I have had a long career as a nurse and it gave me a bit of insight into what is happening to us. It occurred to me years ago, that people were becoming sicker and not healthier despite the government guidelines for health and less people smoking. There were a few questions about health that needed answering. Some of them about what is happening today, but some regarding our evolution.
- It is likely that our genes have not changed since Paleolithic (Paleo) times, so why do we believe that the diet now advocated as “healthy”, would be better for us than the one we evolved with?
- How did we survive with no dieticians and nutritionists/fitness instructors/diet books and the internet?
- Did cavemen eat cornflakes or run marathons?
- Why are we getting sicker but “living longer”?
- Why did my mum always cut out bread and potatoes to lose weight then regain that weight when she resumed eating them?
These are my answers to the above questions:
- All animals need protein, fat, vitamins and minerals and (maybe) carbohydrates. A cow’s gut is unique in that it can break down grass and weeds to the very basic building blocks. From this it can then rebuild these blocks to form proteins, fats etc. This process is also why it has to eat all day! Its stomach has four chambers and its intestines are about half the length of a football pitch! We do not have the guts for this vegetarian diet. Our gut is mainly designed for meat eating but nature has ensured the maximum chance for our survival so we are also able to digest some other foods.
- Our taste buds and other responses to food eaten, tell us what our digestion can cope with. Are we going to eat grass? No! Are we (on a regular basis) going to eat seeds? No! Are we going to lob a stone at a duck and roast it? Oh yes! (We have been cooking for at least 400,000 years) If you are now wondering why it is that you fancy a cake with your coffee, the reason is simple. In a cake we have combined protein, fat and carbohydrates and our taste buds are totally confused. The fat and protein are detected so they give the green light.
- No, our ancestors did not eat corn and run around like mad things – unless it was really essential. Collecting seeds was a labour of necessity not desire 40,000 years ago. This would have been an unnecessary energy expenditure most of the time. Using stealth, skill, team work and short bursts of energy would usually ensure that the family were fed good quality food in the form of wild animals. There would have been little edible vegetation for much of the year.
- There are several reasons why the statistics are showing that we are living longer both from Palaeolithic times and from a couple of hundred years ago. Cavemen died from severe injuries and overwhelming infections because there were no doctors. There is little evidence of modern disease until 5-10,000 years ago. Since Victorian times, much has changed, not just our diets. We have better sanitation, cleaner air, better medical care for injuries or infections and importantly for the statistics, less neonatal deaths.
- In the mid 1900s, the way to lose weight was to drop bread, cakes, potatoes and sweets. This worked because there was no need for the fat storing hormone insulin to metabolise these carbohydrates. During the 80s, the government intervened with a recommended diet and we all fell for it. The NHS took it as gospel and the word recommended was forgotten. So from this time we have eaten lots of highly processed carbohydrates, less fat and protein – and bingo! We are now a nation of obese diabetics with irritable bowel syndrome and autoimmune diseases! Yes I’m being facetious but the point has to be made that we are now sicker than ever, with diseases that were largely unheard of 100 years ago.
So this is where I started. It just made so much sense whereas before I was struggling to put the science behind the advice I was giving as a nurse. Now there is not only the backing of good science but for me, the history of us to give credence to the advice I now give. Natural and unprocessed food that has been produced the way it should be and a life, living as close to nature as is possible.