3

votes

Hypothetical: does Paleo stand in the way of evolution?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created March 31, 2013 at 2:08 PM

Here's a thinker:

If part of the paleo diet is based on humans eating what makes more sense genetically, does this mean our bodies won't learn to better adapt to the diets introduced by the agricultural revolution through way of evolution?

72cf727474b8bf815fdc505e58cadfea

on April 01, 2013
at 05:55 AM

True. That doesn't change my answer, it just means that evolution is even less likely to furnish solutions to those problems (unless they arise from unfavorable biological processes that also cause disadvantages to reproductive-age individuals). There's also inclusive fitness, which does provide some advantages to people who remain in good health after reproductive age.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on April 01, 2013
at 01:24 AM

Diabetes and atherosclerosis are prevalent in the post-reproductive population, which poses a real conundrum for selection. Selection produces hardiness to reproduce not to live forever.

72cf727474b8bf815fdc505e58cadfea

on March 31, 2013
at 10:36 PM

There's no such thing as selecting for the unfit. In the context of evolution, "fit" means nothing other than being well adapted to survive in your current environment. However, you can have selection pressure in favor of traits that we don't happen to like, or for traits that push the species toward a local maximum that may interfere with survival in other environments.

F291857fa12a0291688ea994343156dc

(720)

on March 31, 2013
at 09:48 PM

@Renee- AG is correct except it can happen 'realtime', one person at a time. Each person that shifts closer to Paleo diet & activity will re-comp in a matter of months.

72cf727474b8bf815fdc505e58cadfea

on March 31, 2013
at 07:12 PM

That's not evolution. It could happen in one generation with no genetic selection, solely by changing people's behavior.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on March 31, 2013
at 03:51 PM

My parents are in their 80's eating pringles and tuna sandwiches. Their secret to long life is to avoid the much more detrimental Neolithic diseases of overeating and sedentism. That Lay-Z-Boy will kill you faster than the pringles. Combine the two and things really speed up.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on March 31, 2013
at 02:30 PM

If we keep eating all the junk food, we won't live long enough to find out. But cockroaches will.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on March 31, 2013
at 02:26 PM

Great question.......the answers will tell you about the lens they see life thru.

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7 Answers

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5
72cf727474b8bf815fdc505e58cadfea

on March 31, 2013
at 07:21 PM

This is true, but all of human history is so short, compared to an evolutionary timescale, that it doesn't make any sense for us to wait to evolve solutions to our problems. That will also be an unpopular approach in this community, since it's mostly made up of people who would need to be the first to die without reproducing. We should instead use the tools we've been given to adapt our environment to our needs -- that is, change our civilization so that it can be sustainable without depending on foods that humans don't deal with very well.

The other option is to adapt ourselves to our environment. Right now that takes the form of trying to medically treat diseases of civilization like diabetes and atherosclerosis, and all we're doing is slowing down the decline. But in the future we may become able to use drugs or gene therapy to heal chronic diseases, prevent allergies, and enhance our digestion of neolithic crops.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on April 01, 2013
at 01:24 AM

Diabetes and atherosclerosis are prevalent in the post-reproductive population, which poses a real conundrum for selection. Selection produces hardiness to reproduce not to live forever.

72cf727474b8bf815fdc505e58cadfea

on April 01, 2013
at 05:55 AM

True. That doesn't change my answer, it just means that evolution is even less likely to furnish solutions to those problems (unless they arise from unfavorable biological processes that also cause disadvantages to reproductive-age individuals). There's also inclusive fitness, which does provide some advantages to people who remain in good health after reproductive age.

3
0b7c3e7fd96005f0b2dfd781e512fc2e

(1237)

on March 31, 2013
at 03:44 PM

Evolution has no end goal. We evolve and change according to our environmental input but that doesn't mean it's for better or worse. Hence continuing to eat foods that we would have eaten for thousands of years previously will not "stand in the way" of anything. Eating a SAD diet of grains and processed sugar will certainly give you problems in the present, though!

Medium avatar

(10611)

on March 31, 2013
at 03:51 PM

My parents are in their 80's eating pringles and tuna sandwiches. Their secret to long life is to avoid the much more detrimental Neolithic diseases of overeating and sedentism. That Lay-Z-Boy will kill you faster than the pringles. Combine the two and things really speed up.

2
Ed7403e397077dd1acdbf25c7f6e56ce

on March 31, 2013
at 04:01 PM

Nothing stands in the way of evolution. It continues and always has. It does not hinge upon anyone's approval or understanding.

2
Medium avatar

(10611)

on March 31, 2013
at 03:56 PM

First off adaptation takes many generations of war, famine, disease and/or selective breeding. In a single generation you need mutation like that caused by radiation.

Second, we're already adapted to agricultural foods. Some are better foods than others but our genes already carry tolerances. Without those adaptations there'd be several billion less of us.

1
F92e4ca55291c3f3096a3d4d3d854986

(11698)

on March 31, 2013
at 04:56 PM

Hopefully, if enough people go Paleo, we'll evolve back into the strong, tall, lean hunter-gatherer physiques we used to be, instead of the population you see at malls and airports.

F291857fa12a0291688ea994343156dc

(720)

on March 31, 2013
at 09:48 PM

@Renee- AG is correct except it can happen 'realtime', one person at a time. Each person that shifts closer to Paleo diet & activity will re-comp in a matter of months.

72cf727474b8bf815fdc505e58cadfea

on March 31, 2013
at 07:12 PM

That's not evolution. It could happen in one generation with no genetic selection, solely by changing people's behavior.

0
78d089bc8d5feaed2710005e4456edbe

on March 31, 2013
at 05:25 PM

Our bodies won't adapt in an evolutionary sense. Here, I mean 'our' in the sense that 'we' are some people alive today.

This may be a bit of a side not, but I dislike the thought of the human species as something to refer to with a 'we'. I do not think "we outlived the neanderthals", I think "at some point there were humans and neandethals, and now I am".

As for the paleo diet standing in the way of the evolution or survival of the human species in a world where humans live by agriculture, it might be that the unfit (wheat intolerant, e.g.) do survive. That may be bad for those, who inherit their genes.

72cf727474b8bf815fdc505e58cadfea

on March 31, 2013
at 10:36 PM

There's no such thing as selecting for the unfit. In the context of evolution, "fit" means nothing other than being well adapted to survive in your current environment. However, you can have selection pressure in favor of traits that we don't happen to like, or for traits that push the species toward a local maximum that may interfere with survival in other environments.

0
F2ac6bdc325dabf2c3eb5d6b6f1ee48e

on March 31, 2013
at 03:40 PM

Hi tomcowlin,

I believe our bodies most definitely won't adapt to post-agricultural diets if we eat a diet that makes sense genetically. Is it particularly necessary for us to adapt to a sub-par diet?

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