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

 
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I'm trying to understand something about human's ability to adapt to an environment over several generations, but I'm getting confused by contradictory information.  I don't really know how to ask the question I'm trying to solve as right now it's a collection of unrelated information that I think is related.  I'm hoping you can help.

I'm going to number these thoughts in hopes of keeping things clearer in my head.

1. Say there is a plant that comes from a diverse genetic background - like Joseph Lofthouse's landrace tomatoes.  I grow this in my garden un-pampered.  I allow the environmental conditions to have their full effect on these plants and many of them die (because tomatoes like water).  But the ones that survive have genetics that does well in my conditions.  I save the seeds from the ones that can reproduce and grow those.  Same again.  By the third year/generation, the plants thrive in my conditions. 

Every book I've read on plant breeding tells me that it takes about three generations for a garden vegetable to adapt to the "diet" (soil nutrients) and environment of my garden.

2.
Fruitflies seem to be the example books most often use to describe genetics and the effect environmental selection has on the change.  This is, the books tell me, because the change is visible over only a handful of generations.  Never having met a fruitflies I didn't squish, I don't have personal experience with this, but if memory serves, the change for fruit flies happens in about 3 generations. 

3. Before the age of exploration, people generally stayed in the culture they were born.  Different regions had different diets and environmental pressures.  For example, those born in some parts of America had a diet heavy on corn.  Parts of Asia had a soy and rice-based diet.  Parts of Europe had a Wheat and Barley based diet.  People would live in these areas for many generations.  But what if a European was born unable to digest wheat?  They would be unlikely to survive to reproduce.  Much like any un-drought-tolerant tomatoes growing in my garden.  Over some generations, the dominant genetic trait of intolerance to wheat would nearly fade from the gean pool (but still remain as potential recessive).  Wouldn't it?  Whereas someone from Asia where wheat was uncommon would still have the genetic disposition to be sensitive to wheat. 

4. Today's medical tools reduce the pressure of diet and environment on human genetics.  We also have more variety in our diet so we can avoid the foods that would make us ill or kill us. 

5.  Reading about sheep and goat breeding, it suggests that if I select for traits that help the animals thrive in our conditions, I will see a marked improvement in three generations. 

6. Reading about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), it says that the human body is adapted to a diet from 10,000 years ago.  That's got to be at least 30,000 generations ago.  (See below for errata)

According to my reading on SCD, humans change much more slowly than plants, flies or sheep.  Some writings suggest humans aren't subject to the same 'selection' pressures that other animals encounter.  That we stopped changing 30,000 generations ago.

I know that (with a few exceptions, mostly found in politics) humans are different than vegetables, insects, and sheep.  But are we really so different that it takes 10,000 times as many generations to adapt to a new diet than vegetables, insects, and sheep?  What is it about our genetics that makes us so different than the natural world around us?

Perhaps medicine is the reason why humans change so much slower?  But this has only been around for a few generations.  What about the 29,995 generations before that?

Could it be human migration mixing up the gean pool and set us back to our paleo roots?  This has always happened to some extent, but it's only been going on strongly for about 12 generations.  That leaves us with 29,988 generations.

If I get a specific breed of sheep, it has different dietary needs based on the environment where it's from.  Some sheep eat seaweed, others have a high copper diet that would kill any other breed.  When I get a heritage sheep, I look at its ancestral diet from about 200 years ago (back when nature was heavily involved in selecting which sheep reproduce) and I know that if the sheep is fed those foods, they will thrive. 

Anyway, all this stuff is confusing me.  It brings me back to the question of why humans are said to have stopped 10,000 years ago when other animals and plants still show signs of change?  Why don't we go back, say 600 years and adapt a diet of our ansestors from then?  Or even 250 years?  Why 10,000?

Errata: when I first asked Google, "how many generations in ten thousand years?" the answer I received was thirty thousand.  Thanks to a post below, I discovered that it is more likely 500 human generations.  I suspect I didn't ask Google in a way it expected, so it gave me the answer to a different question than the one I thought I asked.
 
r ranson
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Additional thought.

If our current diet contains toxins, than maybe we need to go back to five (to pick a random number) generations before that started to find the diet our bodies are adapted to?
 
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I think there is a lot to look at there
Firstly , fruit flies beloved of genetists every where why ?because they are simple to breed in numbers  and don't demand much of life:-) being simple unlike humans suggests to me we cannot use them as a good predictive tool looking at human populations . It takes more and a bad bannana to make me happy and I live longer than forty days .

David
 
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When I am breeding plants, I can only select for traits that already exist in the population. For example, I can't select for sweet corn unless there is some percentage of sweet corn in the population to start with. In humans, I suppose that would be a gene like adult-tolerance-to-lactose. Either you have it, or your don't. If you don't have it in your family, and you want it in your descendants, that would require mating with someone who carries the gene.

As I  look at my family and community, it seems to me like just about every disease that we have is directly related to our modern diets (way to many carbohydrates, excessive Omega-6 oils, not enough fiber, too few greens and sulfurous veggies, way too many poisons). In my analysis, people's diets are literally killing them.

So if we take at face value the three generations theory...  That would take my family back to Joseph Thomas Lofthouse born about  1875. I would feel really content if my village and family were still eating like JT did. Heck. I would feel really content if we were still eating the diet of my grandfather who was born about 1905.

In my opinion, modern medicine and foodways are a temporary aberration: A short-lived detour away from traditional human living. Modern ways only got started in my lifetime. The younger generations don't know anything other than the mechanical/chemical foodways. I'm old enough to remember the old ways, and to advocate that they be re-adopted.  I see a lot of kids, and older people, who I view much like the vegetable crops in a mega-ag field: Kept alive by continuous inputs of synthetic chemicals, but not thriving, and not viable in a long-term organic system. I expect that to sort itself out with the decline of cheap, readily available petroleum.







 
David Livingston
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Also humans don't go in for inbreeding as a rule thus we are  quite diverse genetically compared to our captive plants and Animals .
 
David Livingston
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Not so sure if your point about mixing populations is clear as there have always been folks who travelled about
A skeleton dug up recently at Stone henge was discovered to have come from what is now Switerland about 3000bc I doubt he got the train :-) .

 
David Livingston
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Another thought although people may have a diet based on X I never came across a diet that did not contain a fair amount of Yand Z :-) unlike the aforementioned fruit fly we need more than just fruit .
 
David Livingston
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I don't myself go with the humans stopped evolving 10000 years ago . Yes there was a big change in life style with the development of agriculture but as far as I am concerned it just changed the pressures . Evolution has no value judgement the sole criteria is survival . Nothing else matters .
I think we are changing- evolving we might be becoming more like our ancestors but that is still evolving responding to enviormental pressures. Evolution has no reverse gear .
We are complex creatures thus why not our evolution not be complex .
Recent genetic discoverys about the possibility that humans may be a multispesies hybrid bare this idea out.

David
 
David Livingston
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Another thought the adulteration of food with poisons goes back a long way either deliberate ( see one of the reasons for the foundation of the coop movement and early laws on trading standards ) or by accident ( Romans storing wine in lead flasks for example ) it's not new just the means are different . It's all about food as commodity .
Maybe " clean" food should be a right ?

David
 
r ranson
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David Livingston wrote:Not so sure if your point about mixing populations is clear as there have always been folks who travelled about
A skeleton dug up recently at Stone henge was discovered to have come from what is now Switerland about 3000bc I doubt he got the train :-) .



I agree.  (what we now call) International travel has always existed on some scale.  I'm guessing some of these travellers would add their geans to the local population. 

I think I mentioned that people generally stayed put.  There was definitely some movement of people.  But probably not on the scale or speed we see today.
 
David Livingston
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Thinking abit more about the Romans they stationed troops from N orth Africa on Hadriens wall along with folks from the Balkens , lots of potential fratinisation :-) plus I wonder where they stationed British troops :-)
As for the slaves ......
David
 
r ranson
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A couple of more related/unrelated thoughts I had just now.

7. Mutation happens in a population.  That's how we get new genetic traits.  I don't know much about how this happens, but I think it's more common than we know.  Sometimes these mutations happen in a part of the body that is related to reproduction so that the new genetic trait is passed to the next generation.

8.
How we digest food is influenced by our gut microbes and other invisible beasties.  These invisible beasties can change, adapt, and evolve rapidly compared to more complex creatures like tomatoes. 

9. milk tolerance in adults is something human populations had in some parts of the world but didn't have in others.  So people in Japan didn't have much milk in their diet, they didn't need the ability to digest milk as a dominant trait.  But in parts of Europe, milk was a staple food, so people who couldn't digest it often didn't survive to reproduce. 

10. Foods of my ancestors are changing.  Milk and wheat of today are very different than they were 150 years ago.  Plant breeding and other ways of changing the wheat plant, combined with new ways of growing wheat, and cooking wheat without fermenting it first are all new to our culture.  Could this be more related to why we cannot digest wheat than the possibility that our gut hasn't changed since pre-agriculture times?

Why am I thinking about this?   We have two people in the home with gut illnesses.  We're having trouble absorbing the required nutrients through our food alone and are seeking a diet that will heal our gut.  Challange is, the reasoning behind that diet needs to make sense to me.  Saying that human digestion hasn't changed in 10,000 years contradicts what I know of evolution from other sources.  So I'm curious if there is some mechanism there that makes humans exempt from natural forces, if my previous understanding of how this all works is wrong, or if something else is going on. 

Like I said, very disjointed thoughts.  But my instinct tells me they are related somehow. 
 
r ranson
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David Livingston wrote:
Maybe " clean" food should be a right ?



wouldn't that be nice.
 
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Maybe it has something to so with punctuated equilibrium. 





I guess we're likely in a state of relative stasis, waiting for something to happen that throws us out of our equilibrium.
 
David Livingston
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I think it is a mistake to consider only food and mutations have an impact on evolution . Firstly other factors might affect human evolution.
Hybrid vigour from closely connected human species and the actual evolution of society it's self may have an effect other factors may have an effect .

David
 
r ranson
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David Livingston wrote:I think it is a mistake to consider only food and mutations have an impact on evolution . Firstly other factors might affect human evolution.
Hybrid vigour from closely connected human species and the actual evolution of society it's self may have an effect other factors may have an effect .

David



I think I'm asking more about the impact of human evolution on our ability to digest food.

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?
 
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Overall I think that the difference between European/Asian/Native American/African food of 1600 only have a 10x different, but the current modified food starch and hydrogenated trans fat, modified pea protein isolate, gmo xyz is a 10,000x difference.

75years ago lets call that 3generation we were eating very little:
soy protein isolate or GMO corn/soy/anything,
Hydrogenated trans fat/oils
Modified food starch wheat.
We used to eat alot of root vegetables for carbs now it is almost exclusively wheat+corn syrup.
Soy sauce was actually a fermented product not made with chemicals
Cheese was a fermented product not made with artificial chemicals and GMO-fungi
We ate more local and were able to get sick once from a local strain of microbe vs globalized ever changing sources of food/bacteria.
Plants get alot of their needs met by fungi/bacteria we have stop fermenting our food and getting a daily dose of the good stuff
We are also being exposed to different type of food like chemicals (plastic, drugs, etc)
The animals and the compounds that is trapped in their fat is very different, even the type of fat they have is different


Basically the problem is less about the "race/out sourcing" of the food and more about the "engineering/automation" of our food/jobs.
I think that right now we are having all these sicknesses because or engineered food is getting the "weak" sick and only the non-sick guys will be left over. So if I was to avoid something so as not to get sick, I would avoid engineered food over avoiding Asian traditionally made soy sauce.  



 
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According to my reading on SCD...

...

I know that (with a few exceptions, mostly found in politics) humans are different than vegetables, insects, and sheep.  But are we really so different that it takes 10,000 times as many generations to adapt to a new diet than vegetables, insects, and sheep?  What is it about our genetics that makes us so different than the natural world around us?



In this as in so much else, Occam’s Razor cuts keenly.  The simplest explanation is that we do respond to selective pressure in not so many more generations than onther mammals, adjusting for the factor that we tend to be resist culling fairly vigorously.

Which in turn would tend to suggest that it’s the SCD reading, if not the diet itself, that is incorrect.
 
r ranson
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The problem is, I'm not certain I know what the question is yet. 

So even though my question is something about how evolution affects our ability to digest food, I think the other way is also important in that some populations had different staple foods and this might have some influence on which humans survived to reproduce.  aka, natural selection. 
 
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r ranson wrote:
Why am I thinking about this?   We have two people in the home with gut illnesses.  We're having trouble absorbing the required nutrients through our food alone and are seeking a diet that will heal our gut.  Challange is, the reasoning behind that diet needs to make sense to me.  Saying that human digestion hasn't changed in 10,000 years contradicts what I know of evolution from other sources.  So I'm curious if there is some mechanism there that makes humans exempt from natural forces, if my previous understanding of how this all works is wrong, or if something else is going on. 

Like I said, very disjointed thoughts.  But my instinct tells me they are related somehow. 



Just my own $0.02 USD.

Humans are just as natural as any other product of the universe and subject to the same laws of nature as all other entities.  Adaptation can be genetic (over generations) or physiological (changes in gene expression or metabolism in *this* generation).  The gut problems may result from dietary conflict with something genetically determined or possibly with something environmentally-induced---and here I use the broad sense of environment to include chemical/physical aspects of the environment as well as emotional/psychological factors.  Since humans are changing, genetically, at *some* rate that is not zero, there is always the chance that a mutation occurs that makes *no* diet suitable for thriving of that individual and we always hope that such a situation will not be the case, but it is a finite probability.  But given the enormous amount of exposure of any given individual over a life-span....or even half a life-span....to the varied chemicals and atmospheres that it will encounter, there is a certainly a good possibility of such an illness being rooted in such bodily insult, even if that particular chemical/atmosphere is now absent exposure to that individual.  In short, we evolved for many thousands of years in an environment that itself was evolving.  However, the *rate* of evolution of the environment in the past 100 - 200 years, of which humans have had an instrumental role in creating, is quite startling.  One need only observe an average person who is inside for most of their year....from house to mall to job.....to imagine the artificial nature of the environment and how that contrasts to the environment for the greater part of our evolutionary history.

We are natural beings evolving with everything else.  We are under selection, as a population, in the varying environments in which humans now find themselves.  To the extent that one survives, reproduces, and has offspring that will survive, will determine the gene set that will continue to characterize Homo sapiens.  But survival is not the same as thriving,....and sometimes we have to accept that or accept the search for amelioratives that help to live as full a life as possible even given what the role of the dice has offered.
 
r ranson
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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.
 
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r ranson wrote:
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.



Where am I suppose to find this traditional
beer (that was pretty much wild fermentation with lots of lactic acid bacteria)
milk/meat (with a complete profile of good fats from free range, non-gmo grains, live fermented cheese vs chemically made cheese)
pulse (where am I suppose to find this beyond organic soy/beans, all I see now is filled with chemicals/pesticides/gmo)
cabbage (pretty much the same as the above, except we have cut back on the greens we eat by so much, and what we do eat is not fermented/soaked
wheat (same as the beans above, also were can I find this fermented wheat/bread, that isn't modified food-starch(pasta/bread/pastry/bagel), we used to cook overnight/pre-soak and break down the anti-nutrient)
 
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r ranson wrote:
How far back do we have to go to find a diet that our bodies are adapted to? 



I think about 100 years. Chemicals to feed plants, new lab techniques of creating "food products" from whole foods (like corn syrup from corn for example), creating food additives from petroleum, these are all recent 20th century problems. At the end of the 19th century, rich aristocrats and the poor alike all ate the same natural foods grown and raised by farming methods honed over millennia.
 
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James Freyr wrote:

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



I think about 100 years. Chemicals to feed plants, new lab techniques of creating "food products" from whole foods (like corn syrup from corn for example), creating food additives from petroleum, these are all recent 20th century problems. At the end of the 19th century, rich aristocrats and the poor alike all ate the same natural foods grown and raised by farming methods honed over millennia.



Everything I have read suggests that 10,000 years is more likely, although I agree 100 years ago our diet was better.  This article is good overview of human evolution.

  http://www.beyondveg.com/nicholson-w/hb/hb-interview1c.shtml

Sorry I'm on my phone and can't put the link in correctly.  The article talks about just how much our health decreased between the end of the Paleolithic era and the beginning of the Neolithic.  We lost 4 inches in height among the changes. In general, evolutionary change takes millions of years, not hundreds. 
 
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S Bengi wrote:

r ranson wrote:
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.



Where am I suppose to find this traditional
beer (that was pretty much wild fermentation with lots of lactic acid bacteria)
milk/meat (with a complete profile of good fats from free range, non-gmo grains, live fermented cheese vs chemically made cheese)
pulse (where am I suppose to find this beyond organic soy/beans, all I see now is filled with chemicals/pesticides/gmo)
cabbage (pretty much the same as the above, except we have cut back on the greens we eat by so much, and what we do eat is not fermented/soaked
wheat (same as the beans above, also were can I find this fermented wheat/bread, that isn't modified food-starch(pasta/bread/pastry/bagel), we used to cook overnight/pre-soak and break down the anti-nutrient)




I just want to chime in here, that I've found raw milk to be incredibly healthy for me, in that I can feel the difference in my health if I can't get it for a while.  I'm very thankful that there's a legal, local source right now; it's been a gamechanger for me.  Yes, it costs more than regular milk...it's a lot cheaper than medicines that might or might not actually help.

As for wheat, it's something I'm sensitive to.  I had to stop eating all gluten entirely for a while to stop my severe gut pain issues.  It's not fun being gluten free!  At any rate, my body has healed enough to tolerate some gluten now...aka sprouted wheat products.  If I use something else, I had "issues," but if I stick with sprouted wheat flour, or especially my favorite bread in the world (Alvarado St. Bakery sprouted bread), I feel much better.

I've basically come to the same conclusion that you have, that eating like my ancestors 100 years ago did would be the healthiest thing I could do for my body in many ways: things that grow more locally, things that haven't been tampered with, etc.  I haven't been able to make that change entirely, but everything I've been able to switch to eating in a more "old fashioned" way is a help for my health.  So far I haven't been able to convert any naturally fermented foods into my diet, although I do use a fermented supplement.

I can't eat pulses.  But so far, I haven't found a more traditional / old fashioned way of eating them, either...
 
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John Weiland wrote:Humans are just as natural as any other product of the universe and subject to the same laws of nature as all other entities.  Adaptation can be genetic (over generations) or physiological (changes in gene expression or metabolism in *this* generation). 



The adaptation can also be cultural. I see social adaptation affecting the fitness of pheasants, insects, coyotes, etc... In other-words, adaptation is also done through learning.
 
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S Bengi wrote:

r ranson wrote:
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.



Where am I suppose to find this traditional
beer (that was pretty much wild fermentation with lots of lactic acid bacteria)
milk/meat (with a complete profile of good fats from free range, non-gmo grains, live fermented cheese vs chemically made cheese)
pulse (where am I suppose to find this beyond organic soy/beans, all I see now is filled with chemicals/pesticides/gmo)
cabbage (pretty much the same as the above, except we have cut back on the greens we eat by so much, and what we do eat is not fermented/soaked
wheat (same as the beans above, also were can I find this fermented wheat/bread, that isn't modified food-starch(pasta/bread/pastry/bagel), we used to cook overnight/pre-soak and break down the anti-nutrient)



Oh a challenge!  I'll bite.

Can I find the diet of my ancestors?
Beer - my local brewery specializes in beer made from organic barley and wild yeast.  On tap, just bring a growler and a ridiculously small amount of money.
Beer option two - I've made beer from locally grown organic barley, sprouted myself, and sourdough yeast.  It was...um... not like the beer of today, but it was a refreshing, light alcohol drink.  We gobbled it up. 
Meat - my farm, the farm behind me, the farm two doors downhill, the farm two doors uphill, the farm next door to them.  My hunter neighbour who lives between me and that farm.
Milk - I don't milk my sheep or goats, but my neighbour does.  I'm not admitting to any participation in this, but I hear there is a lively trade in raw organic milk in our neighbourhood.
live fermented cheese - easy to make at home.  We can also buy this in most of the major supermarkets locally. 
Pulses - There is a local farm that sells organic lentils by the kilo - but these are often horribly rocky so I don't bother.  It's way easier to grow my own as it makes a great fallow crop.  If I can't grow enough one year, I get organic chickpeas from Europe.  They are a bit more pricey but well worth it.  Most major supermarkets carry organic pulses in the health food secition or the Indian (as in from India) food section.
Cabbage - grow my own, buy organic.  Sometimes I ferment it.  Not sure how this is any different than my ancestor's cabbage.
Wheat - This one took the longest to find a good source of.  Most of the wheat we can buy in Canada is fortified which doesn't agree with me.  Even the organic stuff.  My local bakery buys organic, non-GMO contaminated, wheat kernels and has a giant stone mill in the bakery they use to grind it.  Their breads are mostly fermented with natural yeast and are very easy to digest.  They also sell their flour.  If I can't make it there, I noticed that European wheat will often be a higher quality and easier to digest than North American wheat.  For making pasta, I usually buy European organic flower.  Funny thing is, this often works out to be a simular price to comercial North American flower as that keeps increasing in price. 

Anything I miss?
 
James Freyr
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Fish?
 
r ranson
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James Freyr wrote:Fish?



hmmm... that's a tough one.
Whole foods makes the claim their fish is good, but I haven't researched it to see what that means. 

I don't really like fish that much so I haven't tried looking for a good source yet. 
 
r ranson
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Todd Parr wrote:

Everything I have read suggests that 10,000 years is more likely, although I agree 100 years ago our diet was better.  This article is good overview of human evolution.

  http://www.beyondveg.com/nicholson-w/hb/hb-interview1c.shtml

Sorry I'm on my phone and can't put the link in correctly.  The article talks about just how much our health decreased between the end of the Paleolithic era and the beginning of the Neolithic.  We lost 4 inches in height among the changes. In general, evolutionary change takes millions of years, not hundreds. 



This is really neat.

My brain translates that article to say "a little after 10,000 years ago, our diet changed suddenly and the health of the new people on that diet suddenly went down for several generations".  I hope this is right.

Tell me, has our health gotten better since then?

A theory (not a good one, I'm sure) could be that the diet changed and the people eating that diet weren't used to it, so their health went down.  Like me planting JL's tomatoes in my garden, the plant's environment changed suddenly so the tomatoes that grow in my garden might not thrive right away, but some would survive.

But then, after a few generations of saving seeds, the tomatoes thrive like crazy because they adapt.

Is it possible for humans to adapt to the agriculture diet after so many generations?  How would we know if this had happened or not?

I really don't know the answer to this.
 
James Freyr
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Yeah fish is a tough one. I think the North Western European diet certainly contained it, likely more so in coastal regions compared to inland areas, though salting fish for preservation was really widespread, and I think still is in some areas. For me, living in middle Tennessee, I don't eat much fish, partly because I don't live by the coast and also because of my skepticism and worry about the cleanliness of waters fish come from. I also don't want to be a part of the problem contributing to overfishing. It bums me out cause I really like food from the sea.
 
John Weiland
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
The adaptation can also be cultural. I see social adaptation affecting the fitness of pheasants, insects, coyotes, etc... In other-words, adaptation is also done through learning.



Yeah....good point.  My northern European roots would disdain eating insects, but learning this from another culture could make all the difference in the world under the right circumstances.

Another example more close to your plant-breeding heart:  "In the late 1700s, a large percentage of Europeans feared the tomato.

A nickname for the fruit was the “poison apple” because it was thought that aristocrats got sick and died after eating them, but the truth of the matter was that wealthy Europeans used pewter plates, which were high in lead content. Because tomatoes are so high in acidity, when placed on this particular tableware, the fruit would leach lead from the plate, resulting in many deaths from lead poisoning. No one made this connection between plate and poison at the time; the tomato was picked as the culprit."

--Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/why-the-tomato-was-feared-in-europe-for-more-than-200-years-863735/#TdiwCqJdqF0di9US.99
 
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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. 

Even so, traditional peoples in Europe have been eating some wheat all these centuries, but not eating it the way we do today;  they would eat it sprouted or fermented.  And I'm sure it still wouldn't have been in the quantities we eat today.  What's more I believe that today's variety of wheat was developed in the 1940s (and its creators won the Nobel Peace Prize for breeding a wheat that could feed the world) and introduced commercially in the 1980s, I believe.  Though I understand that wheat is easily hybridized, and has been changing all throughout our history with it;  the wheat of 100 years ago is not the same as from 10,000 years ago.

I personally don't eat much wheat or other grains.  I cut them out about six or seven years ago, and have seen concrete health benefits (reduction in asthma and allergies for instance, but there are more).  I can't say it was the wheat in particular, as I also cut out vegetable oils, sugar and potatoes (mostly), and added in animal fats:  but I know my own health has improved so I see no reason to go back to it.  On the very few occasions I eat it, I will ferment it first as a sourdough, for at least two days.  I have a sourdough starter which I keep in the freezer between uses.  I also only buy organic wheat, as it is conventional practice to spray roundup on wheat before harvest to dessicate it (aka ripen it all at once in order to have a consistent harvest).  However, I don't eat it often enough to tell if my way of preparing wheat would work for me as a long term food--I eat it only 3 or 4 times a year.

In my case, I don't really need to understand why it works/doesn't work for me:  I have seen the benefits of not eating it, personally.  It's not a hardship for me to skip eating wheat.  I think if you have identified a problem food, just stop eating it.  I understand wanting to know why:  it doesn't make complete sense to me either however, feeling well is more important, in my opinion.  I'm willing to accept that it works without understanding it.  I have a feeling no one can explain this fully because if we knew the ideal human diet, well, everyone would be eating it, right?  
 
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I think a large reason that we are so slow to evolve as a species is that we don't necessarily always breed like most other animals do. They find another of their species and (if male), beat off any competition, and then mate. We humans tend to pick our mates for a really wide variety of reasons that often have little to do with health or strength. We pick spouses that are funny, attractive, wealthy, popular, intelligent, have similar personalities...or our marriages are arranged with an eye toward politics. We also often wait a long time to pick who we're going to mate with, compared, to say, sheep. And, we're often monogamous--or, at least, our children are often products of monogamous relationships. We also don't bear as many children as say fruit flies (500 in on lay) or even sheep (1-3 a year).

All those things, I think, really slow down the natural selection. Add in wide travel and soldiers who spread their sperm and traveling merchants who give out more than just their wares, and it really changes things up quite a bit.

And, since it takes less years to modify a plant--and plants are the things we're usually the most sensitive to, not animals--it makes sense that we would have a harder time as a species adjusting to the constantly changing plants, especially in recent years where plant breeding has really sped up.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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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. 



Using my own body, and simple tools like sticks and cloth, I can harvest, and clean enough wheat in an hour to supply my calorie needs for a week. The simplest method of cooking would involve soaking and boiling whole berries.



 
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From my perspective we had adapted and were thriving on an agricultural diet about 100 years ago. Think of the obvious vigor displayed by the Europeans who settled/conquered the Americas. These people were often homesteaders many times more successful than our most illustrious permies today and they did it all by hand, often while engaged in armed conflict with the local population, and with mass produced and imported agricultural staples. The main difference that I see (in the last 3 generations or so) is the explosion of synthetic chemicals in our daily lives. Not just agricultural chemicals but cleaning, lubricating, insulating, fire retarding, fueling, etc. chemicals. What few of these chemicals have been studied have mostly been found to have a negative impact but the vast majority have never even been deeply investigated. It seems likely to me that this exponential explosion in synthetic chemical exposure has led to a massive strain on the health of our little gut buddies and that this is directly responsible for the rise in digestive, degenerative, and psychological disease in the human population.

What I'm curious about is if we are essentially breeding a chemical resistant human right now. Are the children being born on microwave diets to parents born and raised on microwave diets going to be a new race of humans that have a hard time digesting natural foods? Will they suffer from red #5 deficiency?
 
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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'd be interested in discussing this. I've heard it both ways; that the peasants ate grain, while the elite ate a meat heavy diet, (they were the only ones allowed to hunt) and that grains were an elite food, due to all the work.

There does seem to be some evidence that when milling became a royal or aristocratic monopoly (and was taxed), the peasants went back to boiling grains and legumes (peas porridge.)

Also, I would doubt that anything but a fairly grain heavy diet could have supported the known population densities, especially mechanized shipping.

But, as I say, I've heard both.
 
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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 think this is a really interesting question.  Whether it's the question you're looking for in particular to solve the problems at your house I'm less in a position to say of course. ;-)

For the reasons you've raised and a few more,  the 10,000 years business doesn't make any sense to me at all. Most other creatures we know respond to selective pressure in just a few generations.  We can find stable creatures in the fossil record, but when we actually take creatures and apply selective pressure, they change in single-digit generations, not five-digit generations.  None of the reasons advanced for why our particular flavor of hominids ought to be different strike me as especially persuasive.  So I'm inclined to believe the evidence in front of my eyes.

I don't know much about SCD, but I'm dubious about it on that basis alone.  I suspect that, if it's helping people, that like a lot of diets it imposes enough slightly-unusual rules that people start having to cook  special meals at home, that result in a massive reduction in consumption of prepared and processed foods. And that alone has so many health benefits that the effect can create communities of fans and believers around quite startling and hard-to-credit dietary theories ... perhaps including the set of dietary memes that have currently infected my own brain, I'm not judging here.

So, for starters, I strongly suspect that most folks on the Standard American ChemoDiet could pick *any* of the diets that were prevalent on the surface of the earth 200 years ago, hew to them, and be considerably healthier.  But there's probably a best-selling diet book in advising people to get their DNA tested, pick the majority ethnicity revealed in the DNA, research an appropriate diet among that ethnicity ten generations ago, and follow it.  I'll bet it would result in substantial health improvement for most who followed it, too.



 
Nicole Alderman
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My husband has Crohn's and is on the SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet). I read the author, Dr. Elaine Gottschall's, book on the subject, and honestly don't recall anything in there about our bodies adapting to the diet 10,000 years ago. That sounds more like paleo, to me.

SCD rose from the works of Dr. Sidney V. Haas, who--back before anyone knew the cause of Celiacs--noticed that on a specific island, those that ate bananas didn't have it, and those that ate wheat did have it. So, he formed a diet based on staying away from startchy foods like grains, and eating lots of meats and bananas. This worked wonders for those who were Celiacs, as well as those with other conditions. Of course, years later, people realized it was the wheat that was really messing with celiacs.

BUT, Dr. Haas's diet was still healing for many, including the daughter of Dr. Elaine Gottschall.  Doctor Gottschall was not a doctor when her daughter was diagnosed with severe ulcerative colitis. She was told her daughter would need to have her colon removed, and so Gottschall went looking for a second opinion from Dr. Haas. Haas' diet returned her daughter to health.

Gottschall then devoted her time to going to school to learn WHY the diet worked. She studied microbiology and learned that certain startches and sugars feed the bacteria and fungi that destroy guts  of those with IBS. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet does not allow any of those foods, and focuses on foods full of beneficial bacteria and fungi. It's very much like trying to grow the right mircobiota for your soil.

Here's a long, but good quote about the science behind the diet (from http://www.breakingtheviciouscycle.info/p/science-behind-the-diet/):

When the balance in the gut is disturbed, an overgrowth of intestinal flora can result. Microbes migrate to the small intestine and stomach, inhibiting digestion and competing for nutrients. The gut then becomes overloaded with the byproducts of their digestion. This bacterial overgrowth can be triggered by overuse of antacids, reduced stomach acidity due to aging, weakening of the immune system through malnutrition or poor diet, and alteration of the microbial environment through antibiotic therapy.

The components of our diet, particularly carbohydrates, play an enormous role in influencing the type and number of our intestinal flora. When carbohydrates are not fully digested and absorbed, they remain in our gut, and become nutrition for the microbes we host. The microbes themselves must digest these unused carbohydrates, and they do this through the process of fermentation. The waste products of fermentation are gases, such as methane, carbon dioxide & hydrogen, and both lactic & acetic acids, as well as toxins. All serve to irritate and damage the gut. There is evidence that increased acidity in the gut due to malabsorption and fermentation of carbohydrates, may lead common harmless intestinal bacteria to mutate into more harmful ones. Further, lactic acid produced during the fermentation process has been implicated in the abnormal brain function and behaviour sometimes associated with intestinal disorders. The overgrowth of bacteria into the small intestine triggers a worsening cycle of gas and acid production, which further inhibits absorption and leads to yet more harmful byproducts of fermentation. The enzymes on the surface of the small intestines are destroyed by the now present bacteria, and this further disrupts the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, leading to further bacterial overgrowth. As both the microbial flora and their byproducts damage the mucosal layer of the small intestine, it is provoked to produce excessive protective mucus, which further inhibits digestion and absorption.

Damage to the mucosal layer involves injury to the microvilli of our absorptive cells. These microvilli act as the last barrier between the nutrition we take in and our bloodstream. As our absorption is inhibited, folic acid and vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to impaired development of microvilli, while an abnormally thick layer of mucus prevents contact between microvilli enzymes and the carbohydrates we ingest. The small intestine responds to this spiraling irritation by producing more goblet (mucus-making) cells, creating yet more mucus. Finally, as the goblet cells become exhausted, the intestinal surface is laid bare, and is further damaged, and possibly ulcerated. As more carbohydrates are left in the gut, they cause water and nutrients to be pulled from the body into the colon, resulting in chronic diarrhea. Absorption is further hindered as diarrhea increases the rate with which food travels through the gut.

The Diet

"The Specific Carbohydrate Diet™ is based on the principle that specifically selected carbohydrates, requiring minimal digestive processes, are well absorbed and leave virtually none to be used for furthering microbial overgrowth in the intestine. As the microbial population decreases due to lack of food, its harmful byproducts also decrease, freeing the intestinal surface of injurious substances. No longer needing protection, the mucus-producing cells stop producing excessive mucus, and carbohydrate digestion is improved. Malabsorption is replaced by absorption. As the individual absorbs energy and nutrients, all the cells in the body are properly nourished, including the cells of the immune system, which then can assist in overcoming the microbial invasion." The simpler the structure of the carbohydrate, the more easily the body digests and absorbs it. Monosaccharides (single molecules of glucose, fructose, or galactose) require no splitting by digestive enzymes in order to be absorbed by the body. These are the sugars we rely on in the diet. They include those found in fruits, honey, some vegetables, and in yoghurt.

Double sugar molecules (disaccharides: lactose, sucrose, maltose and isomaltose) and starches (polysaccharides) are primarily avoided on the diet. Some starches have been shown to be tolerated, particularly those in the legume family (dried beans, lentils and split peas only). However, they must be soaked for 10-12 hours prior to cooking, and the water discarded since it will contain other sugars which are indigestible, but which are removed in the soaking process. Small amounts of legumes may only be added to the diet after about three months. The starches in all grains, corn, and potatoes must be strictly avoided. Corn syrup is also excluded since it contains a mixture of 'short-chain' starches.



If any of you have heard of the more well-known GAPS diet (Gut and Psycology Syndrome diet), it's based off of SCD.
 
David Livingston
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My own view is that many folks are using value judgements regarding evolution and I dont think it works like that . Survival is everything , it's the only thing that matters from an evolutionary stand point . There is no good diet nor bad diet . Did you live long enough to have children . ( full stop that's it folks ) if you are ill after reproductive age does not matter in comparison . Yes with humans because we bring up children in families and we protect and provide our children and grand children when we are past child baring age but that is in my view a long way secondary to having children in the first place .
Thus the effect diet has on evolution is muted because in my view it does not matter because many of the effects are after child baring age . As also I think it's diet effecting evolution not evolution effecting diet .

David
 
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