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A question about adaptation, human diet, and 10,000 years of stagnation.  RSS feed

 
gardener
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When I first came to Ladakh in 1992, most of the people were farming, growing wheat and barley without internal combustion engines. The only wheeled devices were the prayer wheel and the small local water-mill for grinding grain, which most families or their neighbours owned. Mills were not owned by the economic elite. It is a misconception to think it wasn't possible to grow a lot of grains before industrialisation.

It's also tempting to pin everything on genetics because it is such an excitingly developing field at this point in history, but there are probably a lot of other things causing people's food allergies and difficulties with digestion these days, including the microbiome that we have impoverished by taking antibiotics, lifestyle, exercise, environmental and dietary chemicals, and things we haven't even thought of yet. Personally I think our messed up microbiomes are the biggest cause of all the current food fussiness and allergies and digestive disorders, but I am not a scientist, I just like reading what they write.

I am very sure that the Ladakhis when I first came here were happily digesting wheat and barley with no trouble, and they had never taken antibiotics, seen a TV, lazed around much, been exposed to synthetic chemicals, or been to more than 5 years of school... On the other hand, they were exceedingly grubby with local grime, drank running water, believed in superstitions, suffered from exposure to smoke, often suffered from heartburn, were extremely short, wiry and strong, were exposed to unadvisedly cold temperatures, and various other things that should be harmful. The only food fussiness I heard of had to do with restrictions imposed by different house spirits, who all have different rules; oh, and some people didn't eat chilli, or were vegetarian. Not one person said they had trouble with wheat or barley, even though by the time I came, govt-subsidised rice was available and many people ate it once a day, but I have still never heard of anyone avoiding wheat here. Actually yes, one Ladakhi I know does avoid wheat -- but he lived in Scandinavia and the US for over a decade (so I suspect he either took antibiotics that messed up his microbiome, or picked up the food fussiness). In the 90s I seemed to know as many very old people here as I had back in the US, and almost all the deaths under 60 I heard of were road accidents, obviously a new thing.

I am very willing to admit I'm wrong when the next convincing evidence comes up.

But I am not convinced that humans evolved a problem or have a genetic problem eating wheat, grains, or gluten. (On the other hand, I do believe humans in dairy farming regions did evolve the ability to digest milk as adults, so I do believe we evolve).
 
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I think you have made a math error that is effecting your logic.  It humans have produced 30,000 generations in 10,000 years then a human would grow to maturity and reproduce in 4 months.  If on the other hand  we take 20 years as a generation then 10,000 years represents only 500 generations.  So, adaptation might be occurring much faster that you originally assumed.

Also, the work of William Albrecht documented significant differences in the health of draftees during the first world war that he tied back to rainfall patterns and soil mineral saturation.  This occurred barely 100 years after settlement in the midwest and 200 years along much of the east coast.  Or, over a period of 5 to 10 generations.
 
master steward
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Alex Riddles wrote:I think you have made a math error that is effecting your logic. 



That's possible. 

I asked Google to do the math, but looking at it now, I might not have asked the question in the way Google understands.


 
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Alex Riddles wrote:.....then a human would grow to maturity .... in 4 months.



This is indeed possible as evidenced by our (USA) current commander in chief...... 

....Just a little Sunday morning joke!
 
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I neglected to add to my original post about mechanization, that a lot of the effort in preparing wheat is the threshing.  People can eat wheat without grinding it (and no doubt people did and still do), but they really do have to thresh it. 

I'm glad this thread has stayed so respectful (John's joke notwithstanding)!  It's a touchy topic, for sure.
 
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Galadriel Freden wrote:Regarding wheat and other grains, I think until the advent of mechanization, humans were eating very little of these because they require so much work to make edible.  I have read them described as "famine" food, as they cost more calories to gather/prepare (by hand that is) than people can actually gain by eating them.  So 10,000 years ago, even people who were actively farming wheat wouldn't have been eating loads of it--surely the whole of the population wasn't counting on it for bulk calories at this time, if they were grinding it by hand using stones.  I would guess that the elite (chieftans, kings, priests, whatever) and their families/households were the ones doing the eating while the majority (peasants/serfs/slaves) were doing the growing and grinding. 

  


I'm going to disagree we ate huge quantities of wheat and other grains before mechanisation,  Women would spend up to 4 hours a day grinding grain for bread and you can see the damage it did to their spines in their skeletons. At Danebury and other Iron age sites we've found huge underground granaries, these things are more than big enough to stand in, they were filled with grain then sealed, the grain on top began to sprout, used up the available oxygen and the rest was preserved untill needed. There really wasn't anything else around to eat, there's some good threads on calorie density of various foods, so unless the peasants were eating a ton of fat and animal products, grains would have been the staple.(interestingly a Tudor farm-worker expected 1lb of meat a day as part of his pay) They may not all have been eaten as bread, frummenty (sp) was popular up until the 1800's.
We know that everyone drank beer which of course is made from grains, but it wasn't like today's beer, it was only 1-2% and fresh
 
Galadriel Freden
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I don't dispute that people ate grains.  I would even hazard a suggestion that civilization as we know it was built on grain--a food that could be stored for long periods of time, giving rise to an elite class who could persuade/strongarm/etc the rest of the population into growing and preparing it.  toby hemenway, I believe, had an interesting lecture about the rise of agriculture and civilization (and how they aren't sustainable in their current forms), which might still be online somewhere.

It is my suggestion that grain wasn't the bulk of our ancestors' calories in the distant past.  If we accept it is a famine food, that is it costs more calories than it provides, it simply couldn't be the bulk of calories consumed, or our ancestors would have all starved to death.  Maybe I'm wrong about this;  maybe it's not a famine food.  Or maybe they were storing it during times of plenty, and only eating it during hard times such as in the (not necessarily historically accurate) story of Joseph and his Technicolor coat--during actual famines. 

I don't know;  this is all just my own conjecture based on my own personal reading.  There aren't written records from 10,000 years ago, so does anyone really know?  Technologically we've come so far as a civilization, but we still don't know where we came from;  all the written history we have wasn't very concerned about day to day stuff, like what the general populace (aka poor people) were eating.
 
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I think searching for a single perfect human diet is folly because, as was mentioned in the very first post, we didn't all start out eating the same diet anyways.

Ancestral diets depend on ancestry. What happens when that means selecting from a dozen different different cultures around the world? Or even two?

We aren't just talking about human evolution, but the evolution of the hominid gut microbiome, which we inherited from before we walked upright, and which will have an evolutionary rate much higher than our own, but has a critical role to play in epigenetic terms.

Because of its higher evolutionary rate, gut microbiomes can adapt over time to specific staple diets, which is the basis of the ancestral diet idea. But that means that the two Italian villages separated by a mountain, and no doubt kept from interaction by a feud as old as time, might not only have different breeds of goat, sheep, tomato, olive, et cetera ad nauseam, but the gut microbiota in the people living in those separate villages might cause different epigenetic tendencies in the separate populations, leading to genetic differences not explained by simpler models.

Say one village had no beans. That village had little folic acid in the diet, and so the babies that were born suffered from the problems associated with folic acid deficiency. Over time, these problems would affect the passing on of traits.

Another example. The south of Poland was right on the Silk Road to the orient. They were the first in Europe to be influenced by trade, and adopted such things as rice and rhubarb earlier than most other places further down the path. Yet those living in the North on the Baltic probably wouldn't have seen these until much later, as is seen in regional differences between traditional dishes.

So I could have great-grandparents all hailing from Poland, or Italy, or a number of different countries, each with many different ancient ancestral regional diets making up the ancestry of their gut microbiome. And what if I have great-grandparents hailing from both Poland and Italy? What does that mean for my neo-ancestral diet?

I find it helpful to think of humans using the analogy of the animal that most exemplifies our impact on animal husbandry: the dog.

We are like dogs. Most domesticated species, in fact, are like dogs, in that they exemplify the choices we have made, even back before agriculture. But our ancestral diets are as varied and numerous as there are types of dogs, including hybrids, because what does that even mean?

Our ancestral diets were essentially geographically-derived food ruts into which our ancestors fell. Any time something better came along, we jumped on it, if not for any nutritional benefit, then simply for variety. If something was plentiful in what was otherwise a time of dearth, it would eventually be considered. If it offered an advantage, those who could benefit from it, did, and it had a positive effect on the passing on of the traits that enabled them to benefit while others starved.

In terms of the stagnation of human evolution, I think it's a lot more complicated than that. I think that as global travel and discourse increase, we will see more changes in humanity from the compounding of hybrid vigour, where pairings of mixed ancestries, who don't share the same genetic weaknesses, are perhaps experienced in successive generations.

We are still affected by the same evolutionary pressures society has placed upon us since its inception, in my opinion. We have some additional toxic pressures, and the processing of food to remove digestive barriers leads to more volatile blood glucose patterns, not to mention the effect of added sugar in diets. The gross pressures have been replaced, in some instances, but nothing has really changed.

-CK
 
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Interesting Thread,

A couple of thoughts,

Not everyone thrives on the same diet. Diets were diverse even 10,000 years ago, depending on the environment that people lived in, there are many things in modern diets that weren't around 10,000 years ago, but there wasn't any single paleolithic diet. Evolution and adaptation of humanity never stopped and is continuing, but it can't keep pace with the rate of change in our modern world. Also, agriculture spread to different regions at different times, so depending on your own ancestry, you might have ancestors that were hunter-gatherers more recently than 10,000 years ago. The last 150 years have seen a particularly rapid change, adding so much toxic stuff to the environment, antibiotics to alter our microbiomes, and changes of food processing away from traditional ways (an example, before the introduction of baker's yeast, sourdough bread was the norm). I agree with Rebecca Norman that changes of diet aren't the only factor in food issues, other changes in our environments need to be looked at. Just talking to people of different generations in America is very revealing, the prevalence of food allergies have exploded in recent years, along with other conditions of immune dysfunction, such as autoimmune diseases. The microbiome has already been mentioned, that's huge, one issue rarely discussed is aluminum adjuvants in vaccines, there's increasing evidence that they're involved in conditions of immune dysfunction. Aluminum adjuvants are used specifically to stimulate the immune system, it's not too surprising that they end up stimulating it in unexpected ways as well.

I have to disagree with the idea that survival after reproduction means nothing in human evolution. That would be true in a species that don't take care of their young, but in humans there's often going to be a big difference in the welfare of a child with living, healthy parents than one with sick or dead parents. In the harsh times that shape evolution the most, the children with healthy parents will be at a particular advantage. While much less important than parents, surviving grandparents may even give an evolutionary advantage as well, as they can be helpful to the survival of the family as well, they can take care of grandkids and share their knowledge from a long life experience.
 
garden master
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Galadriel Freden wrote:If we accept it is a famine food, that is it costs more calories than it provides, it simply couldn't be the bulk of calories consumed, or our ancestors would have all starved to death



I grow wheat, barley, oats, and rye. I grow them on a human scale using only simple tools. One hour of my labor harvesting, with secateurs, threshing with a stick, and winnowing by pouring between buckets on a windy day produces 5 pounds of clean grain. If that grain is rye, that's around 7900 calories. During that hour, I expend about 300 calories of labor, and use about 70 calories as my basal metabolic rate, so a total of 370 calories. Therefore,  my return on investment = 7900/370 = 21X more energy obtained than is spent harvesting and threshing.

I highly recommend that people get in touch with human history by growing at least some of our own grains.

 
pollinator
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My observation as one believing in creation is that we devolve leading to problems.  Added to that is in ignorance we tend to poison ourselves and or the next generation. The tomato on the lead plate sited earlier.  One factor that began to be dominant 100 years ag0 was bleaching wheat four This alters the gluten even more that the genetic changes that have occured. The product is aflatoxin which destroys the cells that produce insulin. So many alterations to food that have been made for visual and taste preferences produce changes that alter or function in deleterious but don't kill us outright and so have been tolerated.

This is one example It is used to produce diabetic rats but they cant prove that it does that in humans because it would be unethical to deliberately give a toxin like that to a child therefore because it has not been proved they can't prevent manufacturers from producing flour containing it. Corporate logic correct?
 
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There has been much said in this thread that it is hard to figure out what angle I should insert myself. 

I'm very much agreeable to the idea that our gut biome is probably the largest factor in how are dietary nutritional needs are met or not met. 

All life thrives due to microbial interactions, like when plants are being fed by the fungal and bacterial microbes in the soil in exchange for sugars.  We consume what we like, but it is our gut microbes which allow us to metabolize.  In the past, it should be remembered that not only did we not have antibiotics, we also lived in a great deal less sterile environment.  We ate a hell of a lot more dirt with our carrots and ate our greens unwashed.  Our gut microbes thrived, not necessarily because we were eating fermented foods, but because we had a constant influx of food based bacteria, fungi, amoeba, and other micro beings entering our systems. 

Also, it should be noted that our guts are not an internal part of our body, but an external tube that runs through our body from our mouth to our lower sphincter.  Although we absorb stuff from this internalized external system into our actual internal system (and these absorbed things become a part of us), we should not confuse the external nature of this system with our own inner workings.  Just like the gut microbial population, our skin is also teeming with living beings.  It is much the same as our gut tissue, and we also exchange stuff back out to the external system to get rid of it through the lower sphincters and skin.  Our microbial population is a hugely dynamic and personal thing, and like our neuro-plastic minds, are entirely personalized via our experiences.     

PH of our food in relation to the acid or alkaline nature of our digestive enzyme systems, also can play a huge in how we digest food.  So if you are eating a meal that is largely digested through the alkaline digestive system, and then throw something in their that requires heavy acids to digest, then you neutralize your system, and digestion is poor, often causing acid reflux.  People with digestive disorders might be well off to simplify this factor by eating starches/carbs with alkalizing veggies, but not acidifying meats or heavy proteins.  Heavy proteins could be eaten with various cooked vegetables (as cooking acidifies many veg foods) or some raw neutral veggies, which would not have a problem being digested in the acid system that is produced automatically to digest acidic foods.

I am all for the idea that was put forward that there is no right or perfect diet based on our collective ancestry.  Ancestry is regional.  All wild critters have local regional based diets, no matter what their species.  Black bears in Arizona eat cactus fruits but have no access to the salmon that are more common in North West Coastal North America.  The N W bears will likely never see or eat a cactus fruit.  Bears will eat grain or pulses if these are presented to them, even though these are not part of their 'traditional' diet.  I regularly have to honk the horn of the truck that I drive on the train track to get a bear off of a pile of grain that has spilled out the bottom of a grain car. 

Grain and starch crops in general are cheap calories, and are actually, as Joseph pointed out, not that difficult to grow in sufficient quantities if one is so inclined.  The European population exploded due to the peasant population getting a hold of potatoes; the same happened to the people of the Great Lakes getting a hold of corn.  Their health, however, was not boosted in accordance to the rise in population.     

I think that if we really want to figure out what a perfect human diet would be, we would take great care to study any existing tribal cultures, as well as the diets/eating habits of other larger primates, like chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, gorillas.         
 
steward
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One thing that no one appears to have mentioned is that as well as humans eveloving our gut bacteria evolve too and at a much faster rate as humans  obviously as they have mant many more generations than we do .  Thus there is no perfect diet we are all in a state of flux
 
steward
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Which makes me wonder, too, if the plants most people eat (and that our meat eats) are growing in "dead" soils with few microorganisms, and that food is all cooked&/ or pasteurized, we're probably not getting anywhere near the same diversity of bacteria and fungi from our foods as people were 100 years ago, before chemical fertilizers and pesticides and microwave dinners... We probably just get the strongest contenders, which might not be the ones that are most beneficial for our guts.

I ran across this facinating article a few months ago: http://theconversation.com/i-spent-three-days-as-a-hunter-gatherer-to-see-if-it-would-improve-my-gut-health-78773. A man goes and lives and eats with the people who have the most diverse gut microorganism.

The results showed clear differences between my starting sample and after three days of my forager diet. The good news was my gut microbal diversity increased a stunning 20%, including some totally novel African microbes, such as those of the phylum Synergistetes.

The bad news was, after a few days, my gut microbes had virtually returned to where they were before the trip. But we had learnt something important. However good your diet and gut health, it is not nearly as good as our ancestors’. Everyone should make the effort to improve their gut health by re-wilding their diet and lifestyle. Being more adventurous in your normal cuisine plus reconnecting with nature and its associated microbial life, may be what we all need.



Here's another article about the tribe: The Surprising Gut Microbes of African Hunter-Gatherers
 
David Livingston
steward
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The microbes in our gut multiply so fast and change so fast I wonder if this is a good thing ? Look at a lot of traditional diets Wheat potato or rice dominated . Our gut adapts to this . We change our diet the gut bacteria change . The author above uses the word good however for me its not clear .What is good in this contex ? survival is everything for gut bacteria too

David
 
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After reading all, I think I have something new...

r ranson wrote:We're all in agreement that the Modern Western diet isn't working.
Do we really have to go back 10,000 years to find a diet that our bodies thrive on?


I agree and like the quest you share with us but I will not be in agreement with this exact statement.... If we can get there step by step, or else I do not know how to state it directly and have a chance to be fully understood.... I know about the risks of confusion too!

r ranson wrote: I'm getting confused by contradictory information.
in hopes of keeping things clearer in my head.
Anyway, all this stuff is confusing me.


Let's change from a top - down logic to a bottom - up one!
Why do book writers bring such or such information? Why do they choose different informations to sustain their ideas? 

r ranson wrote:Why is it claimed that our ability to digest food hasn't changed in 10,000 years when it changes for other species in less time?


The greeks were already learning the art of defending one idea, and then defend the opposite idea.... Claims are not based on what we can expect.

r ranson wrote:We're all in agreement that the Modern Western diet isn't working.
Do we really have to go back 10,000 years to find a diet that our bodies thrive on?


By "diet", do you mean food? Or digestion? Or assimilation?
What is it that is not working?
In this thread, it has been talked about an amazing variety of themes such as the microbiome, genetics, evolution and transformation of our food sources....

And still there is one important part of digestion that has not been talked about.... This is the part I want to talk about....

r ranson wrote:According to my reading on SCD...


With a lot of references hehe... Read something else and they also have convincing references... Read about the success of the starch diet!

r ranson wrote:Why is it claimed that our ability to digest food hasn't changed in 10,000 years when it changes for other species in less time?


WHY.
This is the right question!
Because they transmit in words and to humans. -> Top-down approach, head first!
No human will pay attention to what they are told with clinical proofs only, our cortex want the author to JUSTIFY everything.

But as it has been said here, bananas instead of wheat worked long before creating the word "gluten"... Some surgeons washed their hands but who took Semmelweiss seriously before knowing about microbs? The past can sometimes seem so stupid nowadays, but we are still stuck in our cortex and we have not changed our "genetics" so much : we need proofs again and again!
Cortex dominance.
This is the last 100 centuries stagnation... We are in the ulcer factory forum and we would doubt the impact of contradictory ideas on us? All those diets send contradictory ideas upon us!

r ranson wrote:We're all in agreement that the Modern Western diet isn't working. 


So.... where do I disagree?
What is diet? A collection of what we eat? A meeting and fusion of two worlds?

What is not working? I agree with most statements made here about issues with the gutbiome, about aflatoxins, etc. But it is not all about food, and not even all about pollutants. We have to speak of the INTERACTION. Also about accumulation of different factors, and about the impact on US, OURSELVES. What's about the so-called "rest & digest" state? What's about the vagus nerve, about the para-sympathetic system? The autonomic system is the only system no human seem to be able to speak about as clearly as we can speak about any other system in our body! The main difference we have with other animals is that our cortex has modified the fluid wavy functionning of the autonomic nervous system, though we still have it and need it and use it. We have all heard that we have a sort of "brain" in both our heart and our guts.... though we limit this to some obscure instincts and intuitions. Because the problem is that this brain does not have words as a language, but "talks with "what has been called the felt-sense or the unspoken voice. Which translates into emotions in the limbic brain, and into words in the cortex. Tri-une brain.

So what has changed for humans is that we had a bottom-up approach in life, and that we now have mostly a top-down approach of life. That is why SCD, and all diets and all other ideas, will target your cortex for their message. And for doing this, they have to select among all the information, what will support "scientifically" the idea they give you. Yes they give you an idea, and then you have to TRY it. Which means that you will ASK YOUR BODY. "What do you think, oh my gut?" - Sorry - "What do you FEEL, oh my gut?"

Now, just a bit of what I remember, just for your cortex to be happy: it has been proved that a sympathetic or para-sympathetic state can alone modify the gut biome. Then if you list all the different reasons making our bodies react to food, and pollutants etc, you can summarize it with one word: attack. Which means defense, and then you have a spiral feeding itself. I say spiral and not circle, because the solution is not to jump to another circle, but to travel the spiral the other way. What is wounded in too many people is our resilience. We just need to increase it slowly and without changing track in the spiral. Just remember the old vinyls when the spiral was hurt. We are still vinyls like 1o.ooo years ago, and we will never become CDs!

Conclusion: your cortex can have access to a lot of information, but is not the king for choosing. Give the right job to your cortex, fill your disk. But the software that will elect and guide your choices is the autonomic system. That is what happened to all those big scientists we were told about, who got their brilliant ideas out of the lab. That is what happens to all champion chess players, who can find the best solution in an instant. You will not notice this system in you so easily. because it transmits informations to your other parts of the brain, and we tend to listen to words. But we all know we can "read between words" (and are also champions at making mistakes at this!).

If you want to notice some direct informations, pay attention to the felt-sense. Feel your guts, see with your heart... expressions are not lacking and they all refer to what is, historically, phylogenetically, the master of life (after the cell probably). The autonomic nervous system was the first nervous system on earth. And this is what has not changed those last centuries, even those last millionaries and more than we can count. Each evolution is like a bigger russian doll around the smaller dolls: you see the outside one, but the others are still all here.

So ok, find a diet that attacks your gut less, but then also repair the resilience that was lost, and it will help you repair. This is an egg or hen story there. Both alternate for evolution, even for our personal evolution. Do not stay stuck on arguments they use to try to convince you in any method/diet. They wrote their books because it works for some people. They also try to tell you who is likely to benefit from it. But they usually end up very convinced that everybody would get benefits! Instead of trying to guess, get an idea of all sorts of diets, they go from all plant to all animal, they go from all raw to all cooked. Then try to figure out what correspond best to you, and then ask your body. Then dive into the somatic world! This will restaure what humans had 10.000 years ago! Even spiritual healing is acting upon this system in our body, as we have no direct access to it except through the use of beliefs and imagination and creativity. Breathing techniques also are meant to modify the state of our autonomic nervous system. And you surely know that your level of quietness, calm, has an influence of your guts. This alternates like waves, and some people are not surfing the waves as well as others, and get stuck in a not enough rest & digest state. This can be changed, I am working at it actually! We all are, but the more aware of what we do, the better it works.

So yes we are in stagnation, but not genetic nor in history, just in our own nervous system. We need more hugs a day than books and even apples! e-hugs to you all!
 
Chris Kott
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So a couple of points.

Actually, David, I mentioned the higher evolutionary rate of our gut microbiome in my post.

Also, we do not devolve. Evolution doesn't work backwards. Whales can't be said to have devolved back to a marine lifeform just because their ancestors were land-based.

Evolution is about the transmission of genes to subsequent generations. We can't go directly backwards. We can evolve in a new direction, or we can evolve new traits that resemble old traits, but we can't devolve. That is an over-simplified science fiction trope that couldn't happen to us naturally, because we can't regain genetic traits that we have lost, and nor can our gut microbiome.

Nothing will restore what humans had 10 000 years ago. It's gone. What we can do is try to figure out what's going on now. We also can't take a hand in our own evolution. That ship has sailed. We can try to inform future generations, so that they can see farther than us, by standing on our figurative shoulders, and we can try to make choices that improve the world we live in, so that it isn't just another obstacle for our collective progeny to overcome.

Do you want to know what I actually think it is that is making us sicklier? I think it's a combination of two observations, and maybe a sprinkling of something else.

We are living in a lysolised world. Everything is disinfected, every hand sanitized, and every patch of skin a petri dish for invaders.

Mouthwashes have recently come under fire as being too much of a nuclear option. Sure, they kill the bacteria that cause bad breath and decay, but they also kill off everything else, leaving a petri dish for whatever wants to come in and set up shop.

We can actually carry out our lives (I won't call it living)  in environments where we can sterilise everything. We aren't exposed to enough healthy bacteria and microorganisms to take up the space that compromising bacteria and microorganisms need to thrive, so they don't get choked out, and our immune systems aren't exposed to enough microorganisms and diseases to prime them for healthy functioning, either.

If you're exposed to a strain of the flu unlike any you've had before, you will get sick. If you've never had any strains of the flu, or if somehow an immunized body's response isn't as effective as a body who's actually contracted a similar strain, been sick, and gotten over it, well, that would explain some of what we are seeing.

It's like Roberto said. I was told at one point, when I was still young enough to be going to the pediatrician with my mother, that it was perfectly normal for children to eat dirt out of potted plants. I think it might be closer to "necessary" than "normal."

As to the insufficiency of human diets, it's no real mystery. We are taking nutrition out of the context of the food in which it grows. We are stripping good, healthy food of the digestive barriers it grew with in order to make it softer, whiter, and tastier (personally, I prefer a good whole-grain rye to white), and basically turning our grains into starches that hit the blood stream like sugar.

We are removing barriers to digestion, so every processed good out there causes a spike in the blood sugar. Anything with white bread or a processed starch in it is digested faster because there is less to digest, meaning the starches convert to sugar faster. It's the same as eating sugar for the effect on the blood glucose levels.

We do this every day, for the most part. It is precisely the type of metabolic activity we were warned years ago causes the conditions that lead to diabetes. I have yet to see a better explanation, but I welcome a response.

One other thing that occurs to me is the refrigerator. Before the fridge, food was stored as best as possible, but with the knowledge that it was constantly being exposed to, and likely colonised by, the wild microbiota in the living environment. Even if these never developed detectable cultures (a spot of mold or what have you), those wild microbiota would have been on the food, and consumed by those eating it. Could the necessities of food storage before cold storage was available have lead to a healthier gut microbiome?

-CK
 
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r ranson wrote:Maybe the question I'm looking for is simpler.

How far back do we have to go to find a diet that our bodies are adapted to? 

We're all in agreement that the Modern Western diet isn't working.

Do we really have to go back 10,000 years to find a diet that our bodies thrive on?

Could it be less?

What if, our bodies actually thrived on the diet of our individual ancestors 200 years ago?  That would give me a North Western European diet heavy in wheat, milk, pulses, cabbage, and beer.  But according to the SCD, most of these are 'illegal' foods for good health.


I skipped over many reactions, but when I saw this question I wanted to give my opinion.
It's only my personal opinion. I think we don't have to go back many thousands of years. All we have to do is to eat real food: vegetables, grains, nuts, fruits grown without the use of any chemicals or genetic manipulation, grown in 'rich soil'. And sometimes (if we like) a little meat, eggs and dairy, produced in that same natural way.
 
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Potatos were not part of the european diet until a couple hundred years ago.  Since then, there has been pretty heavy pressure (in an evolutionary sense) for white folks to thrive on potatos.  Whether they were in the diet before or not, my overwhelmingly european-descended belly now likes potatos and I seem to thrive on them.  I don't thrive on heavily corn syruped soft drinks.  Listen to your body.  From what I can see, we are a fairly variable species and you need to pay attention to the feedback your body gives you.  Some can handle modernly processed and homogenized milk, some can't.  I find as a general rule, the more processed something is, the worse my body does on it.  It also depends on your activity level as well as things like time of year, age, etc. 

It seems to me that an ancestral diet has a better chance of agreeing with you, but if your ancestors were immigrants, they probably mixed with folks from outside their ancestral area, muddying the waters somewhat.  Also, your ancestors, eating their ancestral diet, eventually died.  Maybe there was something better, they just didn't have it available.  Ancestral diets were fairly limited, not just by what they could thrive on, but even more by what was available and what they could afford.  There may be something (like, say, avacados) that would have been a wonderful addition to your ancestors diets, but it simply wasn't available in their area, so it never became part of their diet.

The statement "we haven't evolved in the last 10,000 years" is seriously suspect.  All you can tell about 10,000 year old skeletons are fairly gross physical features.  You can determine sex (if you find the pelvis) and make a fair guess at race, maybe a bit more if DNA is available, but fine issues like what diet is best, the ability to create or recite poetry, sing well, learn quickly?  I think such statements are fantasy.  It seems that before about 5 to 7,000 years ago europeans were lactose intolerant.  It seems an invasion from central asia introduced the gene for lactose tolerance into the population and spread quickly.  That sounds like evolution.

In the fossil record we don't see "gradual" evolution.  We see sudden changes in populations.  When I asked a professor what that indicated, he said a related animal from somewhere else had moved into the area and pushed out/ interbred with the species there before.  I read an article claiming that while we are in the middle of a human caused extinction event, we are also in the middle of a massive human caused species creation event also.  The article claimed that the most common way a species is created is when related species  interbreed.  The hybrids are sometimes superior in their particular environment than either of the parent species and go on to become a species of their own.  We are also moving species all over the world and creating new environments which provide evolutionary opportunities.  (species is one of those very vague words whose meaning is almost impossible to pin down.  I think it highly likely that if the somewhat arbitrary rules (like coloring, size and body type variations, used to differentiate related animals, were applied to humans, we would be seen as several species.  We don't do this for a number of political, philosophical/religious and socialogical reasons, but what I say is true.  (Most people believe that the most important part of a human is not their appearance.  I agree, an asshole is still an asshole no matter what they look like).).  If you take accept the argument about hybridization, and given the tendency of humans move aroung and to breed with whoever is available, we are a very adaptable group, prone to evolving. 

Different bloodlines are obviously different.  Everyone knows some family where the people seem smarter, bigger or dumber than the average.  Some bloodlines tend towards heart problems, some seem indistructable.  This continues to a lesser extent when we move out to broader groups of people.  Just like in animals, the broader the selection the less accurate.  For example, highland cattle have a reputation for being able to handle bad weather and rough feed.  You might find a few of some other breed that are tougher than individual highland cattle, but that doesn't disprove the general statement.  It only proves it is a general statement, not 100% accurate, but generally correct.

I think some of this mindset is a PC refusal to recognize that there are group differences.  They do exist.  There is a reason for most stereotypes.  It doesn't mean the stereotype is unbreakable or that applies to everyone in the group or even that it isn't societally induced.  In the mid 19th century there was a widespread prejudice against Irish in the US.  They were seen as prone to drunkenness, crime and violence.  Given that a huge percentage of the irish had been pushed out of their homeland by a genocidal famine (made worse by the large land owners tendancy to sell the food they produced out of country, where they could get better prices) and a very heavy male skewed male/female ratio (way more young men made it over than young women), there was probably a fair amount of PTSD, plus too many young men vs young women historically leads to violence, rise in crime and substance abuse as the young men compete for the few available females or drown their sorrows in the bottle.  So, at the time, as a group, the irish may have been more prone to drunkeness and violence, but it was not necessarily genetic.  So stereotypes or ancestral diets are probably a good place to start, but move on from that because the stereotype is not accurate on the individual level.

Sorry about that, I think I just jumped on a soapbox.  I would like to return to the original question and explain how I believe my two previous paragraphs apply.  If you are asian, you will probably do well with an asian diet, but that is a stereotype.  Experimentation is still called for, you might have inherited the central asian gene that allows you to drink cows milk.  Maybe you lost the genetic lottery and rice is your enemy.  Genes become less common by being selected against, but that doesn't mean they disappear.  About 10% of people of northern european descent still can't handle cows milk. 




 
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When we digest food, we are depending on the gut microbiome.  Those guys digest many things we cannot digest with our own enzymes.  And who is there today in what numbers depends on what we've been eating in the recent past.  How long it takes the microbiome to adapt to changes in our diet is aobut a month.

In that time the few microbes present that are able to process the 'new' substances increase in number, but some of them had to be present in the first place.  But,bacteria trrade DNA with each other, collect new sequences, so, if any microbe in the gut has the ability, soon that ability will abound. 

I don't think the bacteria are as clever as the fungi at devising NEW enzymes, and I don't think we have fungal partners in our guts.  From here on out, we need to protect the diversity in our guts, and from my understanding we can best do that by consuming a diverse diet.

For those with impoverished gut microbiome, there are fecal transplants, and big science is working on pills rather than utilizing the rectal route currently  utilized.  It seems gross in the extreme (to me) but I know it has saved lives, especially from C. difficile infections. 

Back to the main question,how long does it take to adapt, and the question of the industrailized diet, Weston A Price documented the change away from health in the first generation that consumed industrialized diet in many places around the world.  He documented even changes in bond structure, related to the introduction of refined foods.

Another early researcher and author was Andre Voisin(e?).  His book "Soil Grass Cancer" was published about 1950.  He also was tracing health of populations related to the food they ate, and even the soil they ate from.  Fascinating.

Last comment is about evolution and mutations and such.  We live in interesting times.... currently gaining ground in the scientific community is "epigenetics" which concerns itself with how changes/life events in one generation have affected subsequent generations.... stressor present in grandparents affecting grandchildren in measurable ways.  This added to the fact that we also sometimes are able to copy the bacteria in their gene gathering makes it very hard to understand evolution in the old fashioned Darwinian way.  We are way more complex than that, and so are our processes of change and developement.

I got confused about all of this in the 60s, decided the only thing to do was to only eat what would have been available to humans somewhere on earth before the industrialization of food.  And I have followed that idea pretty well, with the exception of junk food,which I do at times indulge in. 
 
Roberto pokachinni
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The article claimed that the most common way a species is created is when related species  interbreed.  The hybrids are sometimes superior in their particular environment than either of the parent species and go on to become a species of their own.  We are also moving species all over the world and creating new environments which provide evolutionary opportunities.  (species is one of those very vague words whose meaning is almost impossible to pin down.  I think it highly likely that if the somewhat arbitrary rules (like coloring, size and body type variations, used to differentiate related animals, were applied to humans, we would be seen as several species. 



Sounds like an interesting article.  I'm not sure that I understand this the same way.  The way I think of it, the definition of a species is not vague at all.  A species is defined by it's ability to interbreed and produce fertile offspring.   In relation to the first sentence in this above quote: related subspecies which have had some separate evolutionary development and then subsequently come to breed are the most likely to carry new genetic variances which have the potential to create a new species from the existing single species.  That said, separate species tend to not be able to interbreed successfully, and that's what makes them separate species, by definition.  When similar species breed, they often create hybrids which are often sterile (Donkey's and Horses create sterile mules, for instance).  There is evidence that seemingly separate species (due to how they appear to us) might actually be the same species with fairly recent divergence in habits and physical traits; this is being studied in relation with polar bears and northern brown bears which can interbreed successfully.  

All of the variation in humans, or in dogs for that matter, has no bearing on them being seen as separate human or dog species.  With these thoughts in mind, all humans can interbreed, so the color of their skin, size and type of body, hair and eye color, et cetera are pretty much irrelevant to actual speciation.  And that will be the case until there is a point where a subset comes to produce fertile successive breeding that is divergent from that of the current line.  The way I see it, this is not impossible, but as far as I know, it hasn't been shown to have happened in our collective human history.  The biggest challenge in breeding there, is size, and that is usually solved by C section births.   Body type might be a lot bigger of an issue when it comes to dogs, where for instance a St Barnard and a chihuahua are unlikely to breed, and if they do, particularly if the smaller dog is the female, she will likely die in the process of producing offspring within her, if not in birthing the pups.  These creatures are quite divergent physically, and in my thinking are probably more likely (in the distant future should they both continue on such separate breeding paths) in the end to form separate species based on their physical inability to breed.  However, if the chihuahua is able to breed with a slightly larger dog, which is able to breed with a mid sized dog, which can breed with a St Barnard, then they are all likely to still be 'capable' of speciation, at least genetically if not physically without C section assistance. 

As far as species being moved all over the world and thus providing greater evolutionary opportunities, I fully agree that this is the case.

That's how I see it anyway.  Way off topic of the thread though.  Sorry for my indiscretion.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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To me, the concept of species is very muddled and mixed up. As a plant breeder, I am all the time making, or attempting to make inter-species crosses, and even entirely new species. I use all sorts of tricks to overcome hybridization barriers. As examples: Using artificial lighting to change what time of year a species flowers, so that it will be flowering at the same time as a different species. Cutting off the stigma that would normally reject pollen from a different species. Pollinating with mixed species pollen. Plain old making tens of thousands of crossing attempts to find the one in a thousand that works.

I love looking at the genetics, say of plants growing along the shore of a huge lake. Each plant can breed successfully with it's nearby kin, but by the time the species has spread to circumnavigate the lake, they may be incapable of reproducing with others of their same kind. So they are two separate species at that point, with lots of intermediates spread along the lake shore.

I would feel very comfortable calling Chihuahua and Great Dane separate species.

Here's an interesting article I found that discusses the genetics of social behavior in humans. I've noticed this sort of thing in breeds of dogs... Sure love the personality of a blue heeler for example, and every blue heeler has approximately the same personality. http://time.com/91081/what-science-says-about-race-and-genetics/ "The economic historian Gregory Clark has provided one by daring to look at a plausible yet unexamined possibility: that productivity increased because the nature of the people had changed." In other words, that their genetics changed which ushered in the industrial revolution.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Thekla McDaniels wrote:
For those with impoverished gut microbiome, there are fecal transplants, and big science is working on pills rather than utilizing the rectal route currently  utilized.  It seems gross in the extreme (to me) but I know it has saved lives, especially from C. difficile infections. 



These are sadly not accessible. Hospitals/doctors refuse to prescribe them unless a person has had c. dif twice. Fecal transplants have been shown to "cure" Crohn's (put a person in remission without drugs for years). My husband has Crohn's, would love a fecal transplant, and his doctor won't give him one. My husband has been tempted to try to give himself c dif just to get the fecal transplant (yes, his crohn's is that bad that he's tempted to risk that). We've seriously considered doing a fecal transplant with me as the donor, as at  least I don't have Crohn's...

I don't think the bacteria are as clever as the fungi at devising NEW enzymes, and I don't think we have fungal partners in our guts.  From here on out, we need to protect the diversity in our guts, and from my understanding we can best do that by consuming a diverse diet. 



I'm perplexed...what do you mean by us not having fungal partners in our guts? My husband supplements with saccharomyces boulardii, which is a beneficial fungus that helps treat c dif, Crohn's and other gut problems. Does "fungal partner" mean something else? Here's quote from a study on s. boulardii (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3296087/):

Therap Adv Gastroenterol. 2012 Mar; 5(2): 111–125. wrote:Several clinical trials and experimental studies strongly suggest a place for Saccharomyces boulardii as a biotherapeutic agent for the prevention and treatment of several gastrointestinal diseases. S. boulardii mediates responses resembling the protective effects of the normal healthy gut flora. The multiple mechanisms of action of S. boulardii and its properties may explain its efficacy and beneficial effects in acute and chronic gastrointestinal diseases that have been confirmed by clinical trials

 
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