7

votes

Evolving Past The Paleo Diet

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created October 17, 2012 at 10:16 PM

I have been eating a mostly paleo diet for over a year now, but lately I've been thinking more and more about evolution, and whether we should evolve the idea of paleo to move past the paleolithic era and into the modern era.

Humans have been evolving since our paleo ancestors, as I'm sure we can agree on - for example, some people can digest lactose and others cannot. Some people are naturally skinny, and others are naturally big, like when you compare Kenyan people to Inuit people.

Don't we need to look past paleo, further into the future, and research our individual family lineage to better understand what our optimal diets should be (everyone's would be slightly different)?

So if, for example, my ancestors have been eating rice and beans for 20 generations, does that mean that my body would be primed and optimized to continue to eat rice and beans? At least a little bit anyway.

Evolution does not stop. Humans are still evolving today. I believe epigenetics explains that during individual lifetimes, our environment and lifestyle affects how our DNA is expressed, how are genes are used, and those changes are then passed down to offspring.

Why should we discount the past 12,000 years of humans eating grains?

What will my lifestyle choices and eating habits do for my offspring's genes/epigenome?

How can each individual find their one true perfect diet?

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on September 07, 2013
at 01:28 AM

Primitive versions did exist, man didn't create them, they were around before man. If we don't eat foods now because they didn't exist then is the entire premise behind paleo (it isn't), then that makes paleo a pretty unsound theory of eating. Who's to say that current intolerances to grains, legumes, soy aren't modern? After all, we cannot know if paleolithic man was intolerant to such foods or not.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on October 22, 2012
at 01:32 AM

Evolution goes either way. We can gain or lose tolerance to certain foods. Is modern-day gluten intolerance coming about in a similar manner to modern-day lactose tolerance? I don't know, but it's an interesting question to ask. I'm not sure I agree with Mr. Badenoch, gluten is not a harmful compound. It's not a plant defense mechanism, it's a storage protein as far as I can tell. What evolutionary (reproductive) advantage would there be to gluten-intolerance?

A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3

(12682)

on October 21, 2012
at 10:20 PM

When you ask if intolerances are being bred in, does that mean genetic predisposition to food intolerances is increasing? It's an interesting idea, I just want to make sure that's what you're saying. I once got in a little argument with Andrew Badenoch who suggested celiac disease was an evolved adaptation to a harmful compound. Perhaps not exactly the same.

B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on October 20, 2012
at 09:12 AM

The dose makes the poison

B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on October 20, 2012
at 01:04 AM

No, the point is that not all foods are toxic (or are toxic to a much smaller degree), so you don't have to evolve a tolerance to them.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 19, 2012
at 07:49 PM

You could see the vestiges of the diet in my grandparents. Salad meant cottage cheese with mayo and a piece of canned fruit. If you were lucky you got a piece of iceberg lettuce with that.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 19, 2012
at 07:45 PM

This question provoked a lot of N=1 introspection. Prior to the advent of world trade 500 years ago, my ancestors probably ate a high percentage of fish with minimal carbs. There were no potatoes, and grains and dairy levels had to have been much lower. Fresh vegetables and fruits are an even newer addition, in the last 50-100 years. Worst of all: no coffee. They took to that like fish to water.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 19, 2012
at 07:38 PM

That's the point borofergie. For most of us soybeans and coconut oil are something we have not had any selection for. But coconut oil isn't killing paleo dieters - yet. Soybeans may be killing SAD dieters, but a lot of the world has adapted to them successfully after eating them for 20 generations.

Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on October 18, 2012
at 11:26 PM

Certainly if it did cause stillbirths, then that would have lead to some initial adaption. If it doesnt kill your outright though, your going to adapt much slower.

Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on October 18, 2012
at 11:25 PM

@ Dan W: lol :P :D But good point, it may not have been the sudden large increase in grain eating. I consider it likely, but its hardly proven.

Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on October 18, 2012
at 11:24 PM

^ lol :P :D But good point, it may not have been the sudden large increase in grain eating. I consider it likely, but its hardly proven.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 18, 2012
at 11:23 PM

Never heard such nonsense

5bac45c78a2be60bc17fc2084a0f5d43

(259)

on October 18, 2012
at 10:58 PM

If they ate more diary I assume they were from north so they didn't eat that much grains and beans and probably didn't eat wheat.

B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on October 18, 2012
at 10:56 PM

FFS. What selection pressure do you think is driving your genetic adaption to tofu over the last 0.25 generations?

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 18, 2012
at 07:52 PM

So borofergie when did we become genetically adapted to eating processed foods like bacon and coconut oil? Fish reaches back to before paleo. So do fruits. So that's maybe all that a paleo dieter must include in his/her diet? That's nonsense. We've adapted to eat all of the above foods, even though we've only been eating stuff like coconut oil and tofu for the past 0.25 generations.

7bf306ada57db47547e9da39a415edf6

(11214)

on October 18, 2012
at 07:04 PM

The argument is not that paleo man didn't eat these foods because he was intolerant, but that they did not exist as food. The caveat, of course, is if someone is starving they will try to eat anything. Since all infants nurse, the adaptation to be able to drink milk consists of a pre-existing capability not being turned off, which is far simpler than adapting to eat wheat, for instance. Especially the modern hybrid stuff that has just been invented within the past 40yrs or so.

B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on October 18, 2012
at 06:08 PM

Just because you tolerate something doesn't mean that you are genetically adapted to it.

194d8e8140425057fe06202e1e5822a7

(3979)

on October 18, 2012
at 05:06 PM

Who is to say that their grain-eating was the cause of the infant deaths? What if it was the God of the Hebrews slaying all their first-borns?

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 18, 2012
at 03:52 PM

X = dairy also.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 18, 2012
at 03:46 PM

My ancestors ate way more dairy, so I would expect they had better bones and teeth than I do.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 18, 2012
at 03:41 PM

I'd guess my ancestors started heavily eating the dairy, grain and potatoes 400-500 years ago, with the advent of world trade. I'm well adapted to all three, so for my N=1 20 generations was enough to develop a heritable adaptation.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 18, 2012
at 01:21 PM

I think the imbedding of ancestral diets takes relatively few generations to be heritable. Half my ancestors ate a Nordic "white" diet of dairy, fish, potatoes and grains, and very few fresh fruits and vegetables. We the descendants inherited relatively few problems with gluten, lactose and casein. But we also inherited a diet which is terrible (excepting the fish) if you overeat it. That side of my family had/has a lot of obesity and CV problems.

Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on October 18, 2012
at 06:56 AM

This one I think: http://youtu.be/bmL0gKEz00Q

Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on October 18, 2012
at 06:55 AM

^ One of Mat Lalonde's videos online, on youtube.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 18, 2012
at 03:30 AM

@Jamie where did you get **When the egyptians started eating grains, for many generations they had mass infant mortality ** ??

B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on October 18, 2012
at 03:07 AM

I said 1048576 *potential* ancestors.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on October 18, 2012
at 03:04 AM

You're from the UK, you should know all about inbreeding... royal family and all that.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on October 18, 2012
at 03:03 AM

It's much less than 1048576 ancestors... inbreeding and all you know.

Medium avatar

(379)

on October 18, 2012
at 02:24 AM

@Jamie, I messed up the number, but it's now fixed to say 12,000 years. @Diane, I mean that the Inuit are thicker because of the cold climate they have adapted to. From a Google search: In 1847, the German biologist Carl Bergmann observed that within the same species of warm-blooded animals, populations having less massive individuals are more often found in warm climates near the equator, while those with greater bulk, or mass, are found further from the equator in colder regions.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 18, 2012
at 01:25 AM

One of the eerie aspects of this event was an angry American opening a bottle which he claimed contained the disease. Whether it did is unlikely, but his name was associated with it.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on October 18, 2012
at 12:10 AM

A selective event like the more resistant English and American fur traders perhaps getting a little freaky with the indigenous tribe members?

F9638b939a6f85d67f60065677193cad

(4266)

on October 17, 2012
at 11:23 PM

Why do you think the Inuit are big?

Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on October 17, 2012
at 11:11 PM

In general, evolution doesnt happen quickly unless their is a strong pressure, like immediate death, such as when grains were first used by the egyptians, or when man had to eat vlc, mostly meat in the ice age. BTW, where did you get 200,000 years from? Agricultural revolution happened 12,000 years ago only.

Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on October 17, 2012
at 11:07 PM

When the egyptians started eating grains, for many generations they had mass infant mortality (stillbirths). We dont get stillbirths anymore, so grains no longer kill your outright, so yes, we have evolved somewhat to wheat. Its not enough time for people to have fully adapted, but some adaption has taken place. People do also have different genes. As for beans, well I am not sure if we are poorly adapted or not. The hazda eat tsi-tsi beans, and they live in the cradle of civilisation. Then again, different beans may be different. Thats a harder call IMO.

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11 Answers

5
B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on October 17, 2012
at 10:26 PM

20 generations are nothing on an evolutionary timescale. How sure are you that all of your 1048576 potential ancestors ate only rice and beans? You'd be surprised how many of them didn't.

B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on October 18, 2012
at 03:07 AM

I said 1048576 *potential* ancestors.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on October 18, 2012
at 03:03 AM

It's much less than 1048576 ancestors... inbreeding and all you know.

B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on October 20, 2012
at 01:04 AM

No, the point is that not all foods are toxic (or are toxic to a much smaller degree), so you don't have to evolve a tolerance to them.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on October 18, 2012
at 03:04 AM

You're from the UK, you should know all about inbreeding... royal family and all that.

B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on October 18, 2012
at 10:56 PM

FFS. What selection pressure do you think is driving your genetic adaption to tofu over the last 0.25 generations?

B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on October 20, 2012
at 09:12 AM

The dose makes the poison

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 18, 2012
at 03:41 PM

I'd guess my ancestors started heavily eating the dairy, grain and potatoes 400-500 years ago, with the advent of world trade. I'm well adapted to all three, so for my N=1 20 generations was enough to develop a heritable adaptation.

B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on October 18, 2012
at 06:08 PM

Just because you tolerate something doesn't mean that you are genetically adapted to it.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 18, 2012
at 07:52 PM

So borofergie when did we become genetically adapted to eating processed foods like bacon and coconut oil? Fish reaches back to before paleo. So do fruits. So that's maybe all that a paleo dieter must include in his/her diet? That's nonsense. We've adapted to eat all of the above foods, even though we've only been eating stuff like coconut oil and tofu for the past 0.25 generations.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 19, 2012
at 07:38 PM

That's the point borofergie. For most of us soybeans and coconut oil are something we have not had any selection for. But coconut oil isn't killing paleo dieters - yet. Soybeans may be killing SAD dieters, but a lot of the world has adapted to them successfully after eating them for 20 generations.

3
32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on October 18, 2012
at 04:52 PM

Adding another thought... is there evidence that intolerances are the norm? Wheat, grains, soy, dairy, legumes, etc. The assumption is that paleolithic man didn't eat these because he was intolerant to them. Who's to say that present-day intolerances aren't modern in origin?

Ok, lactose intolerance is an ancient intolerance that's actually getting bred out over time. It's something that suggests that evolution is faster than we'd like to admit. Who's to say that intolerances to legumes, grains, soy aren't getting bred in?

Another example of paleo normalizing dysfunction?

7bf306ada57db47547e9da39a415edf6

(11214)

on October 18, 2012
at 07:04 PM

The argument is not that paleo man didn't eat these foods because he was intolerant, but that they did not exist as food. The caveat, of course, is if someone is starving they will try to eat anything. Since all infants nurse, the adaptation to be able to drink milk consists of a pre-existing capability not being turned off, which is far simpler than adapting to eat wheat, for instance. Especially the modern hybrid stuff that has just been invented within the past 40yrs or so.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on September 07, 2013
at 01:28 AM

Primitive versions did exist, man didn't create them, they were around before man. If we don't eat foods now because they didn't exist then is the entire premise behind paleo (it isn't), then that makes paleo a pretty unsound theory of eating. Who's to say that current intolerances to grains, legumes, soy aren't modern? After all, we cannot know if paleolithic man was intolerant to such foods or not.

A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3

(12682)

on October 21, 2012
at 10:20 PM

When you ask if intolerances are being bred in, does that mean genetic predisposition to food intolerances is increasing? It's an interesting idea, I just want to make sure that's what you're saying. I once got in a little argument with Andrew Badenoch who suggested celiac disease was an evolved adaptation to a harmful compound. Perhaps not exactly the same.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on October 22, 2012
at 01:32 AM

Evolution goes either way. We can gain or lose tolerance to certain foods. Is modern-day gluten intolerance coming about in a similar manner to modern-day lactose tolerance? I don't know, but it's an interesting question to ask. I'm not sure I agree with Mr. Badenoch, gluten is not a harmful compound. It's not a plant defense mechanism, it's a storage protein as far as I can tell. What evolutionary (reproductive) advantage would there be to gluten-intolerance?

3
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 18, 2012
at 03:48 AM

With the exception of a small percentage of people that have severe allergies and intolerances to grain based proteins (note I said proteins and not carbs), most people benefit from paleo because it helps with obesity, which is caused by the tremendous intake of processed foods, highly sedentary lifestyles and appetites that are out of control.

You would find that your grandparents, great-grandparents and so forth had very few issues with managing weight despite having bread and other grains as dietary staples.

In respect to considering the role of epigenetics in your progeny see: http://www.naturalhistorymag.com/features/142195/beyond-dna-epigenetics

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 18, 2012
at 01:21 PM

I think the imbedding of ancestral diets takes relatively few generations to be heritable. Half my ancestors ate a Nordic "white" diet of dairy, fish, potatoes and grains, and very few fresh fruits and vegetables. We the descendants inherited relatively few problems with gluten, lactose and casein. But we also inherited a diet which is terrible (excepting the fish) if you overeat it. That side of my family had/has a lot of obesity and CV problems.

3
032a7274ac01078dc60db95728175ef4

on October 17, 2012
at 10:33 PM

This woman: http://www.thepaleomom.com/2012/07/why-arent-humans-adapted-to-grains.html explains it really well. Read and you'll understand. :)

2
5bac45c78a2be60bc17fc2084a0f5d43

(259)

on October 17, 2012
at 10:55 PM

If you are healthy and young, if your ancestors ate agricultural products for many generations, if you eat organic, traditionally prepared grains and beans, similar to what your ancestors ate, then probably you will be able to tolerate that well.

I'd like to remind though that your ancestors probably had weak bones, bad teeth and smaller complexion than people who ate meat oriented diet. Please don't accept as an insult - but people of agricultural empires were sicker and weaker than barbarians, that's a historical fact.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 18, 2012
at 03:46 PM

My ancestors ate way more dairy, so I would expect they had better bones and teeth than I do.

5bac45c78a2be60bc17fc2084a0f5d43

(259)

on October 18, 2012
at 10:58 PM

If they ate more diary I assume they were from north so they didn't eat that much grains and beans and probably didn't eat wheat.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 19, 2012
at 07:45 PM

This question provoked a lot of N=1 introspection. Prior to the advent of world trade 500 years ago, my ancestors probably ate a high percentage of fish with minimal carbs. There were no potatoes, and grains and dairy levels had to have been much lower. Fresh vegetables and fruits are an even newer addition, in the last 50-100 years. Worst of all: no coffee. They took to that like fish to water.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 19, 2012
at 07:49 PM

You could see the vestiges of the diet in my grandparents. Salad meant cottage cheese with mayo and a piece of canned fruit. If you were lucky you got a piece of iceberg lettuce with that.

1
7bf306ada57db47547e9da39a415edf6

(11214)

on October 18, 2012
at 04:18 PM

Evolution takes a long time. We do make adaptations to our current environment: indeed, one of the reasons people get so obese nowadays is to survive under the current onslaught of artificiality.
One could therefore make the argument that in the modern era, we are devolving- adapting to an artificial environment that we will soon no longer be able to maintain.
In terms of things like rice and beans- look, with evolutionary theory we can make educated guesses- hypothesis that can be tested. So we say from a very abstract level that rice and beans aren't good for us because they have lectins or whatever. Then, you ought to unleash the biologists, chemists, etc... So, these folks go look at the composition of white rice and see it is pretty clean- mainly starch and probably alright if you can handle starch. Matt Lalonde has already got into the legume thing. I don't think he recommends soy, but he's looked into other beans and it appears most of the lectins get destroyed in the cooking process. A similar thought process goes into eating dairy fat- it is animal fat. If you are particularly sensitive to milk proteins, you just purifiy it more (ghee), but despite it's neolithic origins, it is animal fat and therefore something we can handle pretty well.

So, instead of doing historical research, we need scientific research so we can refine our protocols. We cannot observe the past, nor can we go back into it and rerun while changing only one variable in order to find out if our assumptions are correct. We can, however use our knowledge of the past in order to come up with ideas to test. This is the way forward.

1
E6c14efded576a0bea38a2fe2beced6a

on October 18, 2012
at 03:10 PM

In the history of all mankind it was seen...blah, blah, blah.

N=1

Yeah, that's still pretty much the answer to nearly every question posted on this board.

1
2e777bbcd49262eb31a24f821abec6bc

(1974)

on October 18, 2012
at 12:48 PM

I have not yet reintroduced rice or oats but I actually have reintroduced black beans and have no trouble with them at all. I think that eliminating grains eliminates processed foods which is the major reason that people feel so great on a paleo diet. I doubt that rice and oats are all that bad in their true form but most people dont eat that... They eat bread and crackers and chip. This is just my speculation... I plan to reintroduce rice and oats in a few weeks and see how I feel. I also think that most people rely too heavily on them. Eating a portion of grains a day is probably fine but most people today eat them as 50% of their calories.

1
32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on October 18, 2012
at 03:00 AM

You don't need to argue evolution with your ability to digest rice and beans. Most everybody can (despite what paleo says). Just because some ancestor a few hundred thousand years ago didn't eat X, doesn't mean they couldn't digest X, doesn't mean you can't digest X, doesn't mean you shouldn't eat X.

X = rice, beans, wheat, etc...

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 18, 2012
at 03:52 PM

X = dairy also.

1
3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on October 18, 2012
at 02:30 AM

Of course we are still evolving. Personally, I think of paleo as a process to get to the root of your current biological state.

Would 20 generations get you there? No, probably not. Regardless, you and your siblings have different gene expressions, so what's true for you might not be for him/her.

But, eliminate all neolithic foods and get your body right. then slow add back in other foods and see how you react. I have been surprised to know that I apparently react poorly to potatoes (And I have Irish Ancestry) but seem to have no reaction to other nightshades.

Use paleo as a template for eliminating troubling foods from your diet and to heal your body. Then experiment.

1
Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 17, 2012
at 11:40 PM

I'm currently reading about a major selection event. In the summer of 1830 the indigenous tribes along the Columbia River were struck by "cold fever". By accounts from the time this appears to have been malaria, because those struck by it were responsive to quinine and bark extracts. The population was literally decimated, with entire tribes and villages suffering 100% mortality. Tens of thousands died. Yet while the English & American fur traders in the area were affected by it, the fever was not generally fatal to them. At this point in time the affected indigenous tribes have recovered. It appears that a selective adaptation has taken place, within 5-10 generations.

Contrast this with lactose and gluten tolerance. While selective forces may have been strong in ancient Egypt, the much earlier central Anatolians were already adapted to grain eating. Considering that couscous and other grain products are now staple foods in Egypt, and that the population is much larger than it was 4000 years ago, it appears that similar selection occurred there as well.

Is this evolution? Maybe so, maybe not. These tolerances are often reversable. But they are also heritable.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on October 18, 2012
at 12:10 AM

A selective event like the more resistant English and American fur traders perhaps getting a little freaky with the indigenous tribe members?

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 18, 2012
at 01:25 AM

One of the eerie aspects of this event was an angry American opening a bottle which he claimed contained the disease. Whether it did is unlikely, but his name was associated with it.

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