I was having a conversation with my older brother about how humans are biologically meant to eat meat, not just vegetables. He said, "What's your point? Humans are flexible and adaptable to different things. Did you know that a panda has a digestive system of a carnivore but ends up eating masses of bamboo?"
Another instance, I was talking to a good friend of mine. I told her that I read that eating wheat, corn, soy, and grains aren't part of a human's natural diet, but she told me that humans are constantly in the process of evolving and adapting to new things.
I'm a huge supporter of the paleo diet and life style, but I don't know what to think of their argument. What do you guys think?
asked byTammy_7 (1)
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on May 27, 2013
at 07:36 PM
There's a big difference between what we're able to eat and what's optimal to eat. Yes, we are adaptable and can handle a large variety of foods. But in this day and age, we're not faced with starvation and reliance on sub-par foods to survive.
Here in paleoland, we're trying to figure out what's BEST for us, not what's the minimum we need to survive. That's the difference between living our life running on the beach with a minimal of health issues, or spending our last few decades in an electronic wheelchair taking insulin shots.
I'm ok if someone thinks it's morally wrong to eat meat, and you can survive without it, but that doesn't mean that you are living OPTIMALLY.
Also, to address the issue of "humans are constantly evolving and adapting-" Yes, we are, but judging from the huge amount of obesity, Alzheimer's, diabetes, celiac's and other metabolic diseases, we're clearly nowhere near adapted as a species as your friend assumes.
Tell your friend to watch the TV ads for pharmaceutical products and note how many say they "Suppress the immune system." Why, exactly, is the body fighting itself? That's not normal and it doesn't "just happen." Perhaps, as shown in a lot of medical studies, the gluten protein that get's into our system is seen as a foreign invader (like other strands of strange proteins like viruses and bacteria). You don't have to have Celiac's disease to have gluten intolerance show up in other forms, and the person is not even aware of the correlation.
Tell your friends that you don't want to just survive. You want to thrive.
on May 28, 2013
at 03:16 AM
"Another instance, I was talking to a good friend of mine. I told her that I read that eating wheat, corn, soy, and grains aren't part of a human's natural diet, but she told me that humans are constantly in the process of evolving and adapting to new things."
Yes, we are. It is a common (and I would say wildly egotistical) misconception that evolution "has run its course" and that we are here as the final result. Chromosomes are still combining, cistrons are still cleaving and alleles are still competing. Mutations still mutate and freak occurrences still occur. It would be ridiculous to imply that we are the "end result" of anything. We are merely the latest representation of the immortal gene.
However, the evolutionary development that your friend is suggesting absolutely does not fly in the timescale that we are talking about. Genetic adaptations, generally speaking, do not happen in a given organism's lifespan. Rather they, again generally speaking, occur in the gene shuffling caused through sex. That is to say, just because an individual eats Wonder Bread every day of their life that does not mean that their genes will adapt to properly eat Wonder Bread by the end of their time on this earth. The timescales that evolution proposes are usually well beyond a person's imaginative capacity. We can SAY words like "100,000 years" but it is still difficult to truly picture it. But if we wanted to suppose mankind's shift to grains we can look at a very simple scenario.
Lets suppose that there are two individuals. One is gluten tolerant (A) while the other is not (B). Unfortunately for B all there is to eat is Wonder Bread - it is the one food in all the land. B has a short, miserable, life. Fat, bloated, diseased and unable to attract a mate. B dies an early death and bears no progeny. A, however, has managed to eek by on Wonder Bread. Lo and behold, A even had offspring! Assuming that the gene for gluten tolerance was both passed on and dominantly expressed there are now more gluten tolerants in the world. There was a genetic mutation allowing for gluten tolerance and the selective pressure to favor it.
This is, of course, a hilariously simple example. Reality is not so binary and any such change on a societal level would take timescales well in excess of the lifespan of the agricultural era to manifest so completely. Subject B very well could have lived just long enough to reproduce and pass on their gluten intolerance for yet another generation to deal with. But as your friend said, we ARE still evolving. If the current food environment persists long enough, i.e. if the selective pressure remains for millenia, then there may come a day, 50,000 years or more from now, that our ancestors will look at a Costco chocolate muffin with the same health food reverence that we give broccoli or kale. And I, for one, welcome our sugar swilling overlords. We, however, are not that futurus sapien. Rather, we are the poor bastards that have to deal with the hazards of the new food on the block in the mean time.
Are we ("we" as a statisical significance) EVOLVING to eat this much grain and sugar and processed foods? Assuming that there are individuals out there that actually CAN thrive on such a diet then the environmental pressure sure does favor them. If the rest of us start dying off before we can pass on our filthy Snickers intolerant genes then we will likely see their whole grain rise to dominance. Are we ("we" as a statisical significance) EVOLVED to eat this much grain and sugar and processed food? hahahHAHAHAHAHAHAH no. Give it many more tens (hundreds?) of thousands of years of constant diet pressure and we may see what your friend is referring to, but we are not them.
EDIT: I'd like to add that many of the food intolerances that we discuss around here persist for so damned long because they are not necessarily lethal or, really, all THAT detrimental to the continuation of the gene. A person who is gluten intolerant can still throw back the bread and live well and long enough to reproduce. They just may not have that totally sweet bikini-bod or may have a hard time in the restroom. It is usually not until after the age of reproduction that serious conditions begin to rise. It is these not-necessarily-lethal but still sub-optimal genes that can be tricky to weed out of the gene pool in a timely manner.
on May 27, 2013
at 10:22 PM
Insects are probably the way to go. Ecologically, nutritionally, economically. But culture is powerful, and it prevents us from "adapting" to systemic changes in how we do thing.
on May 28, 2013
at 03:44 AM
We've been consuming dairy for about 10k - 20k years and, still, two thirds of the planet remains lactose intolerant as an adult. Evolution is painfully slow and requires sacrifice. Most won't survive the speciation event and for those that do, it won't be comfortable. Doesn't sound pleasant to me.
on May 27, 2013
at 08:39 PM
Just because we can survive on shit doesn't mean it's the best way to live; take rats for instance: they can live on newspaper and the paint they eat off the bars of their cage. On the other hand almost all domestic rats die young of massive stomach tumors.