2

votes

Wisdom teeth and appendix versus Paleo diet

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created March 21, 2011 at 11:31 PM

My limited understanding of human anatomy is that we have wisdom teeth and an appendix, which enabled us to cope with eating and digesting a diet which included a much higher intake of roughage, fibre (plants and tree bark) than Paleo followers recommend - am I missing something?

E76821f1019f5284761bc4c33f2bf044

(383)

on January 11, 2012
at 03:09 PM

Oh lordy, DudleyP! Google the WAP conception diet: More animal fats, especially choline, Vits A,D,E+K, extended breastfeeding and chewing hard foods (gnawing on bones etc) for skull development...

50637dfd7dc7a7e811d82283f4f5fd10

(5838)

on March 25, 2011
at 03:23 PM

I had to get my appendix out in 5th grade, on Valentine's Day. My diet until a little over a year ago was mainly sugar and grains.

2f54dbe892ec89b12d1db686568e885a

(919)

on March 23, 2011
at 07:05 PM

that'll be too late for me too

2f54dbe892ec89b12d1db686568e885a

(919)

on March 23, 2011
at 09:00 AM

If you are right, that answers my question. However, I was not trying to bring in other vestigial parts of our anatomy to find some connection with diet. You raised the issue of the tailbone, which patently has no impact on our diets, past or present. If you are not right, then there must be an explanation, possibly dietary changes, as to why the appendix and wisdom teeth are on the way out. From the answers I have received, which are all inconclusive, the balance appears to be in your favour.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on March 23, 2011
at 12:22 AM

There is no magic food we no longer eat. There are no magic foods. The appendix isn't there to help you digest things. Literally: it has no function in digestion. It's only known function is to repopulate the gut with bacteria following some illness which wipes it out. That is useful REGARDLESS of diet. The tailbone is a perfect analogy: you are attempting to force dietary significance on to things which do not have dietary significance. Saying that wisdom teeth and our appendix must imply some magical food we should be eating makes as much sense as saying our tailbone implies the same. None.

Fa9f340eddbad9a544184c688fa4dcdd

(6433)

on March 22, 2011
at 11:39 PM

Well if we enter into formal negotations with the Chinese now, I'd say that we'd get the go ahead, ooh I don't know, about fifty years after the death of the last panda.

2f54dbe892ec89b12d1db686568e885a

(919)

on March 22, 2011
at 08:27 PM

What is the "magic food we no longer eat", this is precisely what I am trying to establish, the absence of which has brought our wisdom teeth and appendix into apparent disuse. I cannot see how a tailbone can impact on what goes into our stomach, bacteria in our gut I can. The tailbone has about as much relevance to our lives today, as our small toes, which are about to disappear off the evolutionary scale.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on March 22, 2011
at 08:17 PM

For the same reason we have a tailbone and worthless ear moving muscles: we used to be forest dwelling frugivores. We retain random vestigial anatomy from that time period. You might as well ask why we have a tailbone and what the dietary implications are. Again, the appendix is a mystery to everyone, because it serves no digestive purpose. It doesn't matter what you eat, your appendix will not help you digest it. It will preserve gut bacteria, perhaps to assist in recovering from an illness, but it doesn't help you deal with a magic food we no longer eat.

2f54dbe892ec89b12d1db686568e885a

(919)

on March 22, 2011
at 07:53 PM

there's the answer Simibee - I think they should be told

2f54dbe892ec89b12d1db686568e885a

(919)

on March 22, 2011
at 06:57 PM

Nature does abhor a weakness, so that where eg a bone is fractured, given the opportunity the bone heals to be stronger at the point of fracture than it was prior to the fracture. Wisdom teeth existed, and people have an appendix. My question is why? What part of our ancestor's diet required them. Why would we have a repository for gut bacteria if not to aid with the digestion of food which we ate with our teeth, wisdom teeth included?

Fa9f340eddbad9a544184c688fa4dcdd

(6433)

on March 22, 2011
at 06:53 PM

True - makes you wonder what would happen if their keepers snuck a little ground meat into their food.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on March 22, 2011
at 05:51 PM

Ancient paleo peoples have these structures because they represent the transitory form between us and whatever common ancestor actually needed a mouth full of molars to grind roughage. They didn't need them, but having them didn't really matter either, so there was no rapid evolutionary change. Instead, there's just a general drift with random variation in the population. The appendix may actually serve a useful purpose (gut bacteria repository) but probably has no dietary implications.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on March 22, 2011
at 05:48 PM

Your given is false. Nature abhors a vacuum. It doesn't care about vestigial structures in a transitory form. If there is no selective pressure that requires you to have wisdom teeth, and no selective pressure that requires you NOT to have wisdom teeth, then both having and not having wisdom teeth will appear in human populations based on whatever random genetic drift has occurred over time. This is exactly what has occurred, demonstrating that wisdom teeth have become irrelevant to survival over time.

Ef9f83cb4e1826261a44c173f733789e

(13635)

on March 22, 2011
at 05:22 PM

Thanks for the info.

2f54dbe892ec89b12d1db686568e885a

(919)

on March 22, 2011
at 05:13 PM

My point is this. Given that nature abhors a weakness, why would our Paleo ancestors have wisdom teeth and an appendix, if not to cope with something in their diet which was beneficial to them. If beneficial to them, then by extension to us as well. What have we post-Paleo omitted from our diets which have caused those parts of our anatomy to have fallen into desuetude, and become "evolutionary remnants"?

2f54dbe892ec89b12d1db686568e885a

(919)

on March 22, 2011
at 03:19 PM

reproduction is also a problem

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on March 22, 2011
at 01:43 PM

Carl, in Good Calories, Bad Calories, Gary Taubes describes appendicitis as a disease of civilization that is associated with refined grain/sugar consumption. Apparently Dr. Schweitzer spent 30 years in Africa before seeing a single case in the local population, but then started seeing it with increasing frequency as they started adopting European diets. The mechanism, however, is not explained.

Fa9f340eddbad9a544184c688fa4dcdd

(6433)

on March 22, 2011
at 01:11 PM

Yeah but they're too lethargic to hunt anything because of their bamboo diet...

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on March 22, 2011
at 12:59 PM

What about the people that don't get wisdom teeth at all? Genetic drift and a total lack of selective pressure has allowed human populations to survive without wisdom teeth, so the genes that cause them to come in are turned off in some people. This has absolutely zero to do with agriculture: African agriculturalists almost always get their wisdom teeth while new world agriculturalists almost never do. Price's work is about the effects of gross malnutrition on dental structure in individuals, not the effects of genetic drift over populations; it says nothing about the genetics of wisdom teeth.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on March 22, 2011
at 12:50 PM

...? I'm missing your point. I don't think many people shun wood bark because your body doesn't need carbohydrates. They shun wood bark because there are other, more nutritious foods available. Carbohydrate content is irrelevant. I don't see how any of this relates to the appendix or wisdom teeth. Both are evolutionary _remnants_, not adaptations with dietary implications.

2f54dbe892ec89b12d1db686568e885a

(919)

on March 22, 2011
at 09:22 AM

pandas are carnivores.

2f54dbe892ec89b12d1db686568e885a

(919)

on March 22, 2011
at 09:20 AM

a true paleo diet would have been beneficial for the appendix

2f54dbe892ec89b12d1db686568e885a

(919)

on March 22, 2011
at 08:58 AM

so what happened to change us from having "better developed and wider skulls and palates" to present-day more cramped craniums which you describe. Is this attributable to a less than perfect modern diet, albeit it 'Paleo', compared to that of our Paleo ancestors? Are we missing out on anything in our diet which might reverse such evolutionary trend?

2f54dbe892ec89b12d1db686568e885a

(919)

on March 22, 2011
at 08:50 AM

the body does have a number of vestigial organs of which I am also aware - the coccyx, tonsils and ear muscles amongst many - none of these are directly connected to eating and digestion as I would submit the appendix and wisdom teeth are - my point is that items, which were at one time included in our diets are no longer, and that those items may well have been "un-Paleo" in that they were high carbohydrate (wood bark, plants etc) which Paleo members shun on the premise that the body does not need carbohydrate to survive

28734e347ced836300e21c41481e155d

(30)

on March 22, 2011
at 08:43 AM

Interesting you mention some human populations have lost their wisdom teeth - I was informed by dentist that I don't actually have any after having an X-ray some years ago

6869a1f2294b3a717a53645589a91d18

(1689)

on March 22, 2011
at 03:40 AM

Weston Price's work is adequate explanation for me. People on good diets have more broad and generally better dental structure, in which wisdom teeth fit perfectly fine.

Ef9f83cb4e1826261a44c173f733789e

(13635)

on March 22, 2011
at 01:10 AM

Correct, impacted. I don't see how a paleo diet would have prevented the appendix problem.

Medium avatar

(39831)

on March 22, 2011
at 12:47 AM

I realize that you likely meant impaction for the wisdom teeth instead of what I initially assumed were cavities due to increased cleaning difficulty.

Medium avatar

(39831)

on March 22, 2011
at 12:38 AM

A paleo diet from birth would have likely prevented both problems in the first place, right?

Medium avatar

(39831)

on March 22, 2011
at 12:38 AM

A paleo diet would have likely prevented both problems in the first place, right?

5672b2d190891342389e764cc4056ca9

(1304)

on March 22, 2011
at 12:17 AM

True: only 99% of their diet is bamboo...

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on March 22, 2011
at 12:12 AM

Well, you have a hypothesis: that agriculture generated the vestigiality of wisdom teeth. Unfortunately, it doesn't pan out, since populations with long histories of agriculture still get them and populations relatively less close to agriculture have lost them. Also, you seem to be implying that there's no such thing as vestigiality; could you explain everything on the wiki by an appeal to agriculture or would you accept that evolution produces transitional forms?

F9a0b72f38860d7601afd5a45bb53394

(3618)

on March 22, 2011
at 12:09 AM

I think pandas *do* eat other things in addition to bamboo.

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on March 21, 2011
at 11:55 PM

This was just part of a question on Cash Cab! According to their question, Darwin believed the appendix was used for digesting leaves.

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6 Answers

5
F9a0b72f38860d7601afd5a45bb53394

(3618)

on March 22, 2011
at 12:09 AM

The term "vestigal" means, in practice, "We have no idea what this does, so we have decided it's not important, since clearly we know more about the human body than Nature does."

Look into Weston Price's work. The Paleo movement is already aware that human beings have shrunk in stature and cranial capacity (brain size) since the advent of agriculture. Stands to reason that populations in which wisdom teeth are "vestigal" are populations which have been damaged by that agriculture.

I mean, probably, in a pinch, you could live without about half your teeth. Does that make half your teeth vestigal?

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on March 22, 2011
at 12:12 AM

Well, you have a hypothesis: that agriculture generated the vestigiality of wisdom teeth. Unfortunately, it doesn't pan out, since populations with long histories of agriculture still get them and populations relatively less close to agriculture have lost them. Also, you seem to be implying that there's no such thing as vestigiality; could you explain everything on the wiki by an appeal to agriculture or would you accept that evolution produces transitional forms?

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on March 22, 2011
at 12:59 PM

What about the people that don't get wisdom teeth at all? Genetic drift and a total lack of selective pressure has allowed human populations to survive without wisdom teeth, so the genes that cause them to come in are turned off in some people. This has absolutely zero to do with agriculture: African agriculturalists almost always get their wisdom teeth while new world agriculturalists almost never do. Price's work is about the effects of gross malnutrition on dental structure in individuals, not the effects of genetic drift over populations; it says nothing about the genetics of wisdom teeth.

6869a1f2294b3a717a53645589a91d18

(1689)

on March 22, 2011
at 03:40 AM

Weston Price's work is adequate explanation for me. People on good diets have more broad and generally better dental structure, in which wisdom teeth fit perfectly fine.

2
26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

on March 22, 2011
at 01:36 AM

I've never heard wisdom teeth or appendix mentioned as helpful for a diet higher in roughage.

'Primitive' people with good nutrition had better developed and wider skulls and palates. letting all their teeth +wisdom come in with room to spare. According to Weston A Price, anyway. And somewhat, to archaeologists and anthropologists - there are plenty of ancient hominid and human skulls with wide, roomy jaws and 32 teeth still in them.

My father only has two wisdom teeth, I have three, and all of them are in with no pain and healthy so far (I am 25) as I have a fairly spacious jaw, compared to most people I know. Many of my female friends had to have non-wisdom adult teeth pulled in childhood, because their jaws were so small they would have had impaction and severe crowding if they had all their teeth... something about that seems very wrong to me.

2f54dbe892ec89b12d1db686568e885a

(919)

on March 22, 2011
at 08:58 AM

so what happened to change us from having "better developed and wider skulls and palates" to present-day more cramped craniums which you describe. Is this attributable to a less than perfect modern diet, albeit it 'Paleo', compared to that of our Paleo ancestors? Are we missing out on anything in our diet which might reverse such evolutionary trend?

E76821f1019f5284761bc4c33f2bf044

(383)

on January 11, 2012
at 03:09 PM

Oh lordy, DudleyP! Google the WAP conception diet: More animal fats, especially choline, Vits A,D,E+K, extended breastfeeding and chewing hard foods (gnawing on bones etc) for skull development...

2
4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on March 21, 2011
at 11:53 PM

Why would the appendix help with roughage? It's not digestively useful; it seems to serve as a repository of bowel bacteria and do little else. Wisdom teeth have actually disappeared from some human populations (see here) and in any case also appear vestigal - they don't actually really help you chew roughage if they come in. The rest of your body isn't particularly set up for digesting fiber in any event, so having more teeth would be of dubious benefit.

For more info on human vestigiality (you happened to pick two examples), check out the wiki. Evolution is always a work in progress and there's plenty of random bits on our bodies which don't serve any useful purpose.

2f54dbe892ec89b12d1db686568e885a

(919)

on March 22, 2011
at 05:13 PM

My point is this. Given that nature abhors a weakness, why would our Paleo ancestors have wisdom teeth and an appendix, if not to cope with something in their diet which was beneficial to them. If beneficial to them, then by extension to us as well. What have we post-Paleo omitted from our diets which have caused those parts of our anatomy to have fallen into desuetude, and become "evolutionary remnants"?

28734e347ced836300e21c41481e155d

(30)

on March 22, 2011
at 08:43 AM

Interesting you mention some human populations have lost their wisdom teeth - I was informed by dentist that I don't actually have any after having an X-ray some years ago

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on March 22, 2011
at 05:51 PM

Ancient paleo peoples have these structures because they represent the transitory form between us and whatever common ancestor actually needed a mouth full of molars to grind roughage. They didn't need them, but having them didn't really matter either, so there was no rapid evolutionary change. Instead, there's just a general drift with random variation in the population. The appendix may actually serve a useful purpose (gut bacteria repository) but probably has no dietary implications.

2f54dbe892ec89b12d1db686568e885a

(919)

on March 22, 2011
at 08:27 PM

What is the "magic food we no longer eat", this is precisely what I am trying to establish, the absence of which has brought our wisdom teeth and appendix into apparent disuse. I cannot see how a tailbone can impact on what goes into our stomach, bacteria in our gut I can. The tailbone has about as much relevance to our lives today, as our small toes, which are about to disappear off the evolutionary scale.

2f54dbe892ec89b12d1db686568e885a

(919)

on March 22, 2011
at 08:50 AM

the body does have a number of vestigial organs of which I am also aware - the coccyx, tonsils and ear muscles amongst many - none of these are directly connected to eating and digestion as I would submit the appendix and wisdom teeth are - my point is that items, which were at one time included in our diets are no longer, and that those items may well have been "un-Paleo" in that they were high carbohydrate (wood bark, plants etc) which Paleo members shun on the premise that the body does not need carbohydrate to survive

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on March 23, 2011
at 12:22 AM

There is no magic food we no longer eat. There are no magic foods. The appendix isn't there to help you digest things. Literally: it has no function in digestion. It's only known function is to repopulate the gut with bacteria following some illness which wipes it out. That is useful REGARDLESS of diet. The tailbone is a perfect analogy: you are attempting to force dietary significance on to things which do not have dietary significance. Saying that wisdom teeth and our appendix must imply some magical food we should be eating makes as much sense as saying our tailbone implies the same. None.

2f54dbe892ec89b12d1db686568e885a

(919)

on March 23, 2011
at 09:00 AM

If you are right, that answers my question. However, I was not trying to bring in other vestigial parts of our anatomy to find some connection with diet. You raised the issue of the tailbone, which patently has no impact on our diets, past or present. If you are not right, then there must be an explanation, possibly dietary changes, as to why the appendix and wisdom teeth are on the way out. From the answers I have received, which are all inconclusive, the balance appears to be in your favour.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on March 22, 2011
at 05:48 PM

Your given is false. Nature abhors a vacuum. It doesn't care about vestigial structures in a transitory form. If there is no selective pressure that requires you to have wisdom teeth, and no selective pressure that requires you NOT to have wisdom teeth, then both having and not having wisdom teeth will appear in human populations based on whatever random genetic drift has occurred over time. This is exactly what has occurred, demonstrating that wisdom teeth have become irrelevant to survival over time.

2f54dbe892ec89b12d1db686568e885a

(919)

on March 22, 2011
at 06:57 PM

Nature does abhor a weakness, so that where eg a bone is fractured, given the opportunity the bone heals to be stronger at the point of fracture than it was prior to the fracture. Wisdom teeth existed, and people have an appendix. My question is why? What part of our ancestor's diet required them. Why would we have a repository for gut bacteria if not to aid with the digestion of food which we ate with our teeth, wisdom teeth included?

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on March 22, 2011
at 08:17 PM

For the same reason we have a tailbone and worthless ear moving muscles: we used to be forest dwelling frugivores. We retain random vestigial anatomy from that time period. You might as well ask why we have a tailbone and what the dietary implications are. Again, the appendix is a mystery to everyone, because it serves no digestive purpose. It doesn't matter what you eat, your appendix will not help you digest it. It will preserve gut bacteria, perhaps to assist in recovering from an illness, but it doesn't help you deal with a magic food we no longer eat.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on March 22, 2011
at 12:50 PM

...? I'm missing your point. I don't think many people shun wood bark because your body doesn't need carbohydrates. They shun wood bark because there are other, more nutritious foods available. Carbohydrate content is irrelevant. I don't see how any of this relates to the appendix or wisdom teeth. Both are evolutionary _remnants_, not adaptations with dietary implications.

1
7402630da1d0b9bb97d614fe402d032a

(290)

on March 25, 2011
at 01:37 PM

I see wisdom teeth not so much as excess baggage but as possible replacements for back molars that may have been lost due to cavity. I am no scientist and have done no research. I will say though that I had wisdom teeth only on the top, my mother got none at all but my dad had 4. Does that make me a hybrid that went 50/50?

Now my ex-husband is from Malaysia and he has a bit of local native blood plus hokkein chinese. He has 6 toenails on each foot and that is passed on through the females only so my hybrid girl child got it but her male cousins who were hybrids didn't. My x also had 3 sets of teeth which is freaky and he had to have several surgically removed. My girl got one freak extra tooth that never erupted.

So I think we humans are very varied genetically weather we need these extra bits or not. In the short term of evolution these minor localised traits are not significant but in the big picture over a longer evolutionary scale a trait that belongs to a particular group may give that group advantage over an other in a Darwinian survival of the fittest kind of way. Who is to say at some point in the very distant future people with 6 toe nails may be better adapted at driving space ships and are less likely to crash into moons therefore passing on their DNA. But then again these people may be considered sexy and pass on the extra toe nail gene anyway because they have another feature of a beautiful big toothy smile that is more obvious and attractive. So perhaps there are multiple factors in genetic selection not just food and environment.

1
5672b2d190891342389e764cc4056ca9

(1304)

on March 21, 2011
at 11:56 PM

According to this logic, giant pandas should eat meat instead of bamboo because they have the canine teeth of a carnivore...

Fa9f340eddbad9a544184c688fa4dcdd

(6433)

on March 22, 2011
at 06:53 PM

True - makes you wonder what would happen if their keepers snuck a little ground meat into their food.

F9a0b72f38860d7601afd5a45bb53394

(3618)

on March 22, 2011
at 12:09 AM

I think pandas *do* eat other things in addition to bamboo.

2f54dbe892ec89b12d1db686568e885a

(919)

on March 22, 2011
at 03:19 PM

reproduction is also a problem

2f54dbe892ec89b12d1db686568e885a

(919)

on March 22, 2011
at 09:22 AM

pandas are carnivores.

2f54dbe892ec89b12d1db686568e885a

(919)

on March 22, 2011
at 07:53 PM

there's the answer Simibee - I think they should be told

5672b2d190891342389e764cc4056ca9

(1304)

on March 22, 2011
at 12:17 AM

True: only 99% of their diet is bamboo...

Fa9f340eddbad9a544184c688fa4dcdd

(6433)

on March 22, 2011
at 01:11 PM

Yeah but they're too lethargic to hunt anything because of their bamboo diet...

2f54dbe892ec89b12d1db686568e885a

(919)

on March 23, 2011
at 07:05 PM

that'll be too late for me too

Fa9f340eddbad9a544184c688fa4dcdd

(6433)

on March 22, 2011
at 11:39 PM

Well if we enter into formal negotations with the Chinese now, I'd say that we'd get the go ahead, ooh I don't know, about fifty years after the death of the last panda.

0
Ef9f83cb4e1826261a44c173f733789e

on March 22, 2011
at 12:35 AM

Wisdom teeth and the appendix would have killed paleos. My appendix burst and my wisdom teeth where so bad I would have died from not eating or an infection. Modern medical processes and tech saved me.

Medium avatar

(39831)

on March 22, 2011
at 12:38 AM

A paleo diet would have likely prevented both problems in the first place, right?

Ef9f83cb4e1826261a44c173f733789e

(13635)

on March 22, 2011
at 05:22 PM

Thanks for the info.

2f54dbe892ec89b12d1db686568e885a

(919)

on March 22, 2011
at 09:20 AM

a true paleo diet would have been beneficial for the appendix

Medium avatar

(39831)

on March 22, 2011
at 12:47 AM

I realize that you likely meant impaction for the wisdom teeth instead of what I initially assumed were cavities due to increased cleaning difficulty.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on March 22, 2011
at 01:43 PM

Carl, in Good Calories, Bad Calories, Gary Taubes describes appendicitis as a disease of civilization that is associated with refined grain/sugar consumption. Apparently Dr. Schweitzer spent 30 years in Africa before seeing a single case in the local population, but then started seeing it with increasing frequency as they started adopting European diets. The mechanism, however, is not explained.

Medium avatar

(39831)

on March 22, 2011
at 12:38 AM

A paleo diet from birth would have likely prevented both problems in the first place, right?

Ef9f83cb4e1826261a44c173f733789e

(13635)

on March 22, 2011
at 01:10 AM

Correct, impacted. I don't see how a paleo diet would have prevented the appendix problem.

50637dfd7dc7a7e811d82283f4f5fd10

(5838)

on March 25, 2011
at 03:23 PM

I had to get my appendix out in 5th grade, on Valentine's Day. My diet until a little over a year ago was mainly sugar and grains.

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