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Monday, April 1, 2013

The Diseases of Civilization

When we look at human history and the ancestors from whom we got our genetic makeup, we have to remember they developed in response to all the selective pressure of any developing species.  A million or a hundred thousand years ago, the ancestors who did well biologically reproduced better, leaving their genetics behind.  Otherwise a species does not survive or progress.  So we come from humans who survived well on the diets of hunter/gatherer groups.  That diet had some variety depending on geography.  And humans are omnivores, clearly utilizing both plant and animal food sources.  These are the genetics from which we come. 

The advent of agriculture changed the diet but not the genetics.  Anthropologists, who study this stuff,  tell us that the advent of agriculture--growing grass seeds (grain)--made humans shorter and less robust.  Here's the first paragraph of an article by some of those scientists in the Journal of Nutrition, June 1, 1996 (not new!!!) titled "An Evolutionary Perspective Enhances Understanding of Human Nutritional Requirements"  I have taken out the reference info to make it easier to read.

"Human nutritional requirements reflect evolutionary experience extending millions of years into the past, and for nearly all this period genetic and cultural changes occurred in parallel. However, agriculture and, especially, industrialization produced technical and behavioral change at rates exceeding the capacity of genetic adaptation to keep pace.  Geneticists believe that the increased human number and mobility associated with civilization have produced more, not less, inertia in the gene pool and that when the humans of 3000-10,000 years ago depending on locality) began to take up agriculture, they were, in essence, the same biological organisms as humans are today. Accordingly, our ancestral dietary pattern has continuing relevance: an understanding of pre-agricultural nutrition may provide useful insight into the requirements of contemporary humans."

In plain English what that says is that human genetics haven't changed although our culture did and the two are no longer in sync nutritionally.

Yesterday I attended an Easter Brunch with a group of bright, educated, very forward thinking people. These were people who generally do not think the government is the best source of information to count on.  Food was discussed a lot because we were eating lots of it.  Not once or even twice, but three times I heard someone state the conventional "wisdom" about how bad cholesterol is for humans. 

The cholesterol hypothesis--although wrong in every way--remains front and center as the "cause" of heart disease (a disease of  civilization).  It gets the funding.  It gets the press.  Everybody believes it because we've heard it a million times--all one word--"ARTERY-CLOGGING-SATURATED-FAT".

The story of how the cholesterol hypothesis got to this sorry state of prevalent belief can be found in the book, "Good Calories Bad Calories"  and "The Great Cholesterol Con" and in many youtube videos including "Big Fat Fiasco" found here,

The Congressional committee who decided the "validity" of the cholesterol hypothesis, and the resulting food pyramid had some dissenters who were overridden.  As a result, we've had a 50 year nutritional experiment conducted on Americans.  How's that working for us?

I leave you today with a comment--in the congressional record--from one of those dissenters.

"Heart disease, cancer and diabetes are what we call diseases of civilization.  It's ludicrous to blame the diseases of civilization on ancient foods.  Saturated fat (cholesterol) is an ancient food."

And my final comment.  You and I are designed to eat animal products including lots of animal fat.  We were not designed for grass seeds, vegetable oils and sugar.  Avoid the diseases of civilization by eating ancient foods.

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