Thursday, January 19, 2017

More Paleo Questions and More Paleo Answers

Yesterday I said I would post Part Two of Paleo Q&A's today and here it is.  Before I get into the nuts and bolts, here's a note and a suggestion.  Mark Sisson, my mentor by my choice, has done all of the hard work for me.  Let me explain.  Mark devoted thirty years to his running and triathlon career, becoming a world-class athlete in the process.  With a degree in biology and years of experience as a professional athletic he shifted his focus to diet, but more than just what we should eat.  He has studied and continues to study gene control through what he calls the Primal Blueprint.

As of today, I have 30 days experience with the Primal Blueprint.  Mark has 30 years.  That's why I'm going to defer to him to address today's questions and comments.  One more thing, before we go to the comments and Mark's answers.  The whole story is contained in the two books pictured above.  They are available from Mark (click here), or Amazon (click the book cover(s) you want to buy) or a number of other bookstores, including Barnes & Noble.

And now: The Comments and The Responses:

Claude said: “Consider this. Agriculture was born approximately 10,000 years ago and it was the key to human development and civilization and the reason for this is very simple: Thanks to agriculture (that provided grains, legumes, vegetables, and some small animals at first, like chicken and eggs), man was able to free himself from the relentless pursuit of food that his huge brain demanded; and from that point on, he had enough time on his hands to start to think - and yes, culture and civilization were born right then, both the daughters of agriculture!”

Jared Diamond, UCLA evolutionary biologist and Pulitzer prize winner, in his Discover magazine article, Saturday, 5/1/1999, said: "Recent discoveries suggest that the adoption of agriculture, supposedly our most decisive step toward a better life, was in many ways a catastrophe from which we have never recovered. With agriculture came the gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism, that curse our existence." 

Diamond, in the same article said: How do you show that the lives of people 10,000 years ago, got better when they abandoned hunting and gathering for farming? Until recently, archaeologists had to resort to indirect tests, whose results (surprisingly) failed to support the progressivist view. Here's one example of an indirect test: Are twentieth century hunter-gatherers really worse off than farmers? Scattered throughout the world, several dozen groups of so-called primitive people, like the Kalahari bushmen, continue to support themselves that way. It turns out that these people have plenty of leisure time, sleep a good deal, and work less hard than their farming neighbors. For instance, the average time devoted each week to obtaining food is only 12 to 19 hours for one group of Bushmen, 14 hours or less for the Hadza nomads of Tanzania. One Bushman, when asked why he hadn't emulated neighboring tribes by adopting agriculture, replied, "Why should we, when there are so many mongongo nuts in the world?"

He also noted: While farmers concentrate on high-carbohydrate crops like rice and potatoes, the mix of wild plants and animals in the diets of surviving hunter-gatherers provides more protein and a better balance of other nutrients. In one study, the Bushmen's average daily food intake (during a month when food was plentiful) was 2,140 calories and 93 grams of protein, considerably greater than the recommended daily allowance for people of their size. It's almost inconceivable that Bushmen, who eat 75 or so wild plants, could die of starvation the way hundreds of thousands of Irish farmers and their families did during the potato famine of the 1840s.

Mark Sisson says, (The New Primal Blueprint, Introduction) Human beings prevailed despite incalculable odds over thousands of generations.  Our primal ancestors were lean, strong, smart, and productive, which enabled them to survive, reproduce, and ultimately rule over more physically imposing members of the animal kingdom. This was no mean feat, yet conventional wisdom has essentially dismissed the legacy of our ancestors in favor of easy, quick-fix “solutions” to ill health that sell regardless of negligible long-term results.

Today at the age of 63, I feel healthier, fitter, happier, and more productive than ever.  No longer a marathon or triathlon champion (but nor do I care to be one), I maintain a weight of 170 pounds with 8 percent body fat.  I eat as much delicious food as I want, unbeholden to rigid meal times.  I exercise just 3 to 6 hours per week (instead of the 20 to 30 I logged back in the day), and I almost never get sick. Hundreds of thousands of readers at chronicle similar success stories each week. 

Claude said:  “To sum up: I'm totally certain that your bout of paleo dieting is excellent for you and your wife, flushing all the bad stuff we accumulate through the years as a result of our bad eating habits and modern agriculture that has stuck chemicals into everything; good thing to do, no doubt, provided you don't keep it up indefinitely. Put a stop to it as soon as you see that you are losing too much weight. You can't allow yourself to go down the drain, hey, I'm your friend, I want to see you alive for yet another 2 or 3 decades! 

OK, now you know what I think! And I do worry about your health. Please share this message with Christina. Discuss it. Pursue this concept of the link between the size of the human brain, its nutrition needs and demands and the appropriate diet that is needed to maintain our mental powers.” 

I say: Claude, I appreciate your comments and concerns and I assure you, I am monitoring my Primal/Paleo lifestyle closer than I’ve ever monitored any of the various lifestyles I’ve adopted.  At this point (30 days in) I am pleased to report that I find every aspect of the Primal Lifestyle at least ten times better than I dreamed possible, at this age (74) or any other.  And It will be my pleasure to keep you posted on our progress.

Pame said: “Very interesting and intelligent exchange of ideas. When all is said, and done however, I must consider that none of us live forever. The Paleolithic remains that have been found have never been ones in advanced years. Several factors must also be taken into consideration... We are living longer now than in previous years…”

Jared Diamond, in the previously quoted article, “The Worst Mistake…” said:
One straight forward example of what paleopathologists have learned from skeletons concerns historical changes in height. Skeletons from Greece and Turkey show that the average height of hunger-gatherers toward the end of the ice ages was a generous 5' 9'' for men, 5' 5'' for women. With the adoption of agriculture, height crashed, and by 3000 B. C. had reached a low of only 5' 3'' for men, 5' for women. By classical times heights were very slowly on the rise again, but modern Greeks and Turks have still not regained the average height of their distant ancestors.
Another example of paleopathology at work is the study of Indian skeletons from burial mounds in the Illinois and Ohio river valleys. At Dickson Mounds, located near the confluence of the Spoon and Illinois rivers, archaeologists have excavated some 800 skeletons that paint a picture of the health changes that occurred when a hunter-gatherer culture gave way to intensive maize farming around A. D. 1150. Studies by George Armelagos and his colleagues then at the University of Massachusetts show these early farmers paid a price for their new-found livelihood. Compared to the hunter-gatherers who preceded them, the farmers had a nearly 50 per cent increase in enamel defects indicative of malnutrition, a fourfold increase in iron-deficiency anemia (evidenced by a bone condition called porotic hyperostosis), a threefold rise in bone lesions reflecting infectious disease in general, and an increase in degenerative conditions of the spine, probably reflecting a lot of hard physical labor. "Life expectancy at birth in the pre-agricultural community was bout twenty-six years," says Armelagos, "but in the post-agricultural community it was nineteen years. So these episodes of nutritional stress and infectious disease were seriously affecting their ability to survive."
The evidence suggests that the Indians at Dickson Mounds, like many other primitive peoples, took up farming not by choice but from necessity in order to feed their constantly growing numbers. "I don't think most hunger-gatherers farmed until they had to, and when they switched to farming they traded quality for quantity," says Mark Cohen of the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, co-editor with Armelagos, of one of the seminal books in the field, Paleopathology at the Origins of Agriculture. "When I first started making that argument ten years ago, not many people agreed with me. Now it's become a respectable, albeit controversial, side of the debate."
There are at least three sets of reasons to explain the findings that agriculture was bad for health. First, hunter-gatherers enjoyed a varied diet, while early farmers obtained most of their food from one or a few starchy crops. The farmers gained cheap calories at the cost of poor nutrition, (today just three high-carbohydrate plants -- wheat, rice, and corn -- provide the bulk of the calories consumed by the human species, yet each one is deficient in certain vitamins or amino acids essential to life.) Second, because of dependence on a limited number of crops, farmers ran the risk of starvation if one crop failed. Finally, the mere fact that agriculture encouraged people to clump together in crowded societies, many of which then carried on trade with other crowded societies, led to the spread of parasites and infectious disease. (Some archaeologists think it was the crowding, rather than agriculture, that promoted disease, but this is a chicken-and-egg argument, because crowding encourages agriculture and vice versa.) Epidemics couldn't take hold when populations were scattered in small bands that constantly shifted camp. Tuberculosis and diarrheal disease had to await the rise of farming, measles and bubonic plague the appearance of large cities.
Pame said: “Everything here is organic or is not... By that, I mean that every molecule regardless of its composition came from here so is natural even if we rearrange the molecular structure... Plus, the fact that the soil, water and air have all been changed in one way or another by chemicals we have or are using. There are traces of arsenic and DDT in all of our soil from runoff if nothing else...LAST is the natural way of things: Everyone is not supposed to have the same body type in weight or appearance. It is the differences that both attract and repel others. Not everyone prefers fat, but not everyone prefers skinny. Natural selection based on these factors are the way selections have been made for pairing and reproduction since time began. It is my opinion that whatever a person prefers and agrees with regarding their body and lifestyle is fine. This has been discussed, changed, modified since man could hold a pencil. I say therefore, "To each his or her own". Just my opinion.

Mark says (21-Day Total Body Transformation, introduction):  There is no greater feeling of empowerment than truly comprehending how much influence you have over your health, fitness, and well-being.  Once you realize that your genes respond to environmental signals that you largely create, you are no longer at the mercy of your parents’ legacy, your doctor’s nebulous warnings, or the tremendous momentum against health and balance in hectic modern life.  Everything changes as soon as you “own” the Key Concept that you can influence gene expression on a day-to-day basis.

I say:  Claude, thanks for starting this fun conversation.  I’ve learned a lot from the research I had to do to answer you and Pame.  And, a special note to Pame, our half mile away neighbor: Late at night, when your dogs bark and you see strange lights outside, more than likely it’s just me running up over the hill.