Nutrition and health in agriculturalists and hunter-gatherers

excavated-skeleton

When I wrote the Overcoming the Curse of the Mummies chapter in Protein Power, I wrote mainly about the evidence of disease found in the mummies of ancient Egyptians and correlated this disease with their high-carbohydrate diet.  Along with all the material on mummies, which is the part everyone seems to remember, I wrote about a study done in the United States in the 1970s that persuasively demonstrated the superiority of the hunter diet as compared to an agricultural diet, which no one seems to remember.  I came across that study a couple of days ago and decided to present it in a little more detail than I was able to in Protein Power.

The anthropological record of early man clearly shows health took a nosedive when populations made the switch from hunting and gathering to agriculture. It takes a physical anthropologist about two seconds to look at a skeleton unearthed from an archeological site to tell if the owner of that skeleton was a hunter-gatherer or an agriculturist.

Unlike the Egyptian mummy data, there is usually no soft tissue material left when remains of early man are found.  But the skeletal remains of hunter-gatherers show them to be much healthier than agriculturalists.  Hunter-gatherers had better bones, had no signs of iron-deficiency anemia, no signs of infection, few (if any) dental cavities, fewer signs of arthritis and were in general larger and more robust than their agriculture-following contemporaries.  One of the theories as to why postulates that hunter-gatherers lived in smaller, more mobile societies.  Consequently, they weren’t as likely to get communicable diseases and were able to travel to find food, whereas agriculturists were rooted to one spot, lived in larger groups, making the spread of disease more likely, and they were subject to lack of food if a drought or other natural disaster decimated their crops.

The study we’re going to look at today is unusual in several respects.  First, there is a large amount of data, i.e., a lot of skeletons of both groups.  Second, it compares sedentary hunter-gatherers to sedentary agriculturalists.  And it compares peoples who probably had the same genetic heritage to one another.  Finally, it compares hunter-gatherers to agriculturalists living in the same general area.  The only real difference between the two groups of people is the time in which they lived and diet.

The group of agriculturalists lived in an area called Hardin Village, which is a famous archeological site located in Kentucky on the bank of the Ohio River across from the current day city of Portsmouth, Ohio.  These people farmed the area from about 1500 AD to 1675 AD.  There is no indication in the archeological record of any European contact with these Hardin Villagers.

The hunter-gatherers lived in the same general area in an archeological site called Indian Knoll, which is a large midden (an ancient refuse heap) located on the Green River in western Kentucky.  Carbon-14 dating dates the age of habitation of these hunter-gatherers to about 5000 years ago.  Based on the excavation of the deep midden, these people lived at this site for a long period of time, i.e., they stayed in one spot instead of roving as most hunter-gatherers did.

Writes Claire Cassidy, Ph.D., author of the study:

Available fauna and flora, water, and climate were so similar in the two areas that it may be assumed that whatever natural stresses existed at one site were probably existent at the other also, and therefore, in themselves, these should not affect the health and nutrition differently.

Population size and degree of sedentarism affect disease spread.  In the cases of the Hardin Village and Indian Knoll, since both are sedentary or semisedentary, this variable should be negligible in explaining differences in disease experience between the sites.

Archeological-reconstructable variability in material culture is also fairly small (though Indian Knollers used the spear-thrower and spear, while Hardin Villagers had pottery, permanent houses, and the bow and arrow).  Thus, in all probability the most significant difference between these two populations is in subsistence technique, with agriculture at the later site, and hunting-gathering at the earlier.

So, we have two societies who both lived in the same area and didn’t move around much, if at all.  One lived by agriculture and one lived by hunting and gathering.  Genetically they were probably the same, although there is no way to tell for sure.  Both groups had the same climate, weather, water, etc.  Neither group had contact with Europeans, so there is no contamination that way.  The groups are separated by only diet and time.  The hunter-gatherers lived in the area approximately 3500 years before the farmers did and had a substantially different diet.

(When I first went through this paper, I went nuts trying to remember whether the Hardin Villagers were the agriculturalists or whether the Indian Knollers were.  After whipping back to the start of the paper a half dozen times to check and recheck on it, I decided to come up with a mnemonic for it.  I started thinking of the Villagers part of Hardin Village as being farmers.  Village = farm.  Farmers live in villages – at least they do in my mind, so it’s easy for me to remember that the Hardin VILLAGERS are farmers.  Readers of this blog are probably smarter than I am and won’t have to go to such lengths, but if any do, this will help.)

What did these folks eat?

At Hardin Village, primary dependence was on corn, beans, and squash.  Wild plants and animals (especially deer, elk, small mammals, wild turkey, box turtle) provided supplements to a largely agricultural diet.  It is probable that deer was not a quantitatively important food source…  At Hardin Village, remains of deer were sparse.

At Indian Knoll it is clear that very large quantities of river mussels and snails were consumed.  Other meat was provided by deer, small mammals, wild turkey, box turtle and fish; dog was sometimes eaten ceremonially.

There are several other dietary differences.  The Hardin Village diet was high in carbohydrates, while that at Indian Knoll was high in protein.  In terms of quality, [some] believe that primitive agriculturalists got plenty of protein from grain diets, most recent [researchers] emphasize that the proportion of essential amino-acids is the significant factor in determining protein-quality of the diet, rather than simply the number of grams of protein eaten.  It is much more difficult to achieve a good balance of amino-acids on a corn-beans diet than when protein is derived from meat or eggs.  The lack of protein at the Hardin Village signaled by the archaeological data should prepare us for the possibility of finding evidence of protein deficiency in the skeletal material.

The Hardin Village site yielded 296 skeletons and the Indian Knoll site 285.

What did this skeletal data show?  Let’s take a look.

Based on the ages of the people whose skeletons were found (anthropologists can easily tell age from skeletal remains), the life expectancies for people of both sexes and all ages were lower at Hardin Village as compared to Indian Knoll.  And infant mortality was higher at Hardin Village as well.

Iron-deficiency anemia of sufficient duration to cause bone changes was present at Hardin Village but absent at Indian Knoll.  And half the cases of serious iron-deficiency anemia occurred in children at Hardin Village.

Iron-deficiency anemia is a true deficiency disease, often an accompaniment of low-meat diets, long-term infection, or chronic disease.  It is also frequently found in cases of protein-energy malnutrition. The classic sign of iron-deficiency anemia presents as a couple of conditions seen in the skull called porotic hyperostosis and cribra orbitalia.   8.2 percent of the Hardin Villagers had iron-deficiency anemia severe enough to cause one or both of these conditions.  These conditions are extremely painful and those afflicted had to have been miserable, especially the children, most of whom were under five years old.

Porotic hyperostosis

Porotic hyperostosis

cribra orbitalia

cribra orbitalia

There were signs of malnutrition in both populations, but the signs differed between them.

There are a couple of ways anthropologists look for periods of malnutrition.  One is by examining the tibias (lower leg bones) with X-ray looking for a finding called Harris lines (or growth arrest lines).

Harris lines

Harris lines

All these Harris lines indicate is that an episode of malnutrition occurred during childhood while the bones were developing, causing a period of growth arrest that lasted at least ten days or more.  But since these lines appear after the period of malnutrition, they can’t provide information as to the total duration of the lack of food.  The total number of lines found tells approximately how many episodes of dietary lack occurred that were serious enough to halt bone growth.

To determine the severity of periods of malnutrition, anthropologists look for enamel hypoplasia.  Enamel hypoplasia derives from periods of ill-health or hunger lasting long enough to interrupt the deposition of enamel on the teeth.  These defects, like Harris lines, represent periods of growth arrest in childhood, but unlike Harris lines, enamel hypoplasia quantifies the severity of the period of malnutrition.  The worse the defect, the worse the malnutrition.

Enamel hypoplasia

Enamel hypoplasia

Enamel hypoplasia

Enamel hypoplasia

Interestingly, there were more Harris lines found in the specimens from Indian Knoll, but these lines were regularly spaced, “indicating that malnutrition occurred at periodic intervals, perhaps as a “normal part of life.”  There were an equal number of jaws at both sites demonstrating teeth with enamel hypoplasia, “but the frequency of severe episodes of arrest was significantly higher at Hardin Village.”

The most parsimonious interpretation of this information is that mild food shortages occurred at regular intervals at Indian Knoll; perhaps late winter was a time of danger.  [Researchers] using growth arrest lines [Harris lines] and … archaeological data, have similarly concluded that in the hunter-gatherer populations they studied, food shortages occurred regularly, probably on a yearly basis.  At Hardin Village growth arrest was caused by illnesses or crop failure which resulted in long-lasting, but randomly-occurring episodes of growth arrest.

Bones can also exhibit signs of certain types of infection.  Bone infections affected an equal number of people at both sites, but affected significantly more children at Hardin Village than at Indian Knoll.

A specific type of infectious disease showing up in skeletal remains and identified as the syndrome of periosteal inflammation was present at both sites, but was thirteen times more common at Hardin Village.  No one knows for sure what causes this disorder, but it is thought to be caused by a treponematosis, a disease caused by a similar but not identical agent as that that causes yaws, pinta or even syphilis.

The author of this study attributes the greatly increased incidence of this disease in the Hardin Villagers to “lack of resistance in the host because of poor diet and general health.”

Teeth are often a window into the diet of ancient populations.  Based on the wear patterns and number of caries (dental cavities), teeth can provide much information on the quality of the diet.  Teeth ridden with decay are typically associated with poor quality diets, and the unhealthy teeth themselves can be a major factor in the overall poor health of an individual.

Tooth decay was rampant at Hardin Village, but uncommon at Indian Knoll.  Adult males at Hardin Village had an average of 6.74 carious teeth per mouth, while at Indian Knoll the corresponding frequency was 0.73 per mouth.  For women the rates were 8.52 and 0.91 per mouth respectively.  No Indian Knoll children under twelve years of age had caries, whereas some Hardin Village children already had developed caries in milk teeth in their second year of life.  Tooth decay is closely associated with sugar content and consistency of food, occurring with higher frequency in sweet or high carbohydrate diets which are soft and sticky.

Dental caries

Dental caries

Here is the summary of the findings of this analysis of skeletal data as tabulated by the author:

1.    Life expectancies for both sexes at all ages were lower at Hardin Village than at Indian Knoll.
2.    Infant mortality was higher at Hardin Village.
3.    Iron-deficiency anemia of sufficient duration to cause bone changes was absent at Indian Knoll, but present at Hardin Village, where 50 percent of cases occurred in children under age five.
4.    Growth arrest episodes at Indian Knoll were periodic and more often of short duration and were possibly due to food shortage in late winter; those at Hardin Village occurred randomly and were more often of long duration, probably indicative of disease as a causative agent.
5.    More children suffered infections at Hardin Village than at Indian Knoll.
6.    The syndrome of periosteal inflammation was more common at Hardin Village than at Indian Knoll.
7.    Tooth decay was rampant at Hardin Village and led to early abscessing and tooth loss; decay was unusual at Indian Knoll and abscessing occurred later in life because of severe wear to the teeth.  The differences in tooth wear and caries rate are very likely attributable to dietary differences between the two groups.

Her analysis based on this data:

Overall, the agricultural Hardin Villagers were clearly less healthy than the Indian Knollers, who lived by hunting and gathering.

The author raises a couple of interesting questions about the diet of early populations and the drive to eat carbohydrates in place of real food once the taste is acquired.  Before we get to these interesting issues, however, I want to delve into a sad situation that obviously prevailed in the Hardin Villagers and continues to be present in some modern day agriculturalists.

Below is a chart from the paper showing the life expectancies by age of people living in Hardin Village and Indian Knoll.  Look at the enormous increase in mortality in the agricultural Hardin Villagers between the ages of two to four.

life-expectancies-chart

Why this rapid increase in mortality in these young children.  The author tells us:

The health and nutrition situation at Hardin Village may profitably be compared with that in modern peasant villages.  In may of these, children are typically fairly healthy until weaned.  At this time they are introduced to a soft diet consisting largely of carbohydrates (in much of Africa and Central America, a pap is made of sugar, water, and maize flour: in Jamaica green bananas replace maize).  In many cases, within a few weeks or months these children develop diarrhea, lose weight, suffer multiple infections, and may eventually develop the form of protein-energy malnutrition called kwashiorkor.   In this disorder caloric intake is usually adequate, but protein and other nutrient intakes are extremely limited; without modern hospital care many victims die.

At Hardin Village the highest rate of death occurs between the second and fourth years of life.  This is typical for a population experiencing weaning problems.  Considering the softness of the adult diet and the high caries rate of both children and adults, it is not unlikely that the children were weaned onto a corn pap of some type.

The high prevalence of childhood infection, severity of growth arrest in the first few years of life, and the existence of iron-deficiency anemia all point to a situation at Hardin Village analogous to those in modern peasant villages.  In other words the evidence supports a hypothesis that malnutrition began with weaning at Hardin Village, sometimes resulted in kwashiorkor, and continued at low level – just enough to reduce the resistance of the population to infectious disease – throughout the life of the individual.

Think about this the next time you hear a pediatrician recommend that babies who are being weaned start out on some sort of Pablum or other processed cereal for infants.  And they virtually all recommend it.  Our grandchildren’s pediatrician recommended it, but MD and I interceded after the first feeding.  From then on they all got pureed turkey, pork, chicken or other meat along with pureed vegetables.  They had no grain.

Dr. Cassidy, the author of this fascinating paper, speculates in the discussion section about why a society would abandon hunting and gathering for agriculture when the diet quality provided by an agricultural subsistence is so inferior.  She writes about the possibility of all the game being decimated by over hunting, and she mentions the possibility of inter tribal warfare reducing the male hunting population to the point that those remaining standing couldn’t provide enough food for all by hunting alone.  Then she gets to the heart of the matter, and asks some questions that are pertinent not just to ancient agricultural societies, but to us today.

Thus population expansion, inefficient hunting techniques, loss of game from the area by migration and overkill, and warfare, all may have contributed to force the Hardin Villagers to become more and more dependent on a small number of high-carbohydrate agricultural foods of limited quality, and this may have been so even were they aware of an increase in physical ill-health in the group.

Finally, we must also wonder if people didn’t ultimately begin to prefer corn and beans to meats?  There is some evidence that carbohydrates can become so palatable to humans that they eat them in preference to other foods; such a situation may have further limited the appeal of hunting.

If this is the case, the Hardin Villagers are not the only society in history who have chosen carbohydrates in preference to other foods.  And they certainly aren’t the only ones to prefer corn and beans to meats.  I would venture that most people today prefer carbs to meat, a notion that is confirmed in the nutritional data.  Carbs play a far larger role in the American diet than do meats of all kinds.  And if many so-called nutritional experts had their way, we would all eat even more.

The next time you may be tempted by the siren song of the high-carb pushers, remember what happened to the Hardin Villagers and do the Nancy Reagan: Just say no.

*Cassidy CM. Nutrition and health in agriculturalists and hunter-gatherers: a case study of two prehistoric populations. in Nutritional Anthropology. Eds Jerome NW et al. 1980 Redgrave Publishing Company, Pleasantville, NY pg 117-145

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145 thoughts on “Nutrition and health in agriculturalists and hunter-gatherers

  1. Excellent post! The photographs and graph provide great confirmation.

    If i may ask a question off topic: My health has skyrocketed since adopting a diet high in protein and fat. However, my sugar-laden diet of yesteryear lingers, in that i have alot of mercury fillings in my mouth. I am contemplating getting them removed, because of the purported ill-health that mercury fillings can cause. But, i am not sure if it is beneficial. An equal number of dentists say that mercury fillings are harmful and harmless. I am totally puzzled as to what to do. Sometimes, i think i should just get all my mercury filled teeth yanked, but the problem is that i have more than ten teeth filled. I wonder if it is possible to remove the fillings and leave the unfilled.

    In the event that you are note extremely familiar with this matter, perhaps you know of someone very knowledgeable on this matter that could chime in.

    Both MD and I had all our mercury fillings removed years ago. I think the evidence that mercury fillings out gas is pretty undeniable, and since mercury is a toxic substance, who wants to be getting titrated with it?

  2. Thank you for this post I remember reading about this in PP some years ago. It stuck in my mind as one of the things I must track down. At least,now, I know where to start looking.

    The transition from homo erectus/ergaster to homo sapiens appears to have been relatively recent (50-200 thousand years ago?)

    Certainly the arrival of sapiens in new territory appears to be accompanied by wholesale and indiscriminate slaughter of local fauna.

    This behaviour has continued to recent times. Consider the fate of Passenger Pigeons and Bison in the US, the fate of Moa and Huia in New Zealand, the Dodo in Madagascar.

    The wholesale destruction of forests/jungles continues to this day destroying the viability of many animal species to survive. Our oceans are seriously over fished.

    Given the climatic changes over the last 200,000 years (retreating ice cover) and over hunting it is hardly surprising that H sapiens had to adapt its behaviour. Unfortunately the switch to vegetarian type foods does not square very well with a digestive system that is superbly suited to digesting meat and fat.

    In case anyone objects to my evolutionary bias I have to say that I find it incomprehensible that any Intelligent Designer put humans on this planet with a digestive and metabolic system so badly designed to cope with incessant and excessive carbohydrate ingestion and then expect us to thrive on it.

  3. Can babies have pureed meat at 4 months?

    Yes, our grandchildren started on pureed meat at about age five months along with breast feeding.

  4. Another fantastic post! One question; do you have a reference or can you expand on the bit where the author claims:

    ” most recent [researchers] emphasize that the proportion of essential amino-acids is the significant factor in determining protein-quality of the diet, rather than simply the number of grams of protein eaten”

    Thanks,

    This is now the standard way to determine protein biologic availability. You can take all the protein you can stuff down, but it won’t do you a lot of good unless you have all the necessary amino acids in the appropriate proportions.

  5. Thanks for this insightful study, Dr. Eades.

    This study brings to my mind the work of Dr. Weston Price. His studies show that people who still adhered to a primitive high fat/low carb diet demonstrated resistance to disease and tooth decay. He found that this diet contained ten times the vitamins (particularly A and D) and minerals of the modern diet that contained white flour and sugar. Reading Price’s work was a revelation to me as I finally realized that having cavities is not the normal state of man. Most people assume that people have always had cavities like we do today. Price, a dentist, knew that cavities were the greatest signs of bad nutrition.

    What is amazing to me, also, is that researchers spend so much money trying to cure diseases like heart disease and cancer without ever looking at the mountain of evidence that demonstrates that primitive people who ate the correct diet never had cancer or heart disease.

  6. Great summary of a very interesting paper. Too bad it doesn’t seem to be available on the internet, but a little searching found the author:

    http://www.acuhealingworks.com/index.php

    The path to acupuncture is a winding one indeed… 😉

    Yes, indeed it is. She did most of this work as a part of her Ph.D. thesis at University of Wisconsin and published the article that is the subject of this blog while she was at the Smithsonian.

  7. truely a sad story. unfortunatly one that has not ended.
    Doc, i am a lo-carb diciple, there is no need to convince me. for me the big problem is practical and ethical. how can the world feed its population lo-carb? the foods that are best for us are not cheap, read meats, milk, eggs, fruit and vegetables. for the financially well off there is no problem. when these people eat hi-carb they purchase processed and prepared foods, which are expensive. it would actually be cheaper for these people to buy meat and prepare it at home. but what about the poor?
    this post has truely hit home. it has highlighted the real problem. i think for too long we have been fighting entrenched self interest, greed and stupidity. it is now necessary to look beyond the ignorance and deal with the real issue of providing mankind with a diet that promotes health, rather than with one that destroys health.
    can a post be done dealing with suggestions to provide lo-carb for all ?

  8. I’m a regular reader of Dr. Eades and follow a fairly low carb diet. However, in light of the compelling evidence of the ecological destruction caused by raising animals for meat-based diets (and maybe in honor of earth day?) I’d like to see Dr. Eades do a column on how followers of his high-meat-protein diet can reduce the “collateral ecological damage” from the diet. I am pushing my family towards eating more beans and tofu due to the ecological damage of raising meat animals.

    I don’t think there is compelling evidence for any ecological destruction as a result of raising animals for meat-based diets, especially if those animals are free range. If there is any ecological damage at all, I would say it probably comes from raising grain for human consumption.

  9. Was there any mention in the paper of the birth rates in the two societies? Or do they have any way to tell that?

    And thanks for putting another word out about properly feeding children. I followed pediatrician advice with my first one, but luckily wised up before the second. She was the only 6 month old in daycare eating strained beef 😉 And the only one not allowed to dive into the cheerios (I sent cheese and fruits for her snacks).

    It was a blessing in disguise, she loved to eat and I have no doubt would have been a complete butterball if she had eaten her fill on carbs. As it was she was a solid strong baby with a perfect layering of baby fat.

    There was no info about birth rates.

  10. Fascinating indeed! The last part where the author wonders on choosing carbohydrate over other food, made me remember the whole discussion on excitotoxins and bioactive peptides found in grains. These ‘exorphins’ are not of carbohydrate origin but of protein origin instead, resulting from proteins that are not completely digested. Wheat and Rye are at the top of the list of grains that contain proteins that aren’t completely digested, thus leaving bioactive peptides behind that can directly affect brain cells. Remember that article on the origins of civilization? The authors put forth an interesting hypothesis based on the action of excitotoxins found in grains that acted slowly but surely as an addictive substance, resulting in populations settling around their patches of grains. Meat, on the other hand, while can also contain proteins that aren’t digested completely, is very low on the list of bioactive peptide-producing foods, so is milk. Interestingly, human milk is also low in that list… maybe that explains why animals don’t lactate forever… they don’t get ‘hooked’ :)

    Anyway, thanks Mike for this great dissection of this article. If you could find some time, I would love to read your take on how much more environmentally friendly is to grow crops compared to grow cattle… With all this earthweek hooplah, there’s an idea that’s been going around in my college, to the point of promoting a ‘meatless day a week’, because it’s good for me for three reasons:

    1) because eating more vegetables and fruits has ‘shown’ that people are less overweight and lose weight (which based on the ‘China vegetable study’ and other recent work, it’s nothing but a priory reasoning)
    2) because eating less meat reduces our carbon print because it’s better for the earth… where this nonsense comes from I don’t know, but it makes sense if animals are fed grains… then we need huge amounts of water (and energy to obtain it) to grow the grains that are given to animals, which shouldn’t be fed grains in the first place…
    3) because eating less meat reduces the mistreatment of animals destined for food. Okay… I do want mistreatment of animals to stop but that has nothing to do with what our physiology has evolved to survive as the most adequate food for us. Policy or something else should be put in place to stop such practices… but I don’t think that reducing meat consumption will make people less likely to mistreat animals.

    Don’t get me wrong, I do promote a lot the discussion of environmental issues in my classes but when the whole thing turns into a nonsense rhetoric, then it really gets me.

    Call me a curmudgeon, but I think this whole save-the-earth movement is bogus. Since Marxism blew up in their faces, the academic community (as it’s called) have been looking for some other religion to seize on to give meaning to their lives, and that religion happens to be global warming, er, I mean climate change.

    • The notion that livestock are “mistreated” is also bogus. The only way to have a profitable livestock operation is to maximize the number of live, healthy animals at the sale ring and eventually at the meat counter. Sick, injured, or dead animals have zero value (in fact are a cost). So livestock producers have a vested interest in keeping animals healthy and stress-free.

      The propaganda to the contrary comes out of the animal rights/vegan movement, and has no basis in reality. In fact the less knowledge of animal husbandry, the more strident the claims of “farm animal abuse”.

      And yes, I’m from farm and ranch country; I *do* know what I’m talking about.

  11. This is why it always drives me crazy when I watch the tv show Bones and Emily Deschanel has her character make a comment in favor of veganism and it’s anthropological superiority.

    Thanks for the post.

  12. it is OT, but have you seen this?

    http://www.aocs.org/meetings/annual_mtg/index.cfm?page=am09_ht_saturated.htm

    the upcoming meeting of the American Oil Chemistry Society is all about reexamining the benefits of saturated fats.

    Sounds like a good sign, but they will probably find a way to manufacture “better” saturated fats!

    I’ve attended a couple of AOCS meetings, and they’re actually pretty good. The presenters and the attendees aren’t nearly so eaten up with the dogma of nutritional correctness as their colleagues are in nutritional medicine. I would love to attend the above meeting, but can’t due to a scheduling conflict. Richard Feinman is chairing a session and Jeff Volek is presenting, so I’ll be able to get an update.

  13. Hey Dr. Mike, *I* remember the hunter-gathers vs. the agriculturalists in the original PP. In fact that is the *one* thing I have remembered for years, more than any other thing. I totally forgot about the mummies, but can’t recall how many times I have told people about anthropologists being able to differentiate between hunter-gatherers and farmers by their skeletal remains, and the much more robust health of the hunter-gatherers.

    Though even to this day most of my friends to whom I tell this insist that one reason the hunter-gatherers show more robust health is because they had short lifespans and never lived long enough to develop the “normal” diseases of aging that we, with our better medicine and longer lifespans, develop. As one friend put it, “Why should I take dietary recommendations based on people whose average life expectancy is less than 30!”

    So thanks for the much more detailed analysis. This chapter was my favorite one in the entire PP book.

    I can sure understand many people preferring carbs to meat. There was a time in life when I would have chosen macaroni and cheese over a steak any day of the week. Many folks I know still probably would. I’m glad I’ve “seen the light” and have lost 85 pounds that help prove it for me.

    • Hi, Anthropology major here (and raised roma).
      I think the consenus is agriculture-based communities had sickness beyond malnutrition because a) lack of exercise compared to hunter gatherers b) pollution accumulation as human waste eventually finds it’s way back into the water of sedentary communities c) hunter gatherers moved around and therefore avoided large communicable diseases that spread more easily among stationary populations and d) agriculture required so much processing to utilize effectively for very little. Crops 10 thousand years ago did not look like the crops today, no robust large yields of footlong corn cobs, more like 1-3 centimeter buds.
      Sounds fascinating, I’ll be sure to find this full article soon!

  14. This is fascinating, thank you very much. My children are in their 20’s, so I haven’t really thought about when they were weaned. My older one definately had cereal, but my younger one went from the breast to table food, and refused any kind of “baby” food. I sure wish I had know then what I know now.

  15. Great post, Dr. Mike!! Both our daughters are raw food enthusiasts ( fruit and veggie smoothies, and no meat, dairy, or even eggs.) They sent a post yesterday about hunter-gatherers who ate raw, and supposedly no meat…..so this was timely for me… They want me to eat raw for my health issues, but all the fruit spikes my sugars, so I’m leery. A Dr. Gabriel Cousins claims to have “cured” diabetes in 30 days. I’ve “cured” my type 2 diabetes too….as long as I stay with a low carb, P.P. diet; when I eat carbs, up go the sugars, so not cured. Have you any comments on the RAW FOOD movement and particularly Dr. Cousins claim of a “cure?”

    I don’t know anything about Dr. Cousins. I do know that people in the raw food movement seem to believe the raw foods deliver ‘natural’ enzymes unaltered by cooking to the GI tract to help it do its work. Problem is these ‘natural’ enzymes are made of protein and are denatured (the same alteration process as cooking does with heat) as soon as they hit the stomach acid. The fact that proteins can’t make it through the stomach without being completely altered is why diabetics can’t take insulin pills and have to get their insulin via injection. Insulin is a protein, just as enzymes are, and it can’t make it through the stomach without being denatured.

    • In ref to Cousins. His Anatomy of an Illness describes in detail how he overcame an “undiagnosable and untreatable” condition by significantly increasing his vitamin C, rest, and laughter, among other things. He also quit a primarily processed food diet and began eating fresh foods, which by definition included raw.

  16. What seems to get ignored – either because it is the elephant in the living room, or because it is so very unpalatable to the modern researcher, is that insects are omnipresent, and as they do in many ‘modern primitive’ populations, may have provided a large amount of ‘perfect protein and fat’ to those willing to eat them in bygone eras. Agricultural types may have supplemented somewhat, but they weren’t wandering around as much, and spent a lot of time husbanding their crops, no doubt – and as stated in the article and seen time and again by ‘us’, carbs is the macro nutrient people crave. Got carbs?

    This is my theory ;-> Actually it IS my theory, as I have never seen a ‘study’ done that shows the percentage insects making up a population’s diet – granted I haven’t spent my life looking for such studies either. This I do know: in China, they eat silkworms – lots of them, although it is a regional food, but it is an example. I would place bets that in most rural primitive areas insects make up a big part of the diet. I would also bet that insects were a handy snack for indigenous populations and probably a lot of the ‘hunting and gathering’ consisted of turning over logs, or breaking them up and finding protein rich snacks. Therefore I don’t buy (easily) the ‘times of starvation’ hypothesis. If you are in the woods and you are willing to eat bugs, then you will NOT starve, in fact, you can live quite well – granted there may have been times when the weather really stunk, or the cold was so extreme nobody wanted to venture out.

    Sounds unpalatable but this thought came to me when I was reading the Aubrey/Maturin novels (never read them? Oh, give yourself a wonderful gift and do so! The movie was so poor an adaptation of Master and Commander as to be unrecognizable) where Jack Aubrey is explaining the difference in flavor of the ‘bargemen’ – maggots that live in the ships biscuits and become more prevalent as the cruise lengthens – how some are oddly cold tasting, but harmess! These men were not over-nice about what they ate. Food was at a premium and they ate what they needed to to stay alive. Ships rats were also on the menu when stores became depleted.

    FWIW: I’ve recommended your book for years as one of the most erudite contributions to ‘The Way’ as well as GCBC – to those I think can get through it – I am waiting for Mr. Taubes to write his sequel – which I hope will be more accessible. Sounds like I’m kissing up, but I really do thank you for your effort and continued informative articles!

    This is fascinating stuff – as always, I read your articles with much enthusiasm!

    Cap’n Jan

    I have read some, but not all, of the Patrick O’Brian novels. They are heady stuff for those who love them.

  17. To JaneM: Yes, my son is 30, and I know he had cereals and grains too. Hey, “the doctor said to do it”. I did breastfeed him until he was 10 months old and old enough to be able to handle cow’s milk, and not need any “formula” which I sort of instinctively distrusted. I also made sure that he had *no added sugar* in any of the baby foods he ate.

    But interestingly I do remember the pediatrician had him start out on rice cereal, and after he was able to tolerate that he had him go on to oat cereal, and after that he had him go on to wheat cereal – as he said rice was easiest for babies’ systems to handle and wheat was the hardest! Darn, if we only knew then what we know now.

    My first grandchild is due in August. Maybe he’ll be fed a little better than my son was, though I did try the best with the limited knowledge I had at the time – but those grains were always a part of it.

  18. Have you commented on Lindeberg’s Kitava Study?

    http://www.staffanlindeberg.com/TheKitavaStudy.html

    “The residents of Kitava lived exclusively on root vegetables (yam, sweet potato, taro, tapioca), fruit (banana, papaya, pineapple, mango, guava, water melon, pumpkin), vegetables, fish and coconuts…

    No indications of stroke, diabetes, dementia or congestive heart failure
    No overweight
    Excellent blood pressure
    No acne”

    Stephan from Whole Health Source reported that 69% of their calories come from carbohydrate, 21% from fat and 10% from protein, and that food is abundant. Plus over 75% of Kitavans smoke cigarettes.

    http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/search/label/Kitava

    I’m just trying to clear up some of my cognitive dissonance.

    Stephan’s study shows that a particular society is able to thrive (if that’s the appropriate word) on a high-carb diet, but that doesn’t mean the Kitavans wouldn’t do a whole lot better on a higher-protein, higher-fat diet. The paper I posted on was about the dietary differences between probably genetically similar humans subsisting on either a high-carb or a high-protein diet, and, in terms of health as measured by skeletal remains, the high-protein diet won hands down.

  19. Interesting on the bioavailability of protein. Most people don’t know that dark leafy greens like broccoli and kale, have almost as good an amino acid profile as meat.

    98 calories of broccoli = 7 grams of protein, amino acid score 112
    85 calories of chuck arm roast = 8 grams of protein, amino acid score 95

    (Nutritiondata.com has info on amino acids. A broccoli page:
    http://www.nutritiondata.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2357/2)

    So, the hunter-gatherers will do better on protein whether they are hunting meat or gathering greens. It seems it really is the starchy grains grown to fill people up that is such a problem.

    • Are you aware of the huge difference in volume between 100 calories of broccoli and 100 calories of meat? Why use calories as a metric when it has no relevance to the volume that would normally be eaten in a meal. This suggests a dishonest agenda by whoever prepared the data.

  20. I’m a little surprised that the author of the study didn’t include the following potential reason for switching from a hunter-gatherer diet to agriculture: to avoid those very regular (if less severe) bouts of malnutrition. Yes, in the long run the trade-off calculus doesn’t pan out, but that’s 20/20 hindsight, and a steady stream of food (of whatever quality) might have outweighed the risk of disease, infant mortality, etc. Obviously there was no way for them to tell, and with a comparatively shorter life span, and therefore a faster turn-over in generations, once a subsistence pattern is established, it might be harder to “go back.” A case of “we’ve always done it this way” inertia, which often isn’t surpassed until there is a blatant, pressing need for change. Just a thought.

  21. I had all of my mercury fillings removed in 1990. A red pimple rash on my legs, back, and upper arms, cleared up in less than 6 months. The rash has remained in remission since. I also could now eat fruit with out sever cramps. I had dark circles under my eyes during the removal process, which was over a 4 to 5 month period. Other than the pain of removal, all went well, and I am glad I had the courage to do this even though my dentist tried to talk me out of it.

  22. Mike, I agree for the most part. What I would like is to get better informed about the ‘save the earth by growing more grains and eating less mean because growing grains is better for the earth’ idea, which I don’t think holds a lot of water. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of references to take anyone on that debate. You have a wealth of knowledge! Would you happen to have information on that? Or perhaps direct me in the right direction? Or maybe someone in the audience? I will be very grateful!

    Cheers,

    I’m trying to work up the energy to do such a post, but I get so agitated whenever I think about it that I have to run for the Jameson bottle. While you’re waiting for me to stay sober enough to post on it, give Monica Hughes’ terrific blog a look. She has a lot of info on how cattle and other ruminants fit into the ecological picture.

  23. Wow, intresting post and wonderful comments! I dont even know what to say as I can relate to so many commenters and an article too. I too have few mercury fillings and thinking to remove them. I dont know if there is any correlation but my so called hyperactivity coincided with the period when those mercury filling were installed. Or it could be the fact that I lived 150 miles away from Chernobil explosion from the onset of it in april 1986 to 1989. I cant remove all the radiation exposure my body probably suffered but I can definitely remove mercury fillings. I was about 14 years old and in junior high school. I will never forget that day! I was playing soccer with a bunch of kids, it was a beautiful, gorgeous spring day. All of a sudden the sky would turn dark, scary dark. It was surreal. If I didnt experience it myself, I would never believe anyone telling this story. I dont like to share this story as it brings painful memories that are supposedly repressed. A beautiful day suddenly turned into very dark, windy and dusty night. I mean, it looked like an earht was attacked from forces above. I was never so scared in my life. I ran home and called my mother, who is a pediatrician. She calmed me down but deep inside we all knew something wasnt ok. Next few days were not pretty. Life was kept normal, children would go back to school, but there was something in the air, both literrally and otherwise that didnt make it allright. The Soviet Govenrment kept Chernobil Explosion a secret from both its people and foreign goverments. But they couldnt contain radiation spread by winds. Polish, Finland and few other Scandinavian countries rang the alarm bell first. Soviet Govenrment attempted to stop the spread of radiation by SHOOTING LARGE ARTILLERY SHELLS INTO THE SKY FORCING RADIATION CLOUDS IN LOCAL CITIES. They also used some technological modern warfare weaponry that was meant to change the climate. My best friend’s uncle was a KGB operative and he later told us that the reason our city was experiencing all these high winds and change in weahter was due to military trying to stop radiation spread. Our city was clueless as to what happened for few weeks. And if it wasnt for foreign government who knows what and how many more thousands or millions would have to die. May 1 was a parade day in Soviet Union to celebrate Communist party so everyone was forced to march down the stree to celebrate. Even few days post that disasterous day I knew and saw people who were sick allready. After few month my town was put on full carantine and all kida under age 18 were forced to evacuate. I nver forget that day. It was like a war time. I was told to go home and be ready to leave town in 48 hours. Noone knew where we were going or for how long. Numbers of buses were lined up around central soccer stadium and parents were given 15 minutes to say good bye to their kids. All we knew that it was unsafe to stay behind but our parents and adults couldnt go because there were not enouph transportation to accompany everyone. We were told they would come soon. I could go on and on abot how scary the whole experience was. I spent 3 years in some remote area in deep Russian Tundra without my parents or any correspondence with them. Then when my mother and my father decided to leave a country that didnt give a damn about its citizen for so many years. I was soon reunited with my parents and GOD BLESS AMERICA! I am a proud citizen of USA now, but when I was 13 it was totally different. It was a cold war. As a part of military training I was forced to take on military training in school. I was taught how to target shoot. Guess who I was shooting at. Yes, American solders! Who knew, that only 5 years later the world was about to change so dramatically, and I would become an American who those remaiing russian kids, some friends, would continue aiming for. Soviet regime was rotten inside and out, many millions lost their lives, many lived were ruined. There was no democracy, freedom of speech or religion or a right to congregate peacefully. The only right there ever was is to be a sheep and follow the rest of the herd! GOD BLESS AMERICA!

  24. I also experienced September 11, 2001 intimtely! I was a student at Suny Downstate when the whole ordeal took place. My sister almost dies that day, she was one of only two people out of her department that made it alive. I never forget how dusty white and windy the city did become on a beautiful fall day on Tusday. That day brought exactly the same memories of my experience of Chernobil explosion. Different contries, different times yet so similar in feelings.

  25. Dr. Eades,

    Just a comment about Harris lines. They are typically as common or more so in hunter-gatherer remains than in agricultural remains, just like in the study you cited. In that sense, they’re not consistent with other signs of malnutrition, which are typically more common in agriculturalists. It turns out, the correspondence between Harris lines and malnutrition (or undernutrition) is not very tight at all. In fact, the Harris lines themselves represent the re-growth of bone after a period of malnutrition, rather than the malnutrition itself. So if you’re malnourished enough, you might not even form proper Harris lines when you get food again. I think that’s a good explanation for why Harris lines don’t seem to correspond to enamel hypoplasia, porotic hyperostosis, etc. Enamel hypoplasia is considered a better marker for malnutrition/undernutrition than Harris lines from what I understand.

    Someone mentioned the Kitava study above. Although the Kitavan diet is high carb, it’s paleo carbs (tubers and starchy fruit). I think it’s easier to tolerate a high-carb diet if the carbs are coming from tubers rather than grains. They also eat very little linoleic acid.

    The author of the paper went into this in more detail than I did in the post. I tried to summarize briefly the information. The Harris lines do indeed represent the re-growth of bone after the period of malnutrition and/or ill health. Thanks for the info on the Kitavans.

  26. as always, a terrific eye opening post! a quick comment on how to make low carb affordable for lower income families. i’ve found that i actually save a substantial amount of money eating meats/poultry/fish, vegetables and fruits than i did when eating a vegan diet. when i ate vegan, the food was certainly less expensive but i was eating constantly, from actual hunger, impending malnutrition and carb driven cravings. the whole natural food i eat now (and i only eat grass fed pasture finished) costs a lot more, but i consume so much less that i’m saving about $100 a week!

    i’ve begun to think of veganism as a cult based eating disorder.

    • That is exactly my experience too. I now eat one low carb, high protein meal a day. Probably 1/3rd the amount of food I used to eat, and I hardly ever feel hungry.

  27. What a great post! I shared this in Facebook. And thanks for mentioning my blog. I’ve been somewhat remiss lately in blogging but I hope to get back into the swing of things soon. Particularly this dreadful proposed legislation, HR 875.

    I’m with you, Dr. Eades. Even thought I’ve written on environmental topics, the Earth Day hoopla is too infuriating for me — I have friends who are environmentalist types, and those that are adamantly not, and so I’m entirely sick of the superficial propaganda on both “sides” of this debate. I stay clear away from this day because most of what is presented is your average fodder for the non-thinker. I don’t wish to give any more attention to it than it deserves — which is to say, not much!

    So to the subject of your post. Here are some more thoughts re: starch and sugars in general as they relate to dental health. I posted this on another blog today, but I think this is some more preliminary evidence that while one can do OK on a modified agricultural diet high in fat and protein, the hunter gatherer diet is definitely superior.

    Here are Weston Price’s data: the first number is the percent of teeth attacked by cavities in the isolated primitive group. The second number is the percent cavities in teeth in the same race of people that had gone onto the western diet (flours, canned goods, sweets):

    Swiss 4.6 29.8
    Gaelic 1.2 30.0
    Eskimos 0.09 13.0
    Northern Indians 0.16 21.5
    Seminole Indians 4.00 40.0
    Melanesians 0.38 29.0
    Polynesians 0.32 21.9
    Africans 0.2 6.8
    Australian Aborigines 0.00 (!) 70.9
    New Zealand Maori 0.01 55.3
    Malays 0.09 20.6
    Coastal Peruvians 0.04 40.0+
    High Andes Indians 0.00 40.0+
    Amazon Jungle Indians 0.00 40.0+

    Data from Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, p. 441

    But what is also interesting here is a comparison of the cavity percentage *solely among primitive groups*. Interestingly, cavities are highest in the 2 primitive cultures eating grains and in the Seminoles in comparison to the rest of the healthy groups. Sure, they are all generally low but if you do a chi square goodness of fit test of the percentages of these three groups that are highest in comparison to the percentages of all the rest, you get a highly significant p value with Yates’ correction.

    Here’s where it gets interesting. I searched Nutrition and Physical Degeneration to try to discover what was in the diet of the Seminoles, since they had slightly inferior dental health in comparison to the rest of the groups — unfortunately Price doesn’t say, he just indicates that they were the most secretive group he came into contact with. So we have two groups with diets high in soaked grains that had slightly inferior dental health, and the Seminoles with slightly inferior dental health. What were Seminoles eating? It would be interesting to know if something they were eating was correlated with slightly inferior dental health, no?

    So I corresponded with someone who sent me this about the Seminole diet. Read carefully toward the end.

    ……………………………….

    Monica,

    A book on the Seminole from 1884 lists the following on their food:

    “Read the bill of fare from which the Florida Indians may select, and compare with that the scanty supplies within reach of the North Carolina Cherokee or the Lake Superior Chippewa. Here is a list of their meats: Of flesh, at any time venison, often opossum, sometimes rabbit and squirrel, occasionally bear, and a land terrapin, called the “gopher,” and pork whenever they wish it. Of wild fowl, duck, quail, and turkey in abundance. Of home reared fowl, chickens, more than they are willing to use. Of fish, they can catch myriads of the many kinds which teem in the inland waters of Florida, especially of the large bass, called “trout” by the whites of the State, while on the seashore they can get many forms of edible marine life, especially turtles and oysters. Equally well off are these Indians in respect to grains, vegetables, roots, and fruits. They grow maize in considerable quantity, and from it make hominy and flour, and all the rice they need they gather from the swamps. Their vegetables are chiefly sweet potatoes, large and much praised melons and pumpkins, and, if I may classify it with vegetables, the tender new growth of the tree called the cabbage palmetto. Among roots, there is the great dependence of these Indians, the abounding Koonti; also the wild potato, a small tuber found in black swamp land, and peanuts in great quantities. Of fruits, the Seminole family may supply itself with bananas, oranges (sour and sweet), limes, lemons, guavas, pineapples, grapes (black and red), cocoa nuts, cocoa plums, sea grapes, and wild plums. And with even this enumeration the bill of fare is not exhausted. The Seminole, living in a perennial summer, is never at a loss when he seeks something, and something good, to eat. I have omitted from the above list honey and the sugar cane juice and syrup, nor have I referred to the purchases the Indians now and then make from the white man, of salt pork, wheat flour, coffee, and salt, and of the various canned delicacies, whose attractive labels catch their eyes.”

    http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/19155

    Could it be the sweet fruits, maize, sugar cane syrup, honey, etc?

    … or maybe something they were getting “now and then from the white man”?
    …………………………………

  28. I, too, remember when you wrote about this in Protein Power, and have mentioned it often when talking with others. Classic study.

    Another fact I remember distinctly is your explanation of the difference between average age at death and life expectancy. Yes, many HGs died by age 30, but enough of them lived to be 60 or more to offset those who died at birth or in the first few years of life.

    When I went to a new gyno recently to get my bio-identical HRT, he tried to tell me that menopause is a “man-made” malady that only arose around the turn of the 1900s. Nay, not so. I just read “The Third Chimpanzee” by Jared Diamond and he had a whole section on why and when menopause evolved. He wrote, “Human female menopause probably resulted from two other institively human characteristics: the exceptional danger that childbirth poses to the mother, and the danger that a mother’s death poses to her offspring.” As he says later, “When you already have three children alive but still dependent on you, why risk those three for a fourth?”

    He goes on to say that menopause probably evolved within the past 40,000 years “when Cro-Magnons and other anatomically modern humans began frequently to survive to age sixty or more.”

    All that to say that even an expert in field (my gyno) has a lot to learn about human evolution. And I loved correcting him!!!

  29. Re the cost of protein: about 50 years ago, my father helped start a company called International Proteins that made flour out of dried fish. It was practically pure protein and the cost per daily intake was pennies per day. The company was so successful that the Peruvian government took it over and promptly managed it into the ground.

    Lately, demand for ultra cheap protein has largely been filled by soybeans, but should intermediaries choose to start reading Weston Price, that role could also be met by fish. Or dried milk. For those who still doubt, consider that greatest wonder of farming: the egg. In my fancied up supermarket in Washington, DC they cost about 10 cents a piece. I need about 10 for my daily protein so that’s about a dollar a day, $365 a year.

    Never forget that our planet is capable of producing huge amouts of food of practically any description. The problem of malnutritrition is entirely a combination of misinformation, poor choices, and corrupt governments/intermediaries that interfere with distribution.

  30. “Never forget that our planet is capable of producing huge amouts of food of practically any description. The problem of malnutritrition is entirely a combination of misinformation, poor choices, and corrupt governments/intermediaries that interfere with distribution.”

    YES! Absolutely, Bonnie. There is an incredible amount of potential productivity and abundance on Earth if we are just willing to seek it. I used to grow enough produce to feed two people for a year on just 7500 square feet in upstate NY. Although I’m not sure where he gets his numbers, Michael Pollan has noted that in WWII 40% of the produce produced in America was produced from home gardens. I don’t have a difficult time believing that since I fondly remember my grandparents’ backyard garden which used to produce enormous amounts of every imaginable kind of produce from the 60s to the late 80s. Now imagine what that level of productivity could be now in America with the addition of permacultural techniques like raised beds, composting, no till, ollas, and a few backyard chickens. Not to mention much of the developing world.

    The fact that it’s not being done in backyards, or around the world, isn’t an argument that it couldn’t be. The lies that the biotech companies AND environmentalists foist on the public in the name of “sustainable agriculture” — that we are running out of land to feed people, that we must turn to grains, that we must divorce animals from the farm — is almost unbelievable. How “sustainable” is it to be creating a 6500 square mile dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico as a result of the soil erosion caused by corn and soy farming? How sustainable is it to combust atmospheric nitrogen through the Haber process to create ammonia to fertilize the corn, which uses massive amounts of fossil fuel by three rounds of heating to 350-500 degrees C? Oh, yes, it’s far more harmful to our environment to raise cows on grass, drop their poop directly on fields to fertilize it, and create pastures with healthy soils that don’t wash down the Mississippi. Seriously?

    Anyone that gives serious credence to the ideas that eating animals is a problem from an environmental standpoint either doesn’t wish to acknowledge — or never knew — that the American plains were once to home to up to 100 million bison grazing on some the most biodiverse grasslands that existed. We now have 100 million cows in the US national herd and they are about half as small when they reach market as the average bison was. You can argue that feedlot practices are a big problem from a variety of standpoints, but this isn’t an argument against the way cows were raised 60 years ago in this country, and the way they always have been raised in NZ, which is to say — on pasture. Bringing back native prairie grass would be even more beneficial in this respect. All of that has been ripped away and washed down the Mississippi, replaced with the “sustainable” agriculture of the biotech giants. There’s sustainability and then there’s *sustainability*. When someone mentions this word, ask them what they mean by it.

  31. Once again, an EXCELENT EXCELENT post. Thanks for your commitment to sharing your knowledge. Keep up the great work

  32. I’ve given up grains to good effect. But some “Paleo” enthusiasts insist on giving up dairy also. I love chesese, full fat yogurt, and sour cream. (Without fermentation, dairy bothers me.) Any strong opinions, either anthropological, historical, or grandfatherical, about dairy?

    No real strong opinions. Loren Cordain, who does a lot of research in this area, believes the combination of dairy and wheat is problematic. You can read all about it on his website.

  33. How can you share this on Facebook? (I’m not seeing a link for that)

    I want to share!!

    I don’t have a clue. I’m not on Facebook and have no inclination at this point to be on Facebook, but I’ve learned never to say never.

  34. By the way, Dr. Eades, I’d love to see you tear apart this piece of junk:

    http://reality.ohio.newintellectuals.org/?p=361

    Honestly, the global warming fiasco is reaching epidemic levels of absurdity. Not to mention scariness. What next? Putting fat people in concentration camps to make them lose weight to save the planet? It won’t happen tomorrow, but I don’t rule such things out. And I guess if you can justify that, you can justify much more drastic measures.

    Yes, indeed. Now fat people are a part of the global warming conspiracy. Yeesh.

  35. Another fascinating blog post. Thank you again for providing so much considered material in such a well-thought manner of presentation.

    I have recently been approached with information on glyconutrients (of Mannatech et al) and their purported usefulness for diabetics. These eight compounds are called “essential sugars.” I am of the impression that there are no essential carbohydrates; are there essential sugars? I suspect these are sugars that our body manufacturers from other starting materials (i.e, glucneogenesis to produce glucose). I am also of the impression that as a diabetic, I do well to avoid as is practical the consumption of any sugars, these “essential” ones or otherwise. But the claim is that “science proves” we need these things….

    Am I wrong? Are there essential sugars we must consume (i.e., that cannot be manufactured within our bodies)? If so, how did hunter-gatherer-man get his share of these things?

    As far as I know, there are no essential sugars, at least not that must be a part of the diet. Glucose is essential, but we can make it ourselves. Sounds to me like an excuse for people who want to justify eating carbs.

  36. In regards to the “ecological damage” done by raising cattle for meat — This idea has always amused me and I remember it as an argument against meat-eating all the way back to my college days in the 70s. My amusement comes from the fact that living in California’s cattle country which is the very hot, very dry, very rocky, waterless Sierra Nevada foothills, I can see nothing better to do with these thousands and thousands of acres of nothing besides graze cattle. Nothing else but rattlesnakes and jackrabbits will survive it. Nothing we would consider eating will grow on it without expensive water systems and intensive soil conditioning. Further, if that were done, wouldn’t we be causing “ecological damage” by significantly altering the natural environment by turning it into farms to grow food for human consumption? The cattle on the other hand blend right into the natural environment and don’t “damage” a thing! And neither do we when we eat the meat! Let the cattle have it — it’s the most sensible use of the land.

  37. I’m always fascinated by your paleontology and archeology posts, and much enjoyed this one as well.

    Do we have a way of knowing how paleo-babies might have been introduced to solid food? I assume it would have been easy enough to mash vegetables and fruits, but would people perhaps pre-chew muscle meat for their babies or just give them bits of easy to swallow organs or fat?

    Based on contemporary hunter-gatherer data, babies breast feed for much longer than they do in Western societies. I imagine that the kids then started eating what everyone else ate whenever they could and gave up the breast when they were ready.

    • Re the question on what to feed weaning babies – have a look at the Baby Led Weaning movement. At six months old a baby can hold and gnaw on a piece of meat and get valuable nutrients from the meat juices – amazing to see if you have only seen babies being given purees in the past.

  38. Sue. I cannot locate the citations but clearly remember reading about African breastfeeding
    mothers feeding their infants chewed raw liver fed mouth to mouth.

    That diet has to produce a very healthy infant. Also spares sore nipples!

  39. Monica. I find your post on Seminole diet interesting. Given the generally desirable climate
    of Florida the urge to expend energy assaulting the local fauna for food would have to be very considerably reduced.

    Given that all animal species ( I cannot speak for plants) are governed by reproductive, hunger,
    fight, flight drivers, the Seminole found themselves in the equivalent of a supermarket.
    It is SO easy to go for the “convenience” food.

  40. Joanna, just copy the url and share the link on your profile (like I often do).

    Doc, I am sure many people do just that, share links to your posts on facebook. If your webguy detects a large amount of traffic from facebook, maybe he oughta set up a fanpage for you … Gary Taubes has one, created by a Trae Durtschi of Utah. I am its 86th member 😉

    And thank you for elaborating on that great study.

  41. Elaborating on my previous post, can you tell me, did you and your wife each have many mercury fillings removed? Also, did you get them all removed in one sitting? I am trying to locate a dentist in my area that practices safe removal of mercury fillings. Ideally, i would like to get all of mine removed in one sitting, perhaps under anaesthesia, seeing as i have quite a few.

    We both did. We did it years ago, and I can’t remember if it was one sitting or two. We didn’t use anesthesia, however, so it wasn’t too bad.

  42. Dr. Eades,
    Thanks for this great info. I’m going to print it out for occasions when I try to explain (poorly) the hazards of low fat/bad carbs. It seems actually to anger some people when their cherished food choices are challenged. So now I’ll just them a copy of your excellent article.

  43. I have linked to Dr. Mike on my Facebook in the past but can’t see how to do it now. When I did it in the past there was a tab or something that said add a link or some such, but with the new setup they have I don’t see that as an option. I guess you could just write a note or your wall and paste in the link from your browser. Not as elegant but it should give your friends the info you want to provide.

  44. I have my doubts that we can put the earth’s human population on Protein Power type of diet. It would be interesting to see an Ag scientist take on the issue and see what could be done. I have no doubt that we could be doing a lot better than what we are now doing. How much better? I’m not interested in layman guesses, want something more substantial.

  45. RobLL – Have you seen Michael Pollan on TED talking about Polyface Farm? The amount of meat they bring forth there on 100 acres is staggering – grassfed beef, chicken, sheep, rabbits etc. It can be done, man.

    Here’s the link, I cannot remember if Dr. Mike has linked to it earlier. It’s 17 minutes long, but if you skip forward to about 10-11 minutes you will get to the heart of the matter (but don’t, its all brilliant): http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/michael_pollan_gives_a_plant_s_eye_view.html

    Yes, do watch. Polyface farm is a stunning achievement, but one that can be replicated most anywhere.

  46. My grandchildren loved fresh veggies cut into bite size pieces, olives and pickles, and cubes of cheddar cheese, so it was easy to give them snacks. BUT- drinks were another problem. If you don’t give them cows’ milk (and I think cows’ milk is horrible, and at the very least gives kids constantly runny noses) what on earth DO you give them to drink? Fruit juices are too high in sugar- What, then?

    By the way, my Dutch husband says there is a direct correlation between my IQ and the level of the Jameson’s bottle!

    I’m sure the IQ test works the same for me. :-)

  47. Call me a curmudgeon, but I think this whole save-the-earth movement is bogus. Since Marxism blew up in their faces, the academic community (as it’s called) have been looking for some other religion to seize on to give meaning to their lives, and that religion happens to be global warming, er, I mean climate change.

    Amen, brother, preach on!

  48. I have a slow connection and do not do videos longer than a few minutes. David Montgomery, Dirt: the erosion of civilization, MarArther fellow, reports that by 2050 there will most likely be 0.2 hectares of land per capita world wide, and that no science forseeable can provide the needed calories.

    Watch out for “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants” Pollan.

    David Montgomery’s thesis is nonsense in my opinion. I’ve got to post on this soon.

  49. What’s your non-dietary dental advice? Do you and MD brush and floss several times a day, as dentists recommend?

    I ask because the above article and the Weston Price literature in particular suggest that traditional dental care (brushing, flossing) is far less important than nutrition for maintaining dental health.

    I brush at least once a day, but most of the time twice per day. I almost never floss because I hate to do it. The last time I went to the dentist, I was told I had a “nice, clean mouth” whatever that means. I do agree that nutrition is extremely important to dental and gum health. I doubt that Paleo man brushed at all, yet skeletal remains show good teeth. But even if my dental and gum health were perfect without brushing, I would still do it just because it makes me feel better.

  50. I have always been an outsider. I watched union, Democratic party, my denomination self destruct. The basic problem is that movements do the “good sociology, good science is what agrees with my side, Bad is anything that doesn’t.” Generally I have spotted these disasterous trends, with help of course, several years before the group ever acknowledged them.

    The bad news: I generally have been right about spotting disasterous trends

    The ameliorating news: my view have not changed organisations.

    There are more than a couple belief structures in the low carb world which will bring/are bringing discredit on the movement. My general recommendation is that we all need to be a lot more agnostic about our basic assumptions.

  51. What do you say to Sally Fallon of WAPF when she says:

    “But the Atkins diet does have its dangers. In order to lose a lot of weight over the long term, it is necessary to restrict not only carbohydrates but also fat, ending up with a diet that has a high percentage of calories from protein… Dieters are often tempted to add protein powders to up the protein content without adding too many calories at the same time. The result can be a diet unnaturally high in protein, something that all primitive peoples avoided. Protein requires vitamin A for its metabolism and a diet too high in protein without adequate fat rapidly depletes vitamin A stores, leading to serious consequences—heart arrhythmias, kidney problems, autoimmune disease and thyroid disorders. Diets too high in protein also cause a negative calcium balance, where more calcium is lost compared to the amount taken in, a condition that can lead to bone loss and nervous system disorders. ”

    Thanks for your opinion!

    Laurel

  52. Anyone see the yahoo.com article today stating, as tip #1, that bread and starches are good for you? How dare you contradict a yahoo nutrition article!!?? (sarcasm)

  53. @curmudgeon (TiF1974): Here here. Do some of these greenies understand how condescending they sound when they constantly harp about all the things that “we” need to do for “them”? The best thing we could do for them? Leave them alone and stop latching onto these global “causes”. The currently oppressed people of the world know precisely how to care for themselves, “we” just won’t let them.

    “The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his feet.”
    – James Oppenheim

  54. “I have my doubts that we can put the earth’s human population on Protein Power type of diet. It would be interesting to see an Ag scientist take on the issue and see what could be done. ”

    I was beat to the punch on this. My first thought was the Polyface farm model, too. I don’t think ag scientists can or should be allowed to develop a new model (look what they’ve already done pervert to animal husbandry!!!). Let Joel Salatin do it. Oh wait, he already done it – by blending traditional animal husbandry (based on nature), with minor amounts of external energy input, along with an uncommon amount of common sense.

    And Colin Tudge has a great examination of the earth’s ability to feed the world – it can and will (population expansion is slowing, btw) – in his book So Shall We Reap (except he is not so insightful about fat & carb consumption, he’s brainwashed liked so many others).

  55. Dorothy, you asked what to give kids to drink? What’s wrong with water? No empty calories, no questionable additives (I filter the chlorine out and pretend the fluoride isn’t there), and the price is right. And while children used to sugary juices will need some time to get used to it, they will adjust if there are no other choices.

  56. RobLL – I sense that you do not have too much respect for Michael Pollan what with your warning there. Granted, his vexingly well-received motto ‘Eat food. Not much. Mostly plants’ will annoy any true-blue low-carber no end, but IMO his writings have helped tremendously to bring the lipophobes down on their knees in the minds of even, yes, educated people. In a chapter called The Melting of the Lipid Hypothesis’ in his most recent book he quotes this ‘bombshell’ from a 2001 review from Harvard:

    “It is now increasingly recognized that the low-fat campaign has been base on little scientific evidence and may have caused unintented health consequences” … i.e. all the problems that arise with the over-consumption of carbs.

    Even if he is not sitting at the pointy end, Pollan is indeed on our side of the seesaw.

    Michael Pollan at least has an open mind. He is affiliated with Berkeley (School of Journalism) and was instrumental in arranging the Gary Taubes lecture there I posted about a couple of years ago.

  57. My son wasn’t a paleo-baby (I didn’t know about paleo back then) but he breast fed till he was five years old. He took solid food, the same as us adults, as and when he wanted as we always had him with us at the table when we ate and he just included more foods and less breast milk as he grew older. He was a very fussy eater, but I’ve read that fussiness with food in young children is a protective thing so that they don’t go and eat something poisonous or bad for them. The first two years of his life my son almost exclusively breast fed, the most he’d eat in addition to my milk was perhaps half a banana. He thrived and was healthy, never ill, and grew well. He’s now twenty and still very healthy, I think all that breast milk gave him a very good start in life. I should imagine that is how paleo-babies did it.

    Anne

  58. Re the mercury fillings: I was never too concerned about my (very few) fillings leaching mercury, but my dentist showed me some very graphic pictures of teeth that were cracked and even broken apart due to the differing dynamics of amalgam filling material and tooth enamel. I did let my fillings age out before I replaced them, but I probably would’ve done it faster if I liked a lot of hot or cold foods and beverages.

    Re the environmental footprint of diet: IIRC there was a study at Cornell last year or so that showed that eating some meat (less than a typical low-carb dieter, for sure) and quite a bit of dairy had a smaller footprint than a vegetarian diet, in part because range-feeding animals can utilize land that is inappropriate for row crops. The focus was specific to New York state; it would be good to see similar research for other geographical zones.

    The study made good intuitive sense to me at the time because I’ve read “Becoming Vegetarian”, which is really a fantastic book about building a nutritionally adequate vegan diet. One thing you learn very quickly is that a healthy vegan diet is a pretty serious undertaking entailing many food-miles and quite a bit of processing.

    Of course, this all assumes the time and inclination to eat to a couple of goals (health and environmental impact)…which isn’t a good assumption for most people at all.

  59. Richard Dawkins describes organisms that take over their hosts’ bodies and start controlling them. Some parasitic worm in a grasshopper can get the grasshopper to commit suicide by jumping into the water, because the worm needs to be in water in order to enter the next stage of its reproductive cycle.

    You, Dr. Mike, have hypothesized that carbs are like an addictive drug that gets us to seek more, even though consuming them does not enhance the prolongation of our body’s survival.

    If the actual opioid substance cannot be found in the carbohydrate, perhaps we are victims of some of the bacteria that inhabit our gut. We eat carbs, and this species of bacterium enjoys a population explosion. Some bacteria create Vitamin K; perhaps some bacteria create a chemical signal that commands us, “Eat carbs now!”

    My personal experience is that carb-dense foods are extremely addictive and very hard to quit. Many of them tend to give me diarrhea. So, we have the perfect means of transmission. Just as cold viruses induce us to sneeze, allowing them to be communicated from person to person, so my carbophilic microorganisms get me to gorge on ice cream and cheese cake, which produces diarrhea, the mess of which allows easy transmission to others.

    Perhaps the Hardin Villagers’ maladaptive dietary behavior was not the _direct_ effect of addictive substances in carbs, but rather the indirect effect of carbs and the direct effect of addictive, microorganismically-secreted, substances.

    Perhaps. But I suspect it was a direct effect of the carbs. BTW, I wrote a post on an interesting parasitic infection a couple of years ago that you might enjoy reading.

  60. Very interesting study and post. Certainly raises more questions for me. 3500 years is fairly short time frame from an evolutionary or geological perspective, but recent studies suggest that significant selection processes can occur in that time frame.
    How exactly did they control for levels of physical activity in these studies? Even small changes in aerobic capacity has a large influence on overall mortality.
    How do these findings apply to a completely sedentary current population that is still has an average life span above what only 5% of these two populations would reach? There seems to be no data that shows better quality of life of the Hunter-gathers and was there even a statistical difference in mortality rates (where are the error bars in figure 1?).

    You can read the actual study here.

  61. The teeth thing is interesting. Mine almost used to come through with holes already in them. I was always accused of eating “too much sugar” but now I realise it was the healthy starch all along! Now I low carb they need almost no attention beyond the cleaning, and even that is not as regular or as painful as it used to was.

    I tried to persuade mother to remember how she weaned me but it’s over fifty years ago now, all she can remember is apple and custard and bread with marmite – and eggs which I disliked, and probably mashed vegetables with gravy.

    As my fillings need replacing I’ve been having the amalgam replaced with modern stuff (did you know that while amalgam is considered healthy while in your teeth it becomes a toxic waste when you are cremated?) I’ve read some work which suggests the modern plastics and adhesives are as toxic as mercury, just differently so. Bummer! This has put me off having them replaced wholesale.

    The day Chernobyl blew I was having my gallstones removed. I checked several times to make sure I wasn’t glowing. Scary that I already had diabetic dyslipidemia in my twenties which was of course blamed on eating “too much fat” alongside the “too much sugar”. If I could go back in time knowing what I know now things would have been severely different. Put me most definitely in the High Carb Village. :( What I’m eating now may stop further degeneration but the last fifty years can’t be undone.

  62. I think the most persuasive guess as to why a population would turn from hunting to agriculture is to obtain a regular supply of beer or wine, from fermented grain or alcohol. Did this study indicate whether there was any evidence of beer made from fermented corn?

    Unfortunately, anthropologists will omit evidence and even lie about such alcohol use in their studied population, probably to “protect the reputation” of that population (e.g., most of the existing nutrition journal articles on the Tarahumara of Mexico completely omit any reference to their prodigious consumption of corn beer. Such omission must be intentional, and any nutritional study is worthless when it ignores the regular and huge intake of a macronutrient such as alcohol).

    So this is another potential difference between agriculturalists and hunter-gatherers.

    Nothing in the original paper about alcohol consumption.

  63. This reminds me of the 4000 year old mummies of Urumchi from the Tarim Basin in China. These caucasian people were often nearly 7 feet tall. I can’t imagine they grew that tall on beans and rice.

  64. Thanks for (yet another) fascinating post. I was spurred to look around for any echoes of Wadley and Martin’s hypothesis that Gabe has already mentioned (and which of course you discuss in Protein Power Lifeplan). That’s the intriguing idea that the exorphins (“dietary opioids”) present in cereals and milk may be a key to explaining both the origins of agriculture and of the behavioural changes that made civilization possible:

    Regular self-administration of these substances [i.e. cereals and milk] facilitated the behavioural changes that led to the subsequent appearance of civilisation. (Wadley & Martin, 1993).

    And here they spell out how such behavioural changes might have contributed to the rise of civilizations:

    Thus major civilisations have in common that their populations were frequent ingesters of exorphins. We propose that large, hierarchical states were a natural consequence among such populations. Civilisation arose because reliable, on-demand availability of dietary opioids to individuals changed their behaviour, reducing aggression, and allowed them to become tolerant of sedentary life in crowded groups, to perform regular work, and to be more easily subjugated by rulers. Two socioeconomic classes emerged where before there had been only one (Johnson & Earle 1987:270), thus establishing a pattern which has been prevalent since that time. (Wadley & Martin, 1993)

    I turned up a 2006 article by Zapata et al. which takes note of both this hypothesis and that of Brian Hayden, a leading prehistorian at Simon Fraser University in Canada, who suggests that cultivated foods were first consumed as luxury or prestige items, rather than staples, as part of the phenomenon of feasting that is common to complex hunter-gatherer societies, an idea which seems to further strengthen and complement Wadley and Martin’s hypothesis. So cereals, like chocolate and beer, are now ubiquitous and relatively devalued, but may very well have begun as the “substance” of choice among hunter-gatherers millennia ago (Hayden, 2003).

    There’s also a really interesting piece (Chandler, 2009), in a recent issue of an oil company magazine of all things, that mentions Hayden’s hypothesis in its coverage of the fascinating debate over whether or not the massive monoliths uncovered in SE Turkey at Göbekli Tepe were constructed by hunter-gatherers around 11,600 years ago. The German archeologist leading the excavation, Klaus Schmidt, believes they were indeed the work of hunter-gatherers, although “many prominent archeologists argue that only a settled farming culture could have mustered the resources and the large, organized work crews necessary to build the temple, but Schmidt thinks otherwise”. And part of his justification for thinking that hunter-gatherers are responsible is also interesting: “They were hunter-gatherers, they were in top physical condition, and they could easily have come here regularly to build this temple and to work.” (Chandler, 2009)

    Chandler, G. (2009). The beginning of the end for hunter-gatherers. Saudi Aramco World. Retrieved April 28, 2009 from http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/200902/the.beginning.of.the.end.for.hunter-gatherers.htm.

    Hayden, B. (2003). Were luxury foods the first domesticates? Ethnoarchaeological perspectives from Southeast Asia. World Archaeology, 34(3), 458 – 469.

    Wadley, G., & Martin, A. (1993). The origins of agriculture: A biological perspective and a new hypothesis. Retrieved 25 April 2009, from http://disweb.dis.unimelb.edu.au/staff/gwadley/msc/WadleyMartinAgriculture.html

    Zapata, L., Peña-Chocarro, L., Pérez-Jordá, G., & Stika, H.-P. (2004). Early neolithic agriculture in the Iberian peninsula. Journal of World Prehistory, 18(4), 283-325.

    Thanks for all the links. I appreciate them.

  65. Back to Turkey … in the process of my search for citations of Wadley and Martin’s article linking cereal and milk exorphins to the rise of both farming and civilization I came across some interesting data I thought might be of interest, from an anthropological survey of dental health in Anatolia from hunter-gathering times to the present that also happens to cite Wadley & Martin (Koca et al., 2006). So anyway, more confirmation from the world’s oldest agricultural homeland of the price in oral health we’ve paid for civilization – but of course don’t need to keep on paying, as individuals or even as a species, should we manage to somehow kick the carb habit.

    From the abstract of Koca et al.:
    “In this study, an attempt was made to evaluate the results of dental caries, which is the most common dental disease, in order to document changing patterns of health and diet ranging from the transitional period of hunting–gathering through agriculture to the present day in human history in Anatolia. From the total sample of 400 modern individuals, a total of 5,208 maxillary teeth and 5,153 mandibular teeth were studied. The percentage of the occurrence of dental caries based on the individuals was 77.8%, whereas the frequency of dental caries on tooth type and class was 17.1% (18.0% maxillary decay; 16.2% mandibular decay). A comparative study of the frequency of caries in certain periods indicates the following: in the hunting–gathering period it was 1%–2%, in the Early Neolithic it was 3%–5% (Catal Hoyuk), in the Neolithic (beginning of agriculture) it was 5.6% (Cayonu), in the Chalcolithic it was 11.7% (Norsuntepe), in the Roman period it was 11.1% (Panaztepe), and 16% (Datca), in the Late Byzantine it was 10.9% (Iznik) and in the Medieval it is 14.2% (Arslantepe). These findings contribute to understanding how dietary change and life
    conditions are interrelated with the changing patterns of dental diseases in Anatolian populations.” (Koca et al., 2006, p. 215)

    And here from their introduction:
    “Within a remarkably short period of time following the Pleistocene – when climate, vegetation, and fauna became essentially modern – human populations worldwide adopted plant cultivation as a subsistence strategy. Whatever the cause, the change in diet had profound implications for nutritional ecology, health, and behavior in human beings. One of the most profound changes to occur with the foraging to farming transition was the widespread decline in oral health, which was almost certainly tied to increased consumption of plant carbohydrates. Especially obvious is the remarkable increase in dental caries wherever and whenever the transition occurred [17]. To this day, for most people, two thirds of protein and calorie intake is cereal-derived.” (Koca et al., 2006, p. 216)

    Koca, B., Guleç, E., Gultekin, T., Akin, G., Gungor, K., & Brooks, S. L. (2006). Implications of dental caries in Anatolia: From hunting-gathering to the present. Human Evolution, 21(3-4), 215-222.

  66. This is a comparison of straight hunter gatherer versus straight agriculture. They fail to explain what type of agriculture is practiced in this example. Were there multiple crops that allowed for all essential amino acids? It is not surprising that only eating something closer to us in composition (meat) rather than only a plant. It goes without saying that with what we know now, if you could choose to eat only beef or only corn, beef is clearly the healthier choice.

    What do you think the effect adding of domestication of protein sources to agriculture have? Furthermore, how does a 1980 paper claim to control for physical activity levels? I think this is a great example showing the necessity of meat, but surely skepticism is needed when trying to apply the diet of the Hardin society to ours society.

  67. Excellent article! Definitely addresses the “nasty, brutish and short” view of pre-agricultural life.

    I have a question about those beans. Is it true that sprouting destroys the lectins? Does it make a difference whether one eats the whole sprout including the seed, or only the top part? What about pea vines? (I never knew they were edible – my daughter turned me on to those!) How does the lectin level in green beans and snow peas compare to that in the mature legumes? And what about clover sprouts?

    I appreciate any information you can give me.

  68. Very interesting post and very nicely done. Well written Mike. Another arrow in all of our quivers for low-carb.

    I was aware of the prevalence of caries in the agriculturalists’ diet, but not the enamel hypoplasia or the porotic hyperostosis. Is it related to osteo porosis? Again, thank you, I’ve gotten new knowledge from your post.

    BTW, you seem to be quite prolific these days. It’s great but I’m having trouble keeping up due to some personal issues. I’ll keep trying though. Keep up the good work.

    Jim

    Porotic hyperostosis is a skeletal sign of iron deficiency, which is different than osteoporosis.

  69. Dear Dr. Eades,

    Sorry that I have to take this route to trouble you. It appears that my email queries are not reaching you.

    Using PPLP, my HB A1C has come down from 8.5 to 6.0 in 11 months (innumerable high carb vacations notwithstanding). My longest low carb diet span (<40 gm/day) is around 4 weeks before falling off the wagon. The trouble here in Bangalore, India is to stick to low carb while going out since some readymade low carb stuff is impossible to get. Now I am going to NJ, USA for 8 weeks and plan to really do <40 gm/day of carbs for all the 8 weeks of my stay there. My doctor has promised to take me off Metformin (1000 mg/day) if I can show him an A1C of < 5.5 which he says is impossible for a diabetic!. Could you kindly recommend some easily available low carb shakes and protein bars so that this USA trip will really put me back on track?

    Thanks

    Ram

  70. Great article. I’ll Digg it. The comments are all absolutely fascinating. I’m new to paleo, having come from a natural hygienist view that raw plant matter is the ultimate diet. Boy, have I got a lot to learn! I got my hands on a copy of Protein Power yesterday and look forward to reading it. Hard to do, though, when I’ve just spent three hours on your blog. :)

    Thanks for the Digg. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the blog, and I hope you enjoy the book.

  71. Maybe the climate/flora/fauna were different between the two groups – they are seperated by about 4,500 years which is quite long time.

  72. You should check this site out http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/tfacts113.html and look under the headline of “what is n-hexane?” Afterward, scroll up and look at the highlights and check out what it can do to a person. I am posting this because I am seeing a lot of “Save the earth by not eating meat” crap when it takes a nasty chemical to pull oils out of soybeans and soybeans are in nearly every processed food source! Mother nature wasn’t stupid when she put millions of creatures here to thrive and fight for existence. I am sure there were thousands more animals a thousand years ago who were putting methane into the air, but I can bet there was nobody a thousand years ago using chemicals to make life more “convenient”. That’s my rant for now, I hope you enjoy.

  73. Uhh…without agriculture (food surplus, leading to specialization, trade, etc., etc.), no civilization. Our closest relatives are vegans (chimps) not carnivores (tigers). Meat eating might have developed because Neandertals needed many more calories than we do today (it has been estimated close to 5,000 a day). Impossible to get that from veggies even with fruit added. Meat and fat might do the trick. One person said that some hunter gatherers might have been reluctant to settle down and farm because farming is more difficult than chasing game. I guess you guys don’t buy all the research that links fat and cholesterol to placque and heart disease. “People will believe what they want to believe.”…Julius Caesar. There is so much B.S. on the internet.

    Research linking fat and cholesterol to plaque and heart disease is much different that research demonstrating causality. Since you’re obviously so steeped in the medical and scientific literature, I would be most pleased if you would provide me with the citations of said literature that do show causality. If you could do that for me, I would gladly change my thinking. Problem is, you can’t. Maybe because you’ve bought into all the B.S. that’s on the internet.

    Also, you might want to review the primatology literature while you’re at it. Chimps are far from vegans.

  74. One thing I note on this is that the “meat eaters” in this article were in fact eating a lot of aquatic food. “Hunter gatherers” did eat meat, but a large part of their diet was often shellfish or snails, insects, small fish, birds, rodents. They also ate a wide variety of plant foods, including some with a starches and carbs (esp. in the tropics, where yes, even wild fruit IS sweet!), and nuts.

    The modern interpretation of this diet is based on large land animals and deep-sea fish. Which still is likely better than the wheat/corn diet typical of America, but it’s not a typical ancestral diet, and might have it’s own set of problems. Large deep-sea fish, for instance, concentrate heavy metals and toxins from the fish they eat (which is one reason we don’t, generally, eat predators). Beef might promote high iron levels in the blood, which are also problematic, plus most beef today is grown under highly non-cowlike conditions.

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  76. It may be a trick of the eye (or my eyes), but I’m not sure that is Cribra Orbitalia. Cribra O. is basically the stretching of the bone surface, expanding pores and reveling the cancellous bone underneath. Inflammation on the superior exterior surface of the bone due to infection or certain kinds of stress (I believe scurvy is one type) would cause a growth on top of the cortical surface at the same location as Cribra O., but causing a reaction of bone growth (like periostitis) rather than erosion of the cortical surface.

    I only mention this because it appears the pathology has projected outwards from the surface of the orbit ceiling. The edges of the pathology look more like Cribra O. though. Would any other perspectives of this individual pathology be available?

    • It depends, I suppose, on how you define a Paleo diet. On the low-carb version that I put my patients on seems to significantly improve periodontal health. At least I’ve had many, many patients tell me that their dentists told them their gums were much better than before starting the diet. If one goes on a Paleo diet with a lot of sticky starch, I don’t know whether it would help or not, but I doubt it.

      • I’m diligently on low-carb (cannot go higher carb because of blood sugar issues) and osteopenia disappeared, AND dental checks are better. As well as the fact that I’m 45 pounds lighter, no longer have pain from osteo-arthritis, move like a teen ager, sleep well, gut is healthy and immune system seems in good shape. I’ll be 68 in a few days. I’ve been on low carb 2 years, feel well for the first time ever.

  77. It’s refreshing to encounter an MD interested in nutrition! Thanks for doing this work!
    While I agree that a diet based on starch is generally not the best nutrition for human beings, there are other factors in this particular study…
    One of the factors not considered in this study is the correlation between blood type and ability to utilize various forms of proteins.
    Another factor not considered is that the corn/bean/squash diet traveled into the Ohio valley up the Mississippi from the coast of Mexico, where the Spanish were present during the years in question. This means that they may also have been influenced by other less-healthy factors, and that the shift may have had nothing to do with the availability of meat but the imposition of new norms on the community.
    A third factor not considered is the possibility that the soil the plants were grown in wasn’t healthy and so the plants were not fully nutritive.

    All of which is not to negate the value of the study but to place it in a larger context.

    Again, thanks for doing this work!

  78. One thing I have to say was a little interesting to see was the fact that the Indian Knoll men had longer life expectancies than the women. I’m trying to get my head around this little quirk, and the closest I can get to is the fact that the women were more likely to stay at base, therefore increased risk of infection from each other.

    It stands to reason that more nutritious foods will lead to a better life expectancy, but I feel there is much more at play like the way in which they lived. Denser bones in the Indian Knoll would be explained firstly by diet, but also the fact that if they are hunting they are going to be putting more pressure on the bone itself with running and jumping, causing the whole micro-fracture/healing thing that allows martial artists to have tougher bones.

    The increased amount of aerobic exercise a hunting group would have compared to an agricultural group would also play a significant part in immune function. Deer run fast, grains not so much.

    An excellent read, in summary just trying to see more behind things.

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  80. An outstanding share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a friend who had been doing a little homework on this. And he in fact bought me breakfast simply because I discovered it for him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending time to talk about this subject here on your web page.

  81. Love this article! I will stumble it! I went through reading the comments section and I’ve learned a lot about low carb diets. I hope this information (2009) is still relevant to 2014. The deeper I dig to learn about new diets the more I have to learn about nutrition but I love it! I just spend tons of hours reading on this blog and learning more! Thanks a lot.