Saturday, November 13, 2010

Paleo Ways Excerpt | Free The Animal

Paleo Ways | Free The Animal:

"The Paleo Diet, Loren Cordain"

At first, humans were not terribly good hunters. They started out as scavengers who trailed behind predators such as lions and ate the leftovers remaining on abandoned carcasses. The pickings were slim; ravenous lions don't leave much behind, except for bones. But with their handy tools (stone anvils and hammers), our early ancestors could crack the skulls and bones and still find something to eat -- brains and fatty marrow.

Marrow fat was the main concentrated energy source that enabled the early human gut to shrink, while the scavenged brains contained a specific type of omega 3 fat called "docosahexaenoic acid" (DHA), which allowed the brain to expand. Docosahexaenoic acid is the building block of our brain tissue.

Without a dietary source of DHA, the huge expansion of our brain capacity could never have happened. Without meat, marrow, and brains, our human ancestors never would have been able to walk out of tropical Africa and colonize the colder areas of the world. If these people had depended on finding plant foods in cold Europe, they would have starved. In a landmark series of studies, my colleague Mike Richards, at Oxford University, studied the bones of Paleolithic people who lived in England some 12,000 years ago. Their diet, Richards confirmed, was almost identical to that of top-level carnivores, such as wolves and bears.


The archaeological record clearly shows that whenever and wherever ancient humans sowed seeds (and replaced the old animal-dominated diets), part of the harvest included health problems. One physical ramification of' the new diet was immediately obvious: Early farmers were markedly shorter than their ancestors. In Turkey and Greece, for example, preagricultural men stood 5 feet 9 inches tall and women 5 feet 5 inches. By 3000 the average man had shrunk to 5 feet 3 inches and the average woman to 5 feet. But getting shorter -- not in itself a health problem -- was the least of the changes in these early farmers. Studies of their bones and teeth have revealed that these people were basically a mess: They had more infectious diseases than their ancestors, more childhood mortality, and shorter life spans in general.


They also had more osteoporosis, rickets, and other bone mineral disorders, thanks to the cereal-based diets. For the first time, humans were plagued with vitamin and mineral-deficiency diseases -- scurvy, beriberi, pellagra, vitamin A and zinc deficiencies, and iron-deficiency anemia. Instead of the well-formed, strong teeth their ancestors had, there were now cavities. Their jaws, which were formerly square and roomy, were suddenly too small for their teeth, which overlapped each other.

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