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  #1   ^
Old Tue, May-25-21, 05:59
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WereBear WereBear is offline
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Default The Value of Eating What Your Ancestors Ate

Mark Sisson says what I've been saying:

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Everyone understands the intuitive power of eating the way our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate for hundreds of thousands of years. Sure, there’s a lot of variation throughout the eons. Changing climates and human migration patterns determined the culinary landscapes available to our ancestors, and the proportion of animals to plants in the diet varied across latitudes. There was no One Diet to Rule Them All, but there were patterns and trends that we can surmise and approximate. And we know what they didn’t have access to: the industrial foods of the modern era.

The Value of Eating What Your Ancestors Ate


I have found that exploring my own genetic heritage, where the branches seem to be running in similar directions, wound up similar to Mark's, as he describes here:

Quote:
My experience is that eating the specific foods your direct ancestors consistently consumed resonates across your genome. This sounds ridiculous to the strict calorie-counter with a lifelong subscription to Cronometer, but consider that vitamins weren’t discovered til the early 20th century. Nutrition is still a young field. We know very little. There’s a lot in food that we’re probably missing, and those things could be interacting with your genes. Your genes might “expect” them, even if we can’t yet identify them.

Some of it we can predict and analyze. I think back to the time I had my own ancestry and DNA analyzed. Turns out I’m of Scandinavian stock, and some of my most recent ancestors were in Normandy (the part of France settled by Vikings). Sisson itself is a Norman surname, one that arrived on the shores of England in 1066 with the Norman invasion.


Likewise, I turn out to have a lot of Northern European genetics, according to a family member who got their DNA done. Being so sick had a few advantages in that I could tell, with real and instant kinds of feedback, what my body wanted to eat, and -- more and more -- what it did not.

And my seat-of-the-pants experimenting mirrors Mark's discoveries.

Quote:
It also turns out that I need more long-chained omega-3s in the diet because my body isn’t very good at elongating short-chained omega-3s into the long-chained “marine” ones. I need to eat more fatty cold water fish—which happen to be some of my favorite foods—to get both omega-3s and vitamin D. Wouldn’t you know: both Vikings and Normans ate a ton of fish, including cod (whose livers are incredibly rich in vitamin D and DHA) and salmon (which is very high in omega-3s and decently high in vitamin D). Even the pork my Norman ancestors raised were high in omega-3s, as Norman pigs’ diets were supplemented with fish scraps.

It turns out that I have an elevated risk for soft tissue and connective tissue injuries, a likely indicator that I need more collagen and glycine in my diet. Sure enough, a mainstay in Viking, Norman, and medieval European diets in general were soups and stews made with animal bones and joints and skin rich in collagen. And here I am today, putting collagen in my coffee and even selling the stuff in stores across the world.


This gets me in total agreement with Mark, and indeed, our collective experience here on the Forum. I was emboldened to discard all common -- and incorrect -- wisdom on the subject of what to eat. Because my whole life is about running counter-clockwise to it, and the more I go my own way, the happier I am.

Quote:
Now, some people find this kind of content controversial. When I suggest something like this, I’ve had people say things like “even suggesting there are differences between human populations is wrong.” Some people worry it will feed divisions that already exist. Man, that’s a myopic view. I think the opposite is true. This is a way to celebrate our differences and connect to our past. It’s beautiful, really.

To me, it’s far more insulting and limiting to suggest that we are all identical to each other, carbon copies, interchangeable, fungible. That’s boring, and it’s frankly incorrect. Anyone with eyes (and taste buds) can take a look around and see that differences exist in the dietary habits and cuisines of different ethnic groups. These differences aren’t all arbitrary. There are hints at real physiological consequences for how we metabolize different foods.
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  #2   ^
Old Tue, May-25-21, 06:16
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GRB5111 GRB5111 is offline
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"To me, it’s far more insulting and limiting to suggest that we are all identical to each other, carbon copies, interchangeable, fungible. That’s boring, and it’s frankly incorrect. Anyone with eyes (and taste buds) can take a look around and see that differences exist in the dietary habits and cuisines of different ethnic groups. These differences aren’t all arbitrary. There are hints at real physiological consequences for how we metabolize different foods."

Love this quote. Let's celebrate our differences and understand that we each have unique dietary requirements that allow us to be at our best. I'm constantly reminded that diet books and related nutrition "experts" must tout "the diet" suitable for all, as that's how to get broad appeal and have a successful business. The real business is exploring our unique nutritional needs, learning what makes us most healthy (N=1), and refining and embracing that WOE as a lifestyle. The vegan, plant-based, carnivore, keto wars are really a sham when one understands this dynamic. Good stuff.
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  #3   ^
Old Tue, May-25-21, 09:23
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wbahn wbahn is offline
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I think it's a balancing act. One the one hand, our bodies adapt to make the best of the dietary choices available, though I question the time-scale that is needed to make any of those adaptations inheritable. But on the other hand, there's nothing that says that the choices available to our ancestors, despite whatever adaptations they may have made, were necessarily optimal.

So I would tend to come at it from a slightly different perspective. Yes, our genes go a long way in dictating the kind of nutrition we need for optimal health. To the degree that our ancestors shared those genes (and given how interbred most of us have become, that's not necessarily a good assumption) it is reasonable to assume that they adopted diets that met those needs about as well as possible given the range of options available to them. It's actually unlikely that those options allowed them to devise a truly optimal diet for their genetic make-up, but the choices they settled on provide good clues as to what might be important for us.
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  #4   ^
Old Tue, May-25-21, 12:43
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GRB5111 GRB5111 is offline
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Let's unpack whether the question centers around nature vs. nurture or in plain terms the question would be, did we have enough time for human genes to take on the characteristics that are prevalent today in the obesity/T2D/Metabolic Syndrome epidemics that are rampant worldwide? They weren't common 50-60 years ago or before as we examine human history.

Paleo advocates have history supporting them in the sense that human agrarian systems and eating grown or raised foods have been around only for about 10,000 years, a minute time in humanoid evolution. Anyone familiar with human genetics understands that it takes many generations for genes to change and adapt (mutate). Based on environmental factors which include food, stress exposure, and toxin exposure among other things that can influence genetic change, it's reasonable to posit that these dietary changes started to contribute to health issues. To say 10,000 years is too short of a time for human genetic adaptation is an understatement. This is illustrated very well in the documentary "The Perfect Human Diet."

However, there is another dynamic that can cause changes among humans from generation to generation. That dynamic is called epigenetics where changes happen at the cellular level or "on or after" genes. It's been found that these changes at the cellular level including DNA methylation can in fact be passed on to subsequent generations. What's happening here is that while the human gene sequence takes an extremely long time to change, epigenetic characteristics at the cellular level have the influence of turning on or off genetic traits. These can be good or bad. Bruce Lipton's book, "The Biology of Belief" clearly explains epigenetics.

It goes to reason that since the human diet has changed very recently (10,000 years), it's very likely that the foods produced by humans and the accompanying eating lifestyles (eating timing, food availability and quantity) are very different than in Paleo times. As we've improved our food growing and manufacturing capabilities, we have also produced very harmful foods and eating habits. The consequences resulting in the epidemics mentioned earlier have been rapid and severe. That's why I believe it's very plausible that humans are better off when eating traditional whole foods and not eating all the time. Sugar? In the past, only during short windows of seasonally available foods was sweet stuff in the form of fructose available. Same for above-ground vegetables and fruits. Today, sugar is plentiful and we have super sugar concoctions as well. Sometimes when health issues arise so rapidly over a generation or two, one needs to ask, "What has changed?" Well, this is a pretty good summary of the potential root cause. Is it healthier to emulate Paleo eating? I'd be happy with an eating lifestyle similar to that in the first half of the 1900s (excluding refined grains and oils) before the engineering of different types of hardier, easier to grow wheat and grains, but a Paleo eating lifestyle certainly works very well for many and is a major improvement compared to today's standard diet.

Last edited by GRB5111 : Tue, May-25-21 at 12:57.
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  #5   ^
Old Tue, May-25-21, 14:32
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Kristine Kristine is offline
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My problem with Mark's thinking here is that we're all mutts. You might have certain genes that are markers for a certain geographic location, but who says that necessarily translates to food tolerance/intolerance? I might buy it if you can trace your lineage as a "purebred" for many generations, but that probably doesn't happen for most humans. We immigrate, we flee, and our armies conquer each other and make babies with other populations.

Analogy: I'd find it plausible that Dobermans have certain nutrition needs and problems, and Huskies have different ones. Purebred dogs are a genetic bottleneck. But a mixed breed that kinda seems to be part Doberman, or Husky, or any other breed? How do you know which nutrition genes they inherited, unless they're specifically linked to the other marker genes that are being identified?

Essentially, I'm skeptical for the same reason I'm skeptical on the blood type diet. You'd have to demonstrate that those ancestral gene loci and whatever nutrition gene loci are close together, meaning there's little crossing over on chromosomes.

Last edited by Kristine : Tue, May-25-21 at 14:40.
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  #6   ^
Old Tue, May-25-21, 15:03
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WereBear WereBear is offline
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Originally Posted by Kristine
My problem with Mark's thinking here is that we're all mutts.


Yes, and this is where my decades of rescue experience comes in.

With both dogs and cats, we can find what looks like clear crosses from two distinct breeds. I've seen litters of kittens where every one was different from the others. I've adopted pups who looked like one breed and by the time they grew up they looked like another. But... they were all different. And they all had clear breed traits that let me understand and train them.

Even purebreds got that way by abundant outcrossing!

We don't blend like milkshakes. Some of us take after mom's side, or dad's, are are ringers for the great-uncle.

I found that when it came to crafting my radical new diet, I used a theory that I should eat the way people do who live in places with a short growing season and herd livestock. This works for me. It's not going to work for everybody.

And that's the point. What if some of what makes us so different are the enzymes we inherited? That, as explained in the book Death by Food Pyramid, is what really determines what we can get nutrition from, and how much.
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  #7   ^
Old Tue, May-25-21, 16:08
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GRB5111 GRB5111 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kristine
My problem with Mark's thinking here is that we're all mutts. You might have certain genes that are markers for a certain geographic location, but who says that necessarily translates to food tolerance/intolerance? I might buy it if you can trace your lineage as a "purebred" for many generations, but that probably doesn't happen for most humans. We immigrate, we flee, and our armies conquer each other and make babies with other populations.

Analogy: I'd find it plausible that Dobermans have certain nutrition needs and problems, and Huskies have different ones. Purebred dogs are a genetic bottleneck. But a mixed breed that kinda seems to be part Doberman, or Husky, or any other breed? How do you know which nutrition genes they inherited, unless they're specifically linked to the other marker genes that are being identified?

Essentially, I'm skeptical for the same reason I'm skeptical on the blood type diet. You'd have to demonstrate that those ancestral gene loci and whatever nutrition gene loci are close together, meaning there's little crossing over on chromosomes.

Good points. I understand the mutt analogy, as we are products of many generations from many ancestors who lived in many regions where available foods varied. However, being a skeptic, I'm more skeptical and risk averse of newer, manufactured foods than anything that's been part of the human diet for years. Eating what's been traditional human food for more than 60 years despite regional variations is probably the safest place to begin.
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Old Fri, May-28-21, 08:33
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Calianna Calianna is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GRB5111
Good points. I understand the mutt analogy, as we are products of many generations from many ancestors who lived in many regions where available foods varied.



I agree.


I have British Isles and German ancestry, but there's also Native American ancestry (I have an old family photo showing my "half-breed" great-great-great grandmother on my father's side, so full Native American 5 generations back), and there was a native American family member on my mother's side a generation or two more recently than that. So it would be kind of hard to pin down my genetic food traditions, other than to say that as close to unprocessed as possible.



Quote:
However, being a skeptic, I'm more skeptical and risk averse of newer, manufactured foods than anything that's been part of the human diet for years. Eating what's been traditional human food for more than 60 years despite regional variations is probably the safest place to begin.



The only problem is that I didn't really do particularly well on a diet that was composed of traditional foods from 60 years ago either, since cakes, jellies, bread, candy and such were all readily available then too - personally, it was too much starch and sugar for my system to handle, not to mention the chemical stews such as Crisco (which became part of the western diet in 1911, well established as the standard cooking fat by the time I was born in the early 50's), and margarine (which even thought it started out as mostly beef tallow in the 1800's, was composed entirely of vegetable oils and fats by 1950). Both were used with refined wheat flour in home cooking, as well as commercially made products. Our traditional "vegetables" when I was growing up were lima beans, corn, peas, potatoes. and occasionally carrots. Our least starchy veggie was green beans.



Still, I didn't do as badly that diet as I did once I was out on my own, eating more processed foods on a somewhat more regular basis, and all bets were off once we hit the low fat, hearthealthywholegrains era.
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Old Fri, May-28-21, 11:22
Zei Zei is offline
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I wouldn't do too well eating what a lot of my European ancestors were able to survive on once agriculture/farming became the norm. Likely lots of grains, tubers, stuff like that you could grow and store to avoid starving. I do well with meat and presently dairy, though, which I imagine they ate a lot of where they were from. I think the message to not eat processed junk is good whether one eats consistent with personal ancestral culture or not. I don't really know if eating things specific to one's known ancestry is important or not, other than obvious things like whether one can produce enzymes to break down lactose in dairy, which was a mutation common only to certain ethnic groups.
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  #10   ^
Old Sat, May-29-21, 05:51
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WereBear WereBear is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Calianna
Still, I didn't do as badly that diet as I did once I was out on my own, eating more processed foods on a somewhat more regular basis, and all bets were off once we hit the low fat, hearthealthywholegrains era.


Just look at the rates of Type II Diabetes from the CDC:

Quote:
The prevalence of diagnosed diabetes increased from 0.93% in 1958 to 7.40% in 2015. In 2015, 23.4 million people had diagnosed diabetes, compared to only 1.6 million in 1958.


And having grown up on the four food groups/home cooking/rare restaurant meals pattern, I can say this was NOT a low-carb diet, by any means. Yet, look at photos from 1958: you have to search for the merely chubby ones.

Of course, their bread was not drenched with weedkiller, and their food was not full of soybean fillers...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zei
I don't really know if eating things specific to one's known ancestry is important or not, other than obvious things like whether one can produce enzymes to break down lactose in dairy, which was a mutation common only to certain ethnic groups.


If someone is of African-American descent, it can:

Quote:
As a clinical entity, sickle cell anemia (SCA) is known to be relatively rarer in Africans than in the African-American population of the United States. Paradoxically, sickle cell trait (SCT), the non-anemic, heterozygous condition, is about three times more common among indigenous Africans than in African-Americans. The ratio of SCA to SCT is 1:50 for African-Americans, and less than 1:1,000 for tropical Africans. This etiological disparity is attributed to an anti-sickling agent, thiocyanate, (SCN-) found abundantly in staple African foods, such as the African yam (Dioscorea sp) and cassava (Manihot utilissima). Staple American foods have negligible SCN-concentrations. Nonstaple foods in the American diet, such as carrots, cabbage, and radishes, have SCN- levels far below the African yam and cassava. This finding explains the high incidence of SCA among African-Americans and its rarity in Africans.

Anti-Sickling Effect of Dietary Thiocyanate in Prophylactic Control of Sickle Cell Anemia


Sickle cell is a gene which creates resistance to malaria. A definite survival advantage in areas with high malarial incidence. The side effect is slow absorption of certain nutrients. Which their traditional diet handles in a way that increases health.

If anyone has health issues, and I sure do, I think this effect might get "turned up to eleven." I grew up on the Four Food Groups with no known issues, as a healthy child with no weight problem.

But that's not me, anymore. I now have to avoid a lot more elements, for whatever reason. But I least I know what they are.
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  #11   ^
Old Sat, May-29-21, 08:54
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Calianna Calianna is offline
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And having grown up on the four food groups/home cooking/rare restaurant meals pattern, I can say this was NOT a low-carb diet, by any means. Yet, look at photos from 1958: you have to search for the merely chubby ones.

Of course, their bread was not drenched with weedkiller, and their food was not full of soybean fillers...


I was a chubby child on that type of diet - not nearly fat enough to need the chubby sized girls dresses, but compared to my normal cousins whose hand-me-downs I quickly outgrew sideways rather than lengthwise, I was definitely chubby, at least by the standards of the day, since this was considered to be chubby back then:
https://i1.wp.com/craphound.com/ima...386_o.jpg?w=970
That particular ad has nipped in the waist a bit, and most likely slimmed down the arms and legs too - easy to do when it's a drawing, rather than a photo (no photoshop back then!), and they did that with all the chubby clothing ads back then, since they were trying to give the impression that their styles would make your chubby daughter look less chubby. Still, it's clear that they haven't reduced her to the typical thinness of most kids back then - the girl in that photo would look typical these days, maybe even a little more slender than most.



If I look at my photos from 1958 (age 5), I was definitely chubby.



The next year, I was extremely ill after a tonsillectomy, and took quite a long time to recover. During that extended illness, and unable to eat anywhere near as much as usual, I did lose some weight, so my school photo that year shows a somewhat thinned down version of me. My mother thought I was dangerously thin at the time, but in all honesty, I wasn't nearly as thin as my normal sized cousins.


A few months after recovering from that illness, full body photos show that I was back to my chubby self, and then some. Basically, I regained more than I lost at what should have been considered a shockingly fast rate, considering my age, and the fact that I was still a growing child. This all happened on a diet of the four food groups/home cooking. I honestly don't recall eating out even once in my life until at least the mid-60's - that's when we would eat out on very rare occasions, a few times a year.
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Old Sat, May-29-21, 13:11
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WereBear WereBear is offline
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In my case, home cooking shifted as I got older. Financial stress and ravenous growing brothers led to lots of casseroles based on noodles and elbow macaroni. When I hit puberty trouble started.
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