Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
4 Jan

How Much Have Human Dietary Requirements Evolved in the Last 10,000 Years?

A hallmark of the Primal Blueprint is that our genetics were shaped by our ancestral environment. That the foods to which we had access, the amount of sun and stress and sleep to which our bodies became accustomed, the movement patterns in which we engaged represented environmental factors that exerted selective pressure on our genetic makeup and phenotypic expression to make us who we are today. As a result, heeding those environmental factors generally results in excellent health. And, even more importantly, many evolutionarily novel environmental factors – like grains, refined sugar, and high omega-6 vegetable oils (plus chronic stress, poor sleep, and all that other good stuff ) – are things to which we’ve only recently been exposed. When we are exposed to them in excess, like in say 21st century America, it generally results in poor health. Hence our current predicament.

But what about genetic variation within a species? After all, it’s not like an entire species suddenly evolves all at once, neatly and cleanly, taking all its members with it into the new genome. Evolution is a messy process. There’s a lot of genetic groundwork laid before a species “becomes” another one. There are tons of mutations that never amount to anything, or that amount to plenty of subtle changes. And we Primals know of a few changes that have occurred within the framework of Homo sapiens in response to dietary pressures.

The first is, of course, lactase persistence. I’ve written about it before, and since its entrance into our diet around 9,000 years ago it’s become an incredibly prevalent mutation – around 35% of human adults worldwide still insist on producing lactase.

Second is salivary amylase production. Salivary amylase predigests starch as you chew it. It’s an enzyme that coats starch in the mouth and stays with it after you swallow it, continuing to break it down. Fruit-eating chimpanzees produce salivary amylase, but far less than humans, who eat more starches and have more copies of the gene. But that’s a whole different species, so it’s not that surprising. However, when you compare traditionally starch-eating human populations to populations with traditionally low-starch diets, the former tend to have more copies of the amylase gene than the latter.

For more intra-species genetic variation, consider the single-nucleotide polymorphism, or SNP. The SNP (or “snip”) is a variation in DNA sequencing, the most common type of genetic variation in humans. Our DNA is comprised of individual nucleotides strung together, and a SNP occurs when a single nucleotide in the genome sequence is altered – say, from AAGCCTA to AAGCTTA (the spot that once held a cytosine nucleotide now has a thymine nucleotide, indicated by bolding and italicizing).

SNPs can affect the way genes work if they fall on a DNA “coding sequence.” When that happens, the slight variation in nucleotides can change the biological function of the particular DNA sequence, effectively altering the way the gene works. Risks for certain diseases might amplify (or decrease), certain energy pathways may be down- or up-regulated, and resistance to climate may change as a result of SNPs. They occur about once in every 300 nucleotides, and, like any component of the evolutionary process examined in isolation, are totally random. They may be beneficial, harmful, or have no effect at all (the vast majority of SNPs do not fall within coding sequences and thus have no discernable effect). What gives them “direction” or “purpose” is how they interact with the environment and whether or not they confer a reproductive or survival advantage.

So, do any SNPs affect the way we process food and metabolize energy? Because, let’s face it: that’s what we’re really interested in here.

There are some, and there’s even evidence that some of them are growing more prevalent in response to dietary pressures. A fairly recent paper examined this very question. The authors took all available SNP data spanning 61 human population data sets, four ecoregion variables (polar, humid temperate, humid tropical, dry), four subsistence variables (agriculture, pastoralism, foraging, horticulture), and three main dietary components (cereal grains, roots and tubers, or fat, meat and milk) and tried to match the prevalence of genic and nonsynonymous SNPs (SNPs that have an effect on the gene and its function) to these variables.

They found some interesting data, but not a ton (in my opinion):

  • That people subsisting on folate-poor roots and tubers for a significant amount of their calories showed greater incidence of a SNP relating to altered folate biosynthesis.
  • That cereal grain eaters showed an alteration in the breakdown of plant fats using a type of pancreatic lipase specific to plant fats (separate from regular pancreatic lipase, which is used for other fats) and a SNP predisposing them to type 2 diabetes.
  • Certainly nothing that makes me reevaluate my dietary choices.

Some other interesting, diet-related SNPs include:

  • Rs1800562(A:A), which codes for hemachromatosis, or excessive iron accumulation. For Northern European folks (in whom the SNP most often appears) moving from an iron-heavy, meat-rich hunting and gathering diet to a Neolithic diet of mineral-binding cereal grains, an enhanced uptake of dietary iron may have been helpful. This is probably worth knowing, because iron accumulation is indicated in several illnesses.
  • Rs7501331, which codes for conversion of (plant-based) beta-carotene into the (animal-based) usable form. Heterozygous and homozygous female carriers have poor conversion. Not surprisingly, this SNP appears most often in European populations, ancestors of whom could generally depend on steady access to animal retinol (liver and animal fat).
  • Rs2291725, which codes for incretin (hormones that release insulin) secretion in response to dietary glucose. People with the “ancestral,” or original allele, have lower fasting blood glucose, while people with the “Neolithic,” or derived allele, have higher fasting blood glucose. The derived allele was positively selected for in Asian populations about 8,100 years ago, presumably because it allowed more efficient use of dietary carbohydrates when fewer were available during lean times. In today’s grain and carb-heavy environment of endless abundance, it’s a risk factor for diabetes. Highly prevalent in Asians, somewhat so in Europeans, barely present in Africans.

But the emergence of SNPs across the human DNA mosaic does not mean “humans have evolved beyond our hunter-gatherer beginnings, rendering them immaterial, so bring on the bagels!” It simply confirms that humans indeed respond to dietary and environmental pressures with genetic changes. It means that what we have access to eat changes who we are and shapes the genome of our species.

Have human genetics – especially the genetics influencing energy metabolism, also known as eating – undergone enough selective pressure in the last 10,000-odd years to justify a reexamination of our basic premise? That is, are our dietary recommendations couched in evolutionary biology now on shaky ground? Should we start reaching for the whole wheat bagels after all?

To the first question, I’d say kinda. We should always reexamine our premises – any and every premise that we hold dear. That goes without saying. It keeps us honest and, most importantly, it helps us make sure the advice we follow and dole out to others actually works.

To the second question, I’d say no. The basics still hold true. The vast majority of people are better off without grains (especially wheat), sugar (especially refined sugar and HFCS), and omega-6 vegetable oils and trans fats. I don’t think you’ll find a single person who suffers from a soybean oil or gluten deficiency. And some evidence suggests that SNPs associated with hyper-assimilation of dietary glucose are partly responsible for type 2 diabetes in today’s environment, even though they were advantageous 8,100 years ago. Like I said before, it’s a dirty, murky, confusing business, evolution, with lots of fits, starts, and backtracking.

And to the third, I’ll say never.

So, in response to the title question – we just don’t know. Changes are definitely happening right now at the population level, but they’re not earth-shattering and by the very definition of evolution, they must accumulate before any real conclusions can be drawn. At any rate, you, yourself, are not going to suddenly develop a tolerance for industrial foods and an intolerance for grass-fed meat within your lifetime. And even if someone did develop a genetic adaptation to trans fats, it doesn’t mean the longstanding genetic adaptation to real dietary animal fat would disappear. That’s not how it works.

What we do know is that people seem to do really well eating this way, and if they don’t, if they move beyond strict Primal to include some rice or some properly prepared grains or legumes, the point is that they used evolutionary reasoning as a jump off point. And really, that’s the point: it’s a foundation upon which we can build a pretty diverse, fairly all-inclusive diet that appeals to just about everyone. In fact, when I look at a lot of people’s Primal journeys, it kind of resembles human dietary evolution. They begin with the basics – meat, poultry, vegetables, nuts, some fruit, the traditional Primal Blueprint eating plan – and it goes very well. Weight is lost, effortlessly, health is regained. As time goes on, they might experiment with different additions or subtractions. They add some tubers. It works out, their workouts improve. They try some dairy. Fermented dairy agrees with them, but regular does not. They switch out some chicken for more seafood and red meat. They lean out and blood lipids improve. They remove all chicken and replace with shellfish. They improve even more. They – gasp! – add a bit of wild rice after big workouts. Strength gains continue, leanness persists. So on and so forth. And, of course, every person’s path is unique.

That tells me that humans vary, that dietary recommendations can be fine-tuned and tailored to the individual’s situation, that this person will tolerate more carbs than this or that person. Genetic variation most likely plays a role in all of this, but I’m not sure we know enough to start basing our diets on it. It also tells me that the basics – eating animals and plants while avoiding industrial, refined carb-heavy foods – is never going to stop working. Not in our lifetime, at least.

Thanks for reading and let me know what you think in the comment board!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. The paper is wrong to say “folate biosynthesis” since folate is a vitamin and we are by definition unable to make it ourselves.

    It would be more accurate to say “methionine biosynthesis”, which suggests an alternative explanation for the result – since methionine is an amino acid that is usually in short supply in tubers.

    Tim wrote on January 4th, 2012
  2. This is a very interesting post and something I was actually pondering the other day. I think I pretty much agree with the thought process in the post. The major difference we face now compared to our ancient ancestors is that except in rare instances change comes at us more quickly today,. So fast our bodies can’t adapt as in the case of too much processed food.

    Michelle wrote on January 4th, 2012
  3. “I don’t think you’ll find a single person who suffers from a soybean oil or gluten deficiency.”

    Love it. What about bacon deficiency?

    I think that you can not go wrong by avoiding grains and legumes and dairy. There is absolutely no harm with this. Add some butter if you want and experiment with raw, fermented, grass-fed dairy down the road.

    This movement has gone mainstream. It truly has. There are so many articles, so many people that discuss “caveman”, “paleo”, “primal”, etc. Thousands will continue to say its a fad… the longest fad in the history of mankind that is!

    I think all species are always evolving. But, it takes time!

    No one NEEDS grains, legumes or dairy. We do NEED meat. It’s absolutely essential! Eating veggies and fruit can help complete an incredible diet. And, my lovely sweet potatoes.

    Primal Toad wrote on January 4th, 2012
    • I’m suffering from a bacon deficiency right now.

      And I agree: eating like a human is not a fad.

      Abel James wrote on January 4th, 2012
  4. Great post. I sent your book and Wheat Belly to my dad, my mom/stepdad, and my brother for xmas this year. My stepdad lost 40 lbs and got off insulin by eating this way. My brother lost 20 lbs and is actually jogging by eating this way. I sent them all the books so they understand why. My brother has actually gone full gluten free like me, and is like a newly converted evangelist! It’s awesome! I had some depression early in my 20’s and was lucky enough to find a shrink who told me about eating this way rather than taking a pill. Worked wonders when I stuck to it. Now seeing my family’s health improve so radically and knowing how I feel and look when I do too, it’s a lot easier to stay on the wagon! Primal really works. My brother and I were raised this way basically, and have now returned. It’s amazing.

    Josh wrote on January 4th, 2012
    • This is an awesome post.

      I’m thinking of sending Wheat Belly to a few relatives myself. Problem is, I was always thin (watched calories on SAD) and they’ve been getting fatter, so sending advice of any kind seems kinda rude.

      oxide wrote on January 4th, 2012
    • Just gotta say it’s great to read Mark’s blog and quite another to hear from a lot of you how well you and others are doing on this Primal wagon. Makes me want to go and buy all the books, go to all the workshops, conferences, free the kitchen from its toxins and start living and feeling good again. It so makes so much sense.

      Jeanie H wrote on January 6th, 2012
  5. Thanks for gettin’ your nerd on once in a while- these posts aren’t necessarily as inspiring as a success story, but speak volumes.
    I appreciate MDA for being flexible, respectful, and willing to question and reformat based on new research and findings. Keep doing what you do!!

    Kerry wrote on January 4th, 2012
  6. Awesome post! Love it. Thanks.

    Margaretrc wrote on January 4th, 2012
  7. Great post! Thanks for including the SNP details, it was informative to look up those SNPs on my 23andMe profile. For Rs2291725 (incretin secretion) do you know which variant is the “ancestral” and which is the “neolithic” (C or T)?

    JD Moyer wrote on January 4th, 2012
    • T is ancestral and C is neolithic.

      If you want to look up others, the NCBI has a SNIP database (search for dbSNP).

      Tim wrote on January 4th, 2012
      • Thanks Tim. I’m CC (neolithic).

        JD Moyer wrote on January 4th, 2012
        • Is there a primal group on 23&Me? It would be really awesome to be able to get a group of us who are successful this way and en masse be able to present our range of relevant SNPs.

          There are those few for whom primal doesn’t work – and it might because they have different SNPs. But finally they would have the association to guide them as to why.

          moreporkplease wrote on January 5th, 2012
  8. Interesting post. We’re certainly evolving, but it’s pretty slow in comparison to our “foodstuff innovation”. As a species, in the developed world we’ve managed to obtain access to anything, anytime, and we’ve gotten ourselves addicted to nutrient-impoverished food. In the third world, we’re starving for nutrients or literally starving from lack of food. Seems like it’s a fail all around. And our brains are so big! You’d think we’d have done better. At least some of us are trying to think our way out of the situation.

    Bacteria are much more efficient and evolve way faster (you mentioned this in an earlier post – lateral gene transfer…). But even they can’t evolve fast enough to keep up with the abuse. But I guarantee you in the end they’ll still be here, human GI tract or no…

    gydle wrote on January 4th, 2012
  9. Interesting post. And if it took 10,000 years for the amylase gene to catch up with agriculture, how long will it take the genetic fix (whatever it’s going to be) to catch up with the high-gluten grain we’ve been growing for only 40 years or so? :-)

    September wrote on January 4th, 2012
    • It will take more years then I have left here on Earth. Thus, I choose not to eat gluten and recommend to others that they avoid it as well. Simple. :)

      Primal Toad wrote on January 4th, 2012
  10. Hi Mark,

    You say:

    “SNPs can affect the way genes work if they fall on a DNA “coding sequence.” When that happens, the slight variation in nucleotides can change the biological function of the particular DNA sequence, effectively altering the way the gene works.”

    Not entirely true. Genes are regulated by regulatory sequences which determine the level of gene expression for a given gene. So, while a mutation in a coding sequence might alter the sequence, structure and function of the protein, any deleterious mutation in its regulatory sequence influences the level of protein expression, which is an important factor determining the phenotype. For instance, lactose persistance is associated with an intronic SNP located in another gene that is not LCT, but is just right next to it (MCM6).

    But, without implying that gluten is not problematic, there is evidence that there is adaptation to gluten by humans, probably by commensal evolution:

    http://www.lucastafur.com/2011/10/rothia-to-rescue.html

    http://www.lucastafur.com/2011/10/is-phytate-really-problem.html

    This kind of symbiosis is extremely intelligent and permits rapid adaptation to changing environment.

    Lucas Tafur wrote on January 4th, 2012
    • What Mark wrote is entirely correct, since he said that changing coding regions is one way how SNPs “can” affect gene function, which doesn’t say that this is the only way that they can act.

      Mutations in regulatory sequences that alter transcription are not necessarily deleterious. They may increase fitness or be entirely neutral. Indeed, since the evidence seems to be pointing towards the nearly neutral theory of molecular evolution being correct, we should expect most mutations to have very little or no effect on phenotype.

      Tim wrote on January 5th, 2012
      • From the text:

        “SNPs can affect the way genes work if they fall on a DNA “coding sequence.” When that happens, the slight variation in nucleotides can change the biological function of the particular DNA sequence, effectively altering the way the gene works.

        (…)the vast majority of SNPs do not fall within coding sequences and thus have no discernable effect.”

        Maybe it was the words chosen, but it seems to imply that BECAUSE many SNPs do not fall within coding sequences, they have no effect.

        And yes, a SNP per se is not deleterious or advantageous. It depends on other factors.

        But, as I have said, lactose persistence is associated with a SNP outside the LCT gene. This shows how a SNP outside the coding sequence can alter the phenotype drastically.

        Lucas Tafur wrote on January 5th, 2012
        • I also liked the way Mark avoided the common mistake of directly equating genes with proteins. The phrase “biological function of a DNA sequence” nicely avoids the whole thorny issue of what exactly we mean by a gene and encompasses non-translated RNAs as well as proteins.

          Tim wrote on January 6th, 2012
  11. I love this post. I am trying to go Primal. I know it is the answer to so many of my issues. I bought the old book, just started reading when the new book came out. I guess I will buy it and Wheat Belly. The resources and world of Paleo/Primal can be overwhelming so any tips would be appreciated. I study Anthropology and find this lifestyle to be accurate.Thanks!

    Cavegirl wrote on January 4th, 2012
    • Just do it. Eat eggs with vegetables for breakfast wherever you get hungry. Find some grass fed meat. Buy some fish oil pills, olive oil, coconut oil. Full fat plain yogurt with berries for desert a couple times per week. You will be amazed how long you go without feeling any need to eat. It’s an awesome change from having a chubby body and constantly craving food.

      Rocket wrote on January 4th, 2012
  12. “For more intra-species genetic variation”

    Translation: race exists and it matters. Many of the problems atttributed to “racism” (the achievement gap, etc.) are the result of intractable and long-standing GENETIC differences between peoples of significantly varying genetic heritage, i.e. different races.

    If you believe it for tolerance of foods, you should question why you don’t believe it for intelligence, propensity for violence, future time orientation, physical ability, etc.

    Remnant wrote on January 4th, 2012
    • Yes, race exists. the really hairy issue is sorting out the differences caused by genetics, culture, and environment. Until everyone eats optimally, and lives the same lifestyle, there’s no way of sorting it out. All the examples except physical ability are social constructs.

      cndnrose wrote on January 4th, 2012
      • Gentic science increasingly indicates that many many traits are real, not social constructs. The standard deviation in IQ between those of African descent and those of European descent has been called the “fundamental constant of sociology”. It holds across cultures, countries and historical experiences (i.e., it is as true of blacks in the UK as it is in the US).

        To say that there differences are “social constructs” is increasingly to ignore growing mountains of scientific evidence.

        Take a visit here (http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com/) or here (http://isteve.blogspot.com/) for a start.

        Remnant wrote on January 4th, 2012
        • Why don’t you take your vile spew back to Stormfront and the JBS, where I’m sure it will be appreciated in its proper light?

          I’m sure you can all commiserate about how your whitey white white genes* leave you at a relative disadvantage for type II fast twitch muscle fiber growth.

          *-there is no such thing as the purity of the white race and never has been, but don’t let that stop you

          Another Halocene Human wrote on January 5th, 2012
      • Gentic science increasingly indicates that many many traits are real, not social constructs. The standard deviation in IQ between those of African descent and those of European descent has been called the “fundamental constant of sociology”. It holds across cultures, countries and historical experiences (i.e., it is as true of blacks in the UK as it is in the US).

        To say that there differences are “social constructs” is increasingly to ignore growing mountains of scientific evidence.

        Remnant wrote on January 4th, 2012
        • Well, who designed the IQ tests? Oh yeah, a bunch of white men living in Western, industrialized countries. This is dangerous ground–intelligence itself is a social construct. “Blacks” in the US and UK are both immigrants from various parts of Africa, growing up nutritionally, socially, and culturally disadvantaged. Africans in Africa suffer from the fallout of hundreds of years of colonialism that irrovocably changed their cultures and economies (and diets!). IMO there is no accurate way of correcting for these profoundly influential, non-genetic factors, and any study claiming to do so is speculative at best.

          IQ tests are not “scientific evidence” because they are not real science.

          Kelly wrote on January 5th, 2012
        • Responding to Kelly below (no “reply” option appearing below eir comment).

          Over the next few years it will be very interesting whether the paleo / primal movement — a movement that is predicated on Darwinian science and evolutionary theory — will be able to cast a cold, objective and unsentimental eye on the issue of race. The HBD / race realist community is entirely aware of the paleo diet and has adopted it more quickly and with greater enthusiasm than perhaps any other sub-culture: for people who understand genetic science, the paleo diet is a no-brainer. Thus far, the reverse has not been true although it should be: people who understand the logic of the paleo diet should be able to understand that evolution has resulted in different traits for different races.

          Doesn’t mean any race is “better” than another, but it does explain performance in various human endeavors. As Steve Sailer has detailed at length, men of West African descent have represented ALL 56 qualifiers for the 100-yard dash at the past seven Olympics. Is this because China doesn’t train any runners?

          As for the claim about white men creating the IQ tests: well, they aren’t doing a very good job of it, because the North Asians consistently perform at a higher level as whites. (The same North Asians who were subjected to some of the worst famines of the century as well as a century and a half of colonialism and wars: funny how that didn’t seem to affect their performance the way it did Africans.)

          Anyway, rather than getting into back-and-forth about “who designed the tests”, I would reiterate the larger point, which is that people who take evolution seriously, should look into the science of HBD. It is a matter of pursuing the truth, not of “hating” anyone, as Kelly’s message makes clear she thinks is the only possibility.

          I highly recommend MDA readers to look into sites such as Steve Sailer’s, La Griffe du Lyon, Gene Expression, OneSTDV, Half Sigma, etc. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt you. And you might even learn something.

          Remnant wrote on January 5th, 2012
        • Remnant, I’m curious why this is important to you at all?

          The topic of diet is obviously a pressing concern for any given person as these inputs cause acute affects in our daily lives on as personal level as possible.

          Why is this race issue so important to you that you’re exerting effort to merge two communities?

          Your drive is one for racism and *you* know it. I don’t believe a discussion of race is important for this community and I don’t think your analysis of race is important for society; except as a topic to be noticed and protected against.

          El C wrote on January 5th, 2012
        • Kelly, I’m sorry to say you’re talking to a brick wall who NEEDZ 2 BELEEEEV. Little things like “facts” and “logic” and “context” are completely lost on this idiot.

          “Remnant” for example, neeeedz 2 bealeave that she is related to archeohumans, such as Neandertals, as part of a pathetic web of self-justification for dissatisfaction with her social status and, probably, a series of poor choices in life. It’s uncomfortable to look ourselves in the mirror and assess what we need to improve. It’s easier to wank about “caveman genes” and nurse envy of others into full-blown hatred.

          The ultimate hat-trick of racial essentialism is not simply to dehumanize one’s social inferiors (a strategy accessed by the rich and powerful) but to create an alien of the SELF. Clearly, if one’s self is not truly human, then the self is not to blame for failing to ever fit in, not playing the game, being rejected by others, and failing at everything the self set out to do. The failed self then creates an ANTI VALUE SYSTEM, glorifying its failures as virtues, its selfishness as altruism, its inconstancy as creativity, its repulsiveness as leadership. And this attitude of thinking is by no means limited to racial supremacists; it simply finds a safe harbor there.

          Another Halocene Human wrote on January 5th, 2012
    • Actually you are incorrect. You sound more like a media outlet using a sound byte to slander someone. Intra-species means :occurring within a species or involving members of one species. It does not infer race, unless you consider your race as another species from homo-sapiens. Every single person has a different DNA sequence that can be affected differently.Intelligence, propensity for violence, future time orientation, physical ability, are all variations that change from person to person, not by race. Many factors affect this, including environment, diet, and experiences, which basically are social constructs.
      Its funny how you only apply this theory to those of “African” decent, and not those of Hispanic, Middle eastern, or Asian heritage.Did the European geneticists you quote take that into account? What about those who reside in third world impoverished countries?
      Its highly apparent you have a lower intelligence due to your statement, and due to the fact that your racist statements are grounded in ignorance.
      I know many different people of different races and backgrounds that have a very high intelligence, including those of “African” decent. On the same token, i also know many people from different races and backgrounds that are on the lower end of the intelligence scale, including those of eastern European decent.

      Dave wrote on January 5th, 2012
    • I’m not sure what the impetus for a discussion on race was either, but the vicious manner of the response is noteworthy. No matter how ignorant the ‘enlightened’, faux-educated middle masses are, and no matter the vileness of their spew, humanity will always have this redeeming factor: the irony is delicious. Thanks for the laugh.

      Dryas wrote on January 5th, 2012
  13. Key to remember is that selectivity isn’t so much to do with whether a certain trait gets to reproduce or not, but rather *how much* it gets to reproduce.

    A positive trait generally means more kids and therefore more people with that trait to then pass it on.

    Not only that – the trait usually remains positive and so it increases in the population near exponentially.

    So anything we currently deem attractive – ie being skinny regardless of environmental pressure, or anything that enables us to bring home the bacon – ie natural ability with computers or finance, will, over a number of generations, if the advantage stays relevant, be affecting the evolution of our species even if the non-carriers are still reproducing.

    Marco Vela wrote on January 4th, 2012
    • It just occurred to me that this whole primal/paleo etc movement is the caveman gene fighting back. It may one day be key to the survival of the human race that we aren’t completely changed.

      Marco Vela wrote on January 4th, 2012
  14. Left handed DNA alert! (might want to flip the pic) ;P

    Sara wrote on January 4th, 2012
  15. “To the first question, I’d say kinda. We should always reexamine our premises – any and every premise that we hold dear. That goes without saying. It keeps us honest and, most importantly, it helps us make sure the advice we follow and dole out to others actually works.”

    I LOVE how you said this. If no one checked their premises, there would be no primal/paleo movement at all.

    The great thing about checking your premises is that if something does check out (like the PB does, in my opinion), it gives you the “green light” to really dig into it knowing (in your mind) that it’s true.

    So I say check ALL your premises, be they political, religious, cultural or whatever viewpoints you may hold. Regardless of whether they check out or not, you’ll be glad you did, as it’ll either strengthen your resolve on that issue or change it for the better (hopefully!).

    TokyoJarrett wrote on January 4th, 2012
  16. I really like this start with the basics and build up with what agrees with you idea. I heard an interesting hypothesis somewhere regarding what we are evolved to eat – that we are all adapted perfectly to a caveman diet, but we that we have also adapted pretty well (in many cases) to eating neolithic foods. This hypothesis is the bare minimum, I think, of what the possible scientific support for paleo philosophy would be.Thus, we should follow an experimental process (just like what Mark proposes) that starts with this humble version of evolutionary diet theory. Start with the foods we know are good for us, but cautiously add on others an see what happens!

    Dmitri Smirnov wrote on January 4th, 2012
  17. I read through this post three times. There’s lots of great info to digest here – and to further research.

    Over the past year, all I did was wade around in the shallows of the Primal/Paleo movement pool and I still experienced some impressive results.

    On Jan 1, I decided to plunge into the Primal deep to see where it takes this 50-year-old.

    Stay Primal!

    Werner wrote on January 5th, 2012
  18. I love reading MDA. Well reasoned, well thought out, well presented, easily assimilated. And grammatically correct, as a pleasant bonus! Thanks for all your work. I wish there were some way of sharing PB with my obese cousin, who recently got crazy offended at me for not having canola oil in the house, and for offering coconut oil instead. What a mess.

    sarah k. wrote on January 5th, 2012
  19. GREAT post! Well said, explained, described, elucidated. Thank you.

    Samantha Moore wrote on January 5th, 2012
  20. We are definitely in another phase of evolution. We eat grains, dairy, sugar, it alters our bodies and brains in ways we probably cannot grasp today.
    In my opinion, eating low amounts of grains, sugar, dairy won’t cause any health problems.

    Paul Alexander wrote on January 5th, 2012
  21. Perhaps in another 100000 years or so humans (or whatever they call themselves by then) will have evolved to consume nothing but plastic – tasty tasty plastic in a variety of colors! Or be robots.

    Brian Clasby wrote on January 5th, 2012
    • lol!

      I read somewhere recently that a scientist in Norway (?) is trying to synthesize meat so that one day we will only eat strips of this product rather than the real animal. Really Willy Wonka stuff.

      Happycyclegirl wrote on January 5th, 2012
  22. I would like to see a similar treatment regarding genetic evidence of dietary adaptation for populations between the time our ancestors migrating from Africa to various other parts of the world until the onset of agriculture. It would be especially interesting to see the metabolic/dietary effect that the partial Neanderthal ancestry of these populations have compared to modern African populations that have no Neanderthal ancestry.

    John wrote on January 5th, 2012
    • You should check out John Hawks’ weblog. It’s probably the best place on the internet to learn about Neandertal and Denisovan ancestry in modern populations:

      http://johnhawks.net/weblog

      SPOILER ALERT: there is very little, if ANY metabolic carryover from Neandertals. Their lives were very different from ours, and, as such, there is a big difference between modern human and Neandertal mitochondria. Hawks discusses this in detail. The first analysis of Neandertal DNA was mitochondrial only (as it is better preserved) and it was SO different that some paleontologists took that as prima fascie evidence that Neandertals and Homo Sapiens were separate species! (Hawks disagreed then–and has since been vindicated.) This article I think explains it best:

      http://johnhawks.net/weblog/reviews/neandertals/neandertal_dna/green-2008-complete-mtdna-sequence.html

      Remember, it’s all about gene expression. Useful genes to current circumstances get selected for, but this process takes time and sometimes fails.

      Another Halocene Human wrote on January 5th, 2012
    • In case my earlier reply never makes it out of moderation for including links, you will find answers to some of these questions on anthropologist John Hawks’ weblog. Google it.

      Another Halocene Human wrote on January 5th, 2012
      • I’ve been voraciously and euphorically reading post after post after post. Many thanks for the nudge.

        John wrote on January 5th, 2012
  23. This is an excellent post, so interesting and a great resource to point interested parties to.

    Keep on doing what you do Mark!

    Kelda wrote on January 6th, 2012
  24. The “masses” and their progeny can fight the evolutionary battle for grains. We’ll find a better food source some day.

    Laurent Wada wrote on January 6th, 2012
  25. why is removing chicken so good. is it the fact that its replaced with seafood?????

    PaleoDentist wrote on January 6th, 2012
  26. Interesting twist, at first I thought you were breaking away from the Primal Blueprint, which I started in September after reading Wheat Belly, Why We Get Fat, Body by Science and Primal Blueprint. I lost 25 pound, I feel great and I cant believe the Conventional Wisdom of Whole Wheat and Chronic Cardio has been trying to kill us all.

    But after reading this website for four months, I realize all this information is adaptive so individuals can follow it on an 80%-20% compliance basis.

    Keep On, Gorking On

    Wayne wrote on January 7th, 2012
  27. I touched on this topic in my recent blog post. Check it out

    http://ezcoinonline.blogspot.com/2012/01/are-humans-still-evolving.html

    Hunter wrote on January 8th, 2012
  28. Nice post – it addresses the one serious reservation I had, because it is my conviction, as a biocultural archaeologist in training, that humans have not stopped evolving, and that culture is a more potent a driver than natural selection. I’m very much taken with the notion of anthropotechnology, as explicated by Sylvia Blad’s reading of Sloterdijk’s work. Blad, S. 2010. The impact of “Anthropotechnology” on human evolution. Techne Vol 14, Issue 2,
    Spring 2010. 72-87. DOI: 10.5840/techne201014211.

    It seems to me very likely that ancestry does play a role, and that there may be multitudinous primal diets.

    So while I fully agree that modern industrial food is a bane to everybody, it may well be that some people can manage preindustrial grains without deleterious effects while others can’t. There’s evidence for habitual usage of large-seed wild grasses (grains) 100,000 years ago in Mozambique, while wild grains were a staple at Ohalo II 23,000 years ago.
    http://www.ucalgary.ca/news/december2009/archaeology
    http://antiquity.ac.uk/ant/086/ant0860990.htm

    We may not even have to go back before the Neolithic, with what we’re learning about epigenetics. I wonder whether, if the same pressures affect multiple generations, epigenetic mechanisms alter the genome, maybe by switching off some genes or forcing a multiplication of copy numbers.

    It’s fascinating work. I’m really glad to see an appreciation of nutritional individuality.

    SuzU wrote on November 26th, 2014

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