We Don’t All Need Our Own Special Diet
These days, everyone’s off on a cinderella adventure to find their own special diet that fits the needs of their genetics. And while we’re not getting shuttled out of a clone factory, it may be time to ease off the sauce.
At this point, people are already going through gene testing to see what foods they can tolerate. The science of nutrition has been taken to unprecedented levels over the last few decades. For some reason, I have a nagging sense that we’re making this far more complicated than it has any right to be.
On the other hand, we’re obsessed with this for good reason. The modern diet has failed, and despite our efforts to fan the flames, it’s not getting any better. Even those with the rosiest of outlooks will admit that we’re hurtling towards a crisis. Food production is running on red, struggling to meet the needs of an exploding population, and the quality of those foods are getting worse.
Despite the global shift towards fixing up the diet and avoiding an early grave, the trend of chronic disease has been unrelenting. The rates of diabetes in adults is set to jump from 6.4% in 2010 to 7.7% in 2030. Heart disease is also on the up. As I offered up in the last article, the diet is very much the culprit behind this epidemic. The four horsemen that bring about chronic disease, are themselves spurred into action by toxins supplied in a badly formulated diet.
Food is comfortably the best way of subjecting the body to repeated assaults of inflammation, oxidative damage, catabolic physiology, and certain ingredients lead to a state of insulin resistance. It’s a daily occurrence, and in a badly formulated diet, the body never gets any respite. The end-result is metabolic dysfunction, where the body is simply unable to operate as it should be, and at a high risk of contracting chronic disease.
Read Part One – A Broken Metabolism Is Your Ticket For Chronic Disease
But despite the fact that we’ve flung a myriad of vastly different diets at the wall, nothing’s really stuck. There’s no set consensus on the best foods to be eating. There are always the government guidelines to turn to, but they’ve been shown time and again to be shaped by donations from big food and big pharma.
For all intents and purposes, the government guidelines are a force for money and convenience. Grains and seed oils just happen to be the most economical products to produce in huge doses. They also happen to be highly toxic to the body, drastically increasing your chances of tumbling into an early grave. Meanwhile, pharmaceuticals are basically overpriced plant extracts with dubious effects on the body.
The guidelines themselves are gleaned from observational studies, which ranks a long way down the credibility ladder. An observational study essentially sets out to provide a correlation which could present a hypothesis, which then has a 0-24% chance of being right.
There have been interventional studies that have poured in huge funds to find solid evidence, but they didn’t pan out particularly well. So you have the high-carb, low-fat crowd, the official template that has a terrible track record. We can shorten it to HCLF. Then there’s the low-carb, high-fat division (LCHF) who are on the outskirts but picking up steam. Finally, we can lump the rest in the ‘moderation is key’ group, who prefer to count calories and keep things in check, rather than commit to anything that needs them to eliminate entire food groups. This tactic assumes that all foods have nutritional value, and we’re better off just keeping a close eye on portion sizes.
The idea that we should all head out there and seek out our own special diet, is a little far-fetched. Human biochemistry is not so varied that we can pick between polar opposite ways of eating, and thrive in equal measure.
I’m painting giant strokes here when dividing the world between high-carb and high #-fat, but you’ll get the idea. Any fresh-faced dieter is going to have to make some hard decisions from the very outset of a nutritional programme. They’ll all do a serviceable job, if the goalpost is fat loss or muscle gain. That’s a simple enough formula to get right. But if it’s peak health we’re after, a body that can defend itself against the assaults of the four horsemen, then we should be looking elsewhere.
There needs to be a distinction between surviving and thriving. Most foods, most diets, will do enough to get you across to the next sunrise. That’s an issue of calories, easily resolved. A diet to power optimal health, free from the clutches of the four horsemen, that’s a completely different beast.
Back To The Original Diet
And rather than complicating things further by dreaming up a new diet that can put up a fight on all fronts, we should consider retracing our footsteps to the one with the proven track record. It’s possibly the only one that can claim to be based on long-term evidence. These days we’re dealing with the flavour of the month, the year, diets that rise up for brief spells on the top of google trends before getting replaced by the next one.
So in order to find the diet with proven staying power, we’re looking for one that’s been around for more than a couple of decades. We could reset things back a century, before processed foods began to dominate the western palette. But it’s still not far back enough. We could step back to the Egyptian diet of 3000.BC, where we farmed crops using natural methods. Except they still fell prey to heart disease and diabetes back then. Well before the days of kitkats, kool-aid, and trans fats. We still felt the effects of a metabolic epidemic.
But when we start looking at the ancient Egyptians, we can actually pinpoint where it all started to go wrong. They were one of the first civilisations to begin farming crops, signalling the end of the stone age. It was the result of the first agricultural revolution, circa 10.000.BC, when we decided to throw in the towel on the nomadic lifestyle, and settle down to start populating the earth. While it didn’t exactly happen all at once, it was a shift to start the metabolic decline. And it wasn’t because we stopped chasing down deer. It’s the carbs that did it.
It seems far-fetched that our distant ancestors would have had better health than modern humans, armed with all the perks of technology and hindsight.
As wandering hunter-gatherers, humans had the metabolism to cope with varying climate and seasonal demands. The struggle for survival pushed these ancestral humans to seek out the foods that were dense in both nutrients and nutrient variety. This was out of necessity, life was hard, and every calorie counted.
The move to an agricultural lifestyle brought these humans into a setting of constant food availability. The carbs in wheat and grains got ramped up and began to dominate the nutritional template. We were able to band together, boosting humanity to the point where we could hatch up plans to fly to the moon and back.
The comparison here isn’t about quality of life. These days, we’re better off than peasants in the middle ages, who in turn were better off than cavemen, who could then look across at the apes and feel some relief. There’s no contest when comparing the convenience of the day of a wandering hunter and a desk boy. The latter doesn’t have to worry too much about finding the next meal. It’s not a battle for survival from one day to the next.
This is simply a case of health, and the argument that the hunter had better teeth, sharper jawlines, a taller stature, and a much better metabolism. This hunter also didn’t suffer from chronic diseases like we do, and there’s living proof in the nomadic tribes that still exist like the Hadza of Tanzania. They show remarkably better health when compared to their urbanised contemporaries, despite the fact that they burn roughly the same amount of calories. So the difference can’t be a matter of active beating sedentary. It’s not so simple.
In the battle for health and longevity, these tribesmen have a trump card to play. They practice the evolutionary diet, the one that we spent more than a million years slowly assembling and perfecting. We haven’t had a chance to adopt the agricultural diet, we’re not remotely close even after 12,000 years of trying. If human evolution was condensed down to a 24-hour window, the agricultural revolution would have taken place at 23:54. It’s a blip, nowhere near long enough to evolve to make the best of the post-agricultural cuisine.
It doesn’t matter how advanced medicine and supplementation gets from here, we won’t be able to overcome the very nature of how the human hardware is built to run. The quest for optimal health has to adhere to the primal code. And even if you’re just after bicep peaks and a six-pack, this is going to be the fastest route.
So if we can offer up the idea that the evolutionary diet is the optimal one for humanity, what exactly did we eat back then? In part three of the Cult Of Carnivore series, we’ll be answering that question.
Head To Part Three – Were Ancient Humans Really Carnivores?