9

votes

Paleo Diet and Ancestry/Heritage

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created February 28, 2011 at 5:41 PM

Hey! Would a "Paleo" diet be better suited to an individual if he/she took into account where their people came from? Example: I am Oglala Lakota, n traditionally my people hunted meat n gathered wild turnips and chokecherries in season. I can easily maintain a rigorous 3 day on/1 day off cross-training fighters schedule, with weekly increases in strength in all the major lifts....on practically ZERO carbs n average 2 meals a day with a day of IF when it feels right. Where as others seem to do better adding carbs. So, would someone from the tropics have adapted to eating fruit? Just wondering if anyone knows of any studies on this. Thanks!

9e7039b63b656582f66d84c5255b436d

(1132)

on March 02, 2011
at 06:52 AM

Nice question, I think there is a lot of logic in tracing back your individual ancestry to make food choices.

1f96ce108240f19345c05704c7709dad

(1061)

on March 01, 2011
at 07:48 PM

Gary Taubes reviews this inherited tendency to obesity in his book, "Why We Get Fat". It is great book - easier to read than GC/BC, with lots of interesting material.

Medium avatar

(39821)

on February 28, 2011
at 10:03 PM

I think you'll find that hunting megafauna with lithic technology is decidedly more difficult than you might initially imagine.

C2502365891cbcc8af2d1cf1d7b0e9fc

(2437)

on February 28, 2011
at 08:57 PM

I don't know abut the zero-carb thing, Travis. If people lived in a place where meat was abundant and the hunting easy, why would they bother with fruit and vegetables?

Frontpage book

Get FREE instant access to our Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!

9 Answers

best answer

6
Fe6e37f8d4c49de1ecbc926c8900cd54

on February 28, 2011
at 06:25 PM

It's possible that you might find a little bit of variation accounted for by recent heritage. But as a general statement, paleo heuristics are based on a much earlier time in our history, i.e., before we were so widely distributed throughout the world.

I think personal experimentation is the best way to tailor the diet to your needs.

5
F9a0b72f38860d7601afd5a45bb53394

(3618)

on February 28, 2011
at 06:31 PM

I hear about studies where they apparently showed that if the parents are obese and/or have type 2 diabetes, their children are more likely to be obese and have type 2. I'm not sure if they were able to establish whether that was due to dietary habits or whether the kids would have been more likely to become fat or diabetic anyway.

If you look into the field of epigenetics you find some fascinating stuff. Not only do you get a specific group of genes in your DNA code, but those genes can express a couple of different ways--they can be turned on or off, or at least dialed up or down (stronger or weaker expression). Turns out that not only do we pass down our DNA code to our kids, we also pass down the specific way in which our genes are expressing. There was this town in the Netherlands in WWII that was besieged and starved by the Nazis. There were pregnant women in the town starving along with everybody else. After the siege was over and these women gave birth, the surviving babies were undersized. They ate normally through childhood and grew up and started families of their own and their babies wound up with health issues that the doctors couldn't explain. Turned out the famine had changed how their genes expressed and they had passed that right down to their kids.

Another piece of the puzzle is the pancreas. You already know that insulin is an on-demand hormone; when the body demands it, the pancreas releases the hormone. It does the same thing with enzymes. If your body needs more of one enzyme the pancreas releases it; if the body needs less of another the pancreas doesn't bother so much.

So if you have a group of people with consistent dietary habits that they pass down to their kids, you'd expect to see that group of people get into the habit of producing more of some enzymes than others.

And I think (I could be wrong) that enzyme release is ruled by gene expression. So, inasmuch as there's a specific cultural pattern of enzyme production, I could see where that might be passed down.

This may explain why indigenous people responded much more poorly to the introduction of industrial food than European people did. Usually this is attributed to having come from a forager culture with frequent feast/famine cycles. Number one, if you're a nomadic forager people, you don't usually get famine. If you can't find one food, you can find another; foragers have a much wider repertoire of foods than farmers do. Number two, Europe had some WICKED feast/famine cycles throughout its agricultural history, so why aren't they all dropping dead from diabetes and obesity?

No, I think it's the enzymes. So to take the Lakota for an example, you'd come from a background where your people produced much more protein-digesting enzyme than starch enzyme, because you ate protein and you didn't have a lot of starch. So it makes sense that you do better on meat than you do on, say, frybread.

And yes, I think that someone from the tropics, and with recent-ish ancestors from the tropics, might have a better time with fruit. They'll have more of the enzymes to help them handle starch and sugar and their whole insulin response pattern would be different too.

I don't know of any studies that address this directly; possibly they've got official stuff published in the field of epigenetics. But I do know people in the Paleo diet community have been buzzing a LOT about tribes still living their old lifeways today who subsist on tubers and that kind of thing. The Kitavans are one example; some of the uncontacted tribes of the Amazon are another example. (The latter have been photographed from the air while they were processing tubers into flour.) Now mind you, they don't just eat tubers and fruit. The Kitavans eat a lot of coconut and a fair amount of fish, so they're still getting fat in their diet. Probably the tribes in the Amazon hunt or fish as well. But they have that ancestral experience of the fruits and tubers, so they tolerate them better.

1f96ce108240f19345c05704c7709dad

(1061)

on March 01, 2011
at 07:48 PM

Gary Taubes reviews this inherited tendency to obesity in his book, "Why We Get Fat". It is great book - easier to read than GC/BC, with lots of interesting material.

3
Medium avatar

on February 28, 2011
at 08:02 PM

All members of our species start out with roughly the same nutritional requirements. (Obviously, those individuals with increased melanin would require more vitamin D if they are at higher latitudes etc.) Our omnivorous tendencies afford us a remarkable plasticity with which we can approach sources of food. If my ancestors specialized in hunting megatheres, (to extinction perhaps) there is still no real benefit to me frequently consuming 3-toed sloths.

Nutrition exists on a micro, not macro scale, so provided that you are ingesting the correct raw materials in approximately correct amounts, your body will manufacture all of the necessary tissues, enzymes, hormones etc. out of them. In most cases, excesses are excreted without issue.

Variation does of course occur, but these variations are more along the lines of neolithic food tolerances. There are those who, due to their lack of fructokinase, are essentially immune to obesity (but this would mean that the fructose would ferment in their guts and cause other issues). Similarly, there are those who probably have a tolerance of gluten and WGA that is so high that they produce almost no antibodies to it and can eat wheat with zero negative consequences for their lifetime. We all know about lactase and the effects of its absence. One could, I suppose, get extensive immunoassays and genetic testing and so forth to try to determine which of these agents they can tolerate, or they could just play it safe and do what most of us do, which is to eat mostly paleo with those modifications that don't cause us trouble.

One thing I'm fairly certain of is that few of us had ancestors who were zero carb for any sort of extended period of time. Maybe a small percentage in certain areas during glacial maxima, but it's by no means our default state for a majority of our evolution as hominins or otherwise.

C2502365891cbcc8af2d1cf1d7b0e9fc

(2437)

on February 28, 2011
at 08:57 PM

I don't know abut the zero-carb thing, Travis. If people lived in a place where meat was abundant and the hunting easy, why would they bother with fruit and vegetables?

Medium avatar

(39821)

on February 28, 2011
at 10:03 PM

I think you'll find that hunting megafauna with lithic technology is decidedly more difficult than you might initially imagine.

2
9d741bcbe702044635f2ce3078043054

(1435)

on February 28, 2011
at 07:15 PM

This is a question I have pondered as well. What we don't know is how much evolution of our endocrine systems has happened in the last few thousand years. If you think about it, in the time that your ancestors have been recognizable as Lakota, with a unique plains hunter lifestyle, Europeans and Asians have been practicing grain-based agriculture. Yet most Paleos believe that time has not been sufficient to allow our bodies to adapt. So we eliminate grain.

If you go back just a few thousand years, if current theories are correct, your ancestors were probably eating mostly a gathered seafood-based diet as they migrated along the Asian/American coasts. That migration may have lasted much longer than timeframe in which they have been inland hunting large game.

All speculation of course, but many Paleos believe the best thing to do is adapt to the nutrients that were present for the past 2M years of our evolution, which had a much larger influence on the evolution of our metabolisms that anything in the past few thousand years.

That being said, the ultimate judge is your own body. This site is called Paleo Hacks, so try some diet hacks and see what works for you. Then share it.

1
26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

on March 01, 2011
at 05:19 PM

I'm mostly Anglo-Saxon, and based on what I've read about them I assume my Northern European tribal ancestors had what most people think of as the 'paleo' diet (lots of game, seafood if possible, veg and fruit during summer/autumn only, nuts in autumn and winter). After they settled in England, I suppose it would have been dairy, seafood where available, veg, nuts, whole grains (or potatoes after they were brought over).

Going off grains and legumes has cured SO many of my problems, I'm still amazed at what a difference it has made.

However I am super-skinny and I feel by far my best with plenty of sugars. I eat plentiful starch and some berries every day, and don't shy away from processed sugar either (love milk chocolate).

1
A5c6b0371d6367f68c7438c9aef29c4d

on February 28, 2011
at 11:55 PM

I'm Cherokee and Mohawk. Paleo has changed my life! I am symptom free from exercise induced asthma. I'm a life long athlete! I'm 44 and I'm finally living at single digit bodyfat % (6'1.75", 230# @ 8%BF)

1
Ac1e55cf06c2180f4008ff01953d10dd

on February 28, 2011
at 07:06 PM

I am sure your ancestry counts, but also the way in which you were raised is significant: the types of food you had as a child, the level of activity that you had while growing up, all those things are relevant to define your food needs and physical endurance.

1
Medium avatar

(12379)

on February 28, 2011
at 06:43 PM

Here are a couple of links to look at just to start some research on the issue.

http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1741-7015-8-88.pdf

http://scholarship.claremont.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1033&context=cmc_theses
(I love even the title of this one nature vs nurture! great debate!!!)

It's a very interesting subject - of which any good research is hard to find - as it is really difficult to hone in on the variables and get a satisfactory causal relationship - as there are so many other factors that may have a hand in how you as an individual metabolize your food.

0
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on February 28, 2011
at 06:12 PM

hej Tactical Savage. I totally comit with your words. This is what i think as well. Some health experts also say similiar things.

The people at the great health debate host by kevin gianni metioned similiar things. Im also interested in studies and textes.

Answer Question


Get FREE instant access to our
Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!