitamin or mineral deficiencies.
The farmers, on the other hand had more infectious diseases, more childhood mortality, and shorter life spans in general. Osteoporosis, rickets, and other bone mineral disorders began to surface. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies began to show with scurvy, beriberi, pellagra, and iron-deficiency anemia. They also began getting cavities, and their jaws were getting smaller causing their teeth to overlap each other.
Contrary to the farmers, the hunter-gatherers were virtually free of degenerative diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Near-sightedness and acne were rare. They had strength, endurance, and were fit because of their foraging lifestyle.
WHAT WENT WRONG?
With the transition from hunting and foraging for natural foods, the farmers began consuming what they were producing: grains, cereals and starches. These stapes provided calories, but not the vital nutrients of the hunter-gatherer diet.
As health continued to plummet and disease skyrocketed, the farmers domesticated animals and fed them the very grains that they were consuming. This produced fatter pigs, cows, and sheep. Most meat wasn’t eaten fresh but was pickled, salted, or smoked. Fruits and vegetables became rare seasonal items taking a back seat to the grains and starches. Then, with the onset of the Industrial Revolution just 200 years ago, the agricultural diet brought refined sugar, canned foods, and refined white flour. Processed food was born with vegetable oils, high-fructose corn syrup, additives, preservatives, artificial coloring agents, and emulsifiers.
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As the agricultural diet continued to take its toll, scientists began studying heart disease in the early 1950s. They blamed saturated fat and cholesterol as the cause, rather than studying inflammation and other ill-health effects of grain-based diet. Red meat became the scapegoat, and most doctors and nutritionists jumped on the bandwagon encouraging everyone to stop its consumption.
The processed food industry took advantage of the bad image saturated fat was given, and began to produce alternatives that were supposedly healthy. They produced things like highly polyunsaturated vegetable oils, margarines, shortening, spreads, and dressings. Not only did these concoctions produce inflammation, they produced something much worse-trans fatty acids.
To make matters worse, the food industry continued to demonize saturated fat and advocated to replace them with starchy carbohydrates like those found in potatoes, bread, and cereals. This fad took off, and by the early 1990s became the official policy of the USDA and their Food Pyramid.
The USDA Food Pyramid did not take into account the glycemic index of these starchy and processed carbohydrates. The result being large and rapid rises in blood glucose and the onslaught of insulin on an already chronically inflamed cardiovascular system. Instances of metabolic syndrome took off. Diseases like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and elevated blood triglycerides.
Today, metabolic syndrome is on the rise and obesity is an epidemic. The conveniences of processed foods are pushed on us daily through advertising and the fast-food industry. These industries promote the idea that if it tastes good, it must be good. Go back to the hunter-gatherer diet. Naturally occurring fruits and vegetables along with lean meats are provided by our environment to fuel us and keep us healthy. Processed, packaged food-like substances are by no means designed or produced with a healthy intent. It’s an easy choice.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and is not intended for medical diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your physician.