The Connection Between Evolution and Diet

Before the Agricultural Revolution some 10,000 years ago, our ancestors had an incredibly healthy diet and they lived lives that consisted of hard work and constant labor. They definitely were not eating Ho-Ho’s and sitting around all day long in front of the computer or television. They ate what many people today call a “paleolithic diet” as described below. Adopting a similar diet today is said to combat against the diseases poor diet and sedentary lifestyles have caused as delineated by numerous naturopaths, doctors, and various other health professionals.

What is the Paleolithic Diet? The Paleo Diet as it is often referred to is a diet of “simplicity” that includes all lean meats and fish, all fruits and non-starchy vegetables, and abiding by the rule to not consume: cereals, dairy, legumes, and processed foods. Obviously our ancestors didn’t as they were not available to them. This diet is high in “good” fats, modeled around what was in season (therefore provided locally for them) and naturally low-glycemic, neutral when it comes to pH level, naturally rich in vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants, as well as has the ideal high potassium/low-sodium ratio.

The Paleolithic Diet vs The Modern Diet:

Today, our diet has many differences from our ancestors.

We consume far less omega-3 fat

We consume more saturated fat

We consume more omega-6 fat

We eat less fiber

We consume less protein

We dine on less nutrient-dense foods

We eat more sugar

Our diet has much less variety

We have added chemicals, sodium to preserve, and many more unnatural products

Due to the “Agricultural Revolution,” our society was introduced to domesticated meat, dairy from those animals, cereals, grains, refined sugars, legumes, salted foods, and much more. This unnatural shift towards “man-made” foods completely eradicated the variety, natural essence, local selection, and “whole” diet of our ancestors. These changes led to chronic disease and obesity.

What is insulin resistance? According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK): “Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body produces insulin but does not use it properly. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps the body use glucose for energy. Glucose is a form of sugar that is the body’s main source of energy.”

Causes: Along with being considered genetic in some cases, insulin resistance can be caused by obesity, high stress, and metabolic syndrome (or Syndrome X; a group of health problems including insulin resistance, and one of the following: elevated cholesterol and/or triglycerides, being overweight or obese, and having high blood pressure.)

Food Choices: Certain food choices spike blood sugar immediately, which you can see in the control group in the chart below. These foods are high in sugar, both naturally and refined sugars. Specifically, they are starchy, white flour, processed, packaged foods along with fruits with a high-glycemic index like Mangoes and pineapple, that can shoot your blood sugar off the charts.

Other Ways to Control Blood Sugar: scientists, registered dieticians, and many natural health practitioners swear by the low-carbohydrate diet to control blood sugar. This way of eating is also called “controlled-carbohydrate eating” and follows the glycemic-index when it comes to the natural sugar intake along with the lower intake of refined sugars and other processed, white flour products.

The Positive Effect of Exercise: not only can exercise burn calories in order to lose weight, it builds muscle and increases muscle strength, lowers body fat, increases insulin sensitivity in most people, boosts immunity, which can help fight against disease, and can lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Exercise also helps build bone density in those under 30, boosts optimum well-being and feelings of optimism; reduces stress, anxiety, and depression, improves sleep, concentration, and academic performance, reduces blood pressure, and significantly reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and some other diseases.

Bibliography:

Insulin Resistance and Pre-Diabetes. (n.d.). Retrieved June 8, 2009, from http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/DM/pubs/insulinresistance/#what.

Berkson, B., Challem, J., & Smith, M. D. (2000). Syndrome X: The Complete Nutritional Program to Prevent and Reverse Insulin Resistance (Health / Alternative Medicine). New York, NY: Wiley.

P.h.D., L. C. (2002). The Paleo Diet. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Bernstein, R. K. (2005). The Diabetes Diet: Dr. Bernstein’s Low-Carbohydrate Solution. London: Little, Brown and Company.

Bowden, J. (2005). Living the Low Carb Life: Controlled Carbohydrate Eating for Long-Term Weight Loss. New York: Sterling.

NutritionAshley Pettit