Just a light and playful topic for your Tuesday morning…. What can I say? Since my posts on human longevity, I’ve had germs on the mind. Aaron Blaisdell’s response to Part 2, however, truly inspired today’s topic:
Excellent post! I wonder how much infection afflicted human populations prior to the adoption of animal domestication. Jared Diamond has discussed how animal domestication led to an increased transfer of viral infections (e.g., colds, flu, small pox, TB, etc.) from farm critter to human. Prior to the domestication of animals such viral transfers were probably rare. Death from viral infection may have been much lower in pre-pastoral times.
So, what kind of infectious landscape did our paleo hunter-gatherer ancestors inhabit? Did their living conditions do more to imperil or spare them? And how did their chances change once they acquired agriculture and animal husbandry? How does it compare to the picture in our modern age?
Speculation on ancestral lifespan is fun and potentially illuminating, but I think examining living, albeit imperfect, examples of modern hunter-gatherers offers greater insight. Sure, the environment has changed, wild food sources have shrunk in diversity and availability, and modern civilization has encroached and meddled and disrupted, but the few remaining hunter-gatherer populations exhibiting relatively untouched traditional lifestyles represent the most promising window into what life actually looked like and how long it lasted for our ancestors. Luckily, a couple of researchers – Gurven and Kaplan – had the bright idea to look at ethnographic studies on actual, living HG populations and analyze the available data on actual lifespan and mortality therein. They found some interesting stuff.
Dairy, as I’ve discussed, is a somewhat hazy matter in the Primal Blueprint. With adequate reasons from solid thinkers both for and against, I’ve relegated dairy to the provisional, the peripheral, the speculative even as I choose to modestly indulge in it. As with most Primal gray areas, some forms appear less controversial than others. Raw, fermented, full fat dairy offers much more health benefit with fewer reservations than processed, low fat renderings. (Isn’t that always the case?) From a Primal perspective, however, dairy still remains somewhat of an enigma. Hardly one of the original, universal foods in human evolution, milk entered the scene at a surprisingly late date – only some 9,000 years ago with the advent of animal domestication. Researchers have long traced the “progression” of Grok‘s dairy intake from the Middle East into Europe, where milk actually became an unusually significant dietary staple. New research into the dairy “drift” now offers more details than ever surrounding this relatively isolated, albeit dramatic, evolutionary event.
It’s official: we’re closing up shop. They found The Bread. They still haven’t found the flying saucer from Area 51, or the second shooter on the grassy knoll, but they found The Bread.
A crack team of European archaeologists has finally uncovered the evidence that Eades, Cordain, DeVany, Nikoley, I, and a ton of other bloggers have been pooling our incomes together to suppress for years. That supplement and book stuff I sell? It’s actually a (undeclared) non-profit operation devoted to buttressing the final meager thread supporting this whole Primal/paleo thing. And it was working, too, despite our recent setbacks. See, we’ve been taking a lot of hits as of late:
Despite our culture’s “problematic” relationship with personal health (yes, I’m straining to be this diplomatic), we sure do like our medical T.V. There’s the news of course, the doctor talk shows, and the dramas: House, HawthoRNe, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice… (I have no doubt I’m missing some.) It’s one of those head scratchers – kind of like our culture’s current penchant for food T.V even though the average American spends less time cooking than ever these days. When it comes to the news, they make anything and everything sound like an imminent emergency. (Swine flu, anyone?) As for the dramas, there are the good looking people, romantic plotlines, feverish action, and tear-jerking narratives. More to the point, however, you have bizarre assortments of random medical oddities, the suspense leading up to the eventual diagnoses, and the inevitable drama surrounding characters’ medical treatments and tragedies. It’s enough to pique anyone’s curiosity, but some interesting research shows that we’re getting more than we bargained for from our entertainment.
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