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Logic behind the evil grain argument - question for Mark

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  • Logic behind the evil grain argument - question for Mark

    Dear Mark,

    After reading your thoughts regarding the over consuption of water and the definiteive guide to grain, I had a question regarding the logic behind the primal eating argument. I would like to point out that I am very interested in aspects of your philosophy and have adopted parts of it into my lifestyle. My question is more out of pure curiosity and is in no way a criticism of your opinions and research.

    If I understood what I read correctly, your philosophy especially with ragards to primal blue print eating is that if it was good for our ancestors, tens of thousands of years ago, it must be good for us. Especially in respect to water and grain, you mention that in the hunter-gatherer stages of human evolution, it would have been highly unlikely for people to consume large amounts of water and that animal protein as well as vegetables, berries and nuts provided all the necessary nutrition. Another point you make is that because grain is a relatively recent introduction to our food, humans are not adapted for it and it is therefore not good.

    What i would like to know is that if we hypothetically take this argument back in time when people were discovering meat. We could also say that because we had lived so long without meat, scavenging and getting by on vegetarian sources of protein, etc, our system had not been developed for meat. Therefore too much meat which had suddenly become available would be bad for us, following the argument of the grain and water. If we stuck to this argument then we would think twice about eating meat and miss out on all the benefits.

    If we take this argument back to today, is it not possible that we simply are evolving again and we have an abundance of substance that may be good for us (such as water or grain) and that we simply have not realised the benefits of having these things freely available in large amount?

    My argument is not based on any science or research and I am sure many people will disagree with me. Like I said before, this is no way intended to criticise or bring into question your way of thinking, there is a lot of evidence against grain, etc. However it was just something I would really like to hear your opinion on.

    Sincerely,

    Andrei

  • #2
    Andrei,

    There is a problem with your theory.

    When we began eating meat, the meat eaters got stronger, and smarter (larger brain size). The weak died earlier. This is called natural selection. The fittest survive, the weak die. We cannot evolve without this selection pressure.

    Today, we do not evolve in this way because that selection pressure does not exist. Today, it's easy to keep a grain-eater alive until they can procreate. And that is all that is necessary to eliminate natural selection. It doesn't matter that the same grain-eater will have a heart attack at the age of 45 (my father). He has already passed on the weaker gene (me).

    Eric

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    • #3
      Hello, not sure where you're getting the water stuff. I haven't heard any anti-water arguments. (Also, you do know this is a public forum and Mark isn't going to necessarily see this, right?)

      You could hypothetically take the argument back to before we ate meat, but there's a difference in time scale -- we started eating grains just 10 to 15,000 years ago, perhaps less depending on your ancestry. That's not really all that many generations ago.

      But humans started their meat-eating omnivory much, much longer ago. Scavenging and then hunting later. I've heard the figure 100,000 years bandied around, but there's plenty of debates on that. And as ericfoster3 describes, this coincided with a big step in our evolution.

      Grains played a very helpful role in helping us expand civilization in the sense that they're cheap calories and so you could sustain a greater number of people without them starving to death. But that doesn't make them great for our long-term health.

      Now it may very well be that some people today are better suited genetically to cope well with grains long term than others, just like how Europeans seem generally better able to tolerate dairy than Asians. But as Eric points out, there's really not a lot of selection pressure for that to happen on a wider scale. And as a lot of people on this forum have found, they do seem to do better without grains, even if they don't have one of the "official" gluten-intolerances like celiac.

      Personally, while I find all the evolutionary arguments extremely interesting, I buy into this approach for two reasons:
      1) it seems clear to me that eating grains displaces other excellent foods like vegetables from people's diet -- foods with all the same or better fiber benefits, the added bonus of tons of vitamins and antioxidants, and a lower glycemic index.
      2) it works for a lot of people, and it's working for me so far, and ultimately that's what makes me happy food-wise.
      "Trust me, you will soon enter a magical land full of delicious steakflowers, with butterbacons fluttering around over the extremely rompable grass and hillsides."

      Comment


      • #4
        The assumption here is that we became humanoid-like creatures without meat, and then began eating meat.

        This, I believe, is false - us eating meat and becoming human-like creatures happened at the same time, and some would go as far as saying that we became "human" BECAUSE we eat meat. We do not have large stomachs and the need to feed most of the day like herbivores - our stomachs are small, efficient. While we can consume plant matter, most of us here accept that a purely vegetarian diet is inherently flawed. Grains are nowhere near this picture.

        Now, taking the overabundance argument - grains and water are NOT in overabundance for us - we are MAKING an overabundance for ourselves, allowing ourselves to reproduce in numbers beyond what is sustainable by the environment. Eventually, the system will topple over.
        - If it was cute and cuddly at some point, eat it. Ignore everything else. -

        - Food is first, and foremost, nothing more than fuel. -

        - The body is animal. The mind, however, is not. -

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by ericfoster3 View Post
          Andrei,

          There is a problem with your theory.

          When we began eating meat, the meat eaters got stronger, and smarter (larger brain size). The weak died earlier. This is called natural selection. The fittest survive, the weak die. We cannot evolve without this selection pressure.

          Today, we do not evolve in this way because that selection pressure does not exist. Today, it's easy to keep a grain-eater alive until they can procreate. And that is all that is necessary to eliminate natural selection. It doesn't matter that the same grain-eater will have a heart attack at the age of 45 (my father). He has already passed on the weaker gene (me).

          Eric
          excellent response.

          plus - i think we were always omnivores, like the chimps who eat meat. i think the main difference in our diet came when we started cooking with fire or moved to locations where would encounter different food sources, eg shellfish.

          Otherwise, as far as I am aware, we have eaten the same way for MILLIONS of years. It's only been in the last few 1000 years we have not only changed our diet but irrevocably damaged our genetic "blueprint"

          ??
          Scottish Sarah

          Join our UK/ROI Primal group here! http://www.marksdailyapple.com/forum...php?groupid=67

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          • #6
            I just wanted to suggest that you watch the NOVA documentary Becoming Human (you can watch it for free online). It is an awesome 3-part special on human evolution, and really illustrates the evolutionary pressures that resulted in today's human species (including our omnivorous diet).
            The Primal Holla! Eating fat. Getting lean. Being awesome.

            You were sick, but now you're well, and there's work to do. - Kilgore Trout

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            • #7
              Originally posted by queen_sheba View Post
              plus - i think we were always omnivores
              I also think we were always omnivores. I was just playing into his hypothetical for a moment.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by theholla View Post
                I just wanted to suggest that you watch the NOVA documentary Becoming Human (you can watch it for free online). It is an awesome 3-part special on human evolution, and really illustrates the evolutionary pressures that resulted in today's human species (including our omnivorous diet).
                oh brilliant! I LOVE anthropology....this is a small part of why i find this WOE so interesting...if only my speakers worked!
                Scottish Sarah

                Join our UK/ROI Primal group here! http://www.marksdailyapple.com/forum...php?groupid=67

                Give me a poke on facebook http://www.facebook.com/#!/pistepals
                **Remember to tell me your forum name so I know who you are!**

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                • #9
                  What most advocates of primal/paleo living have done is looked at the best available evidence of how people achieve good health in modern times. It happens to correspond beautifully to scientific evidence of how humans lived in hunter-gatherer societies; meat-eaters who also ate berries, vegetation, nuts and seeds. You can call it primal, or call it the Ultra Modern, Super-Scientific Diet to Prevent Diseases of Modern Civilization Such as Diabetes (T2) and Heart Disease. It's the same thing.

                  The urban myth of 8 glasses of water a day has pretty much been debunked. Thirst works. Extreme climates and extreme exertion being the exceptions.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ericfoster3 View Post
                    I also think we were always omnivores.
                    I've heard some interesting theories that we (our critter ancestors that is) may have played at least a partial role in helping the dinosaurs go extinct. As warmblooded animals not tied to sunlight for warmth, we could raid their nests at night for eggs. Mmm, tasty-tasty eggs. (And in practice that means eating not just a yolk concoction like modern unfertilized eggs, that means we were eating almost-ready baby dinosaur meat too...)

                    Originally posted by fitmom View Post
                    What most advocates of primal/paleo living have done is looked at the best available evidence of how people achieve good health in modern times. It happens to correspond beautifully to scientific evidence of how humans lived in hunter-gatherer societies
                    That's a much better way of explaining the point I was trying, and failing, to get around to above. Thank you!
                    "Trust me, you will soon enter a magical land full of delicious steakflowers, with butterbacons fluttering around over the extremely rompable grass and hillsides."

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Jenny View Post
                      I've heard some interesting theories that we (our critter ancestors that is) may have played at least a partial role in helping the dinosaurs go extinct. As warmblooded animals not tied to sunlight for warmth, we could raid their nests at night for eggs. Mmm, tasty-tasty eggs. (And in practice that means eating not just a yolk concoction like modern unfertilized eggs, that means we were eating almost-ready baby dinosaur meat too...)
                      mmmmm. Dino eggs... Sounds delicious! If we only existed the same time they did... *sigh*

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by AndreiG View Post
                        What i would like to know is that if we hypothetically take this argument back in time when people were discovering meat. We could also say that because we had lived so long without meat, scavenging and getting by on vegetarian sources of protein, etc, our system had not been developed for meat. Therefore too much meat which had suddenly become available would be bad for us, following the argument of the grain and water. If we stuck to this argument then we would think twice about eating meat and miss out on all the benefits.

                        If we take this argument back to today, is it not possible that we simply are evolving again and we have an abundance of substance that may be good for us (such as water or grain) and that we simply have not realised the benefits of having these things freely available in large amount?
                        Ah, but "may be good for us" - thereby hangs a tale.

                        Meat - meaning, as the term properly does, fat and lean - provided a lot of calories to early hominids. That's obviously an enormous gain. They didn't have to spend so much time getting (or digesting) food. More energy could be used to power a larger brain, rather than for digesting less nutrient-dense foods. So there's your "may".

                        Grains - just what is the "may"? It's not that they're particularly high in vitamins or minerals - they're generally not so.

                        The only obvious gain that I can think of is that they do provide a (fairly reliable) and cheap source of calories. (There's an interesting parallel with our beginning to start meat-eating: in some ways it's easy sources of calories that has mattered.) This is what made civilization - basically city-life (from the Latin civis - a townsman) - possible.

                        Now people may actually be happier in small-scale societies, but - to think only of the arts - imagine no Bach, Shakespeare, or Vermeer. Prehistoric hunter-gatherers had some fairly stupendous art themselves, but still no Bach is no Bach. So, actually, we did have something to gain from the cultivation of grain: the whole of civilization.

                        I should suppose that that sort of consideration is why Professor Cordain referred to grains as "Humanity's Double Edged Sword". Apart from anything else, they have fed, and do feed, an awful lot of people. None of us would be here to discuss the point, if they hadn't. Cordain quotes someone who says: "cereal grains literally stand between mankind and starvation".

                        http://www.direct-ms.org/pdf/Evoluti...al%20Sword.pdf

                        But they certainly seem to come with two edges to them - one that cuts us, or at least some of us, quite badly. I'm not convinced that they're as harmful to everyone as is claimed - not if they're not eaten in highly refined form, only form a much smaller proportion of the diet than they generally do, and are accompanied by a lot of richer foods. But I think all we have to gain from them really is their cheapness - they're cheap calories. I avoid them myself.

                        Water's a different thing. I don't believe we need to drink loads of it. However, I don't believe it's the case that hunter-gatherers don't drink much of it. One anthropologist who measured what he and his team were drinking and compared it with what the people he was studying drunk found the locals drank more than Westerners did.

                        Where the 8 glasses a day nonsense came from no-one knows. One Australian governmental site (State of Victoria perhaps?) debunks that one, and points out, in the blunt way Aussies, have that knowing how much to drink isn't rocket science. If you're urinating every few hours and it's a light straw colour, then you're OK. If you're going more infrequently and it's a darker colour you need to drink a bit more.

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                        • #13
                          Great summary, Lewis. I'd say what grains have done for us collectively is rather different from what they do for -- or rather, to -- some of us individually.

                          Originally posted by ericfoster3 View Post
                          mmmmm. Dino eggs... Sounds delicious! If we only existed the same time they did... *sigh*
                          Presumably you mean us as in hominids, modern humans? Heheh, yeah, I bet they would be GREAT eating.
                          "Trust me, you will soon enter a magical land full of delicious steakflowers, with butterbacons fluttering around over the extremely rompable grass and hillsides."

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                          • #14
                            yes but also look at what "civilisation" has brought us. Crime, deviance, poverty for some - apathy over our fellow man, breakdown of family structure, lack of respect for our elders..

                            tough call....bach vs all that hideous stuff.

                            plus - if grains are than amazing at feeding us, how come millions have starve to death over the years in africa? it's not that simple.

                            our civilisations are at breaking point, with over population, inability to feed some members of society and a larging ageing population..

                            anytime i think of this stuff i wanna sing...

                            We didn't start the fire
                            It was always burning
                            Since the world's been turning
                            We didn't start the fire
                            No we didn't light it
                            But we tried to fight it
                            Scottish Sarah

                            Join our UK/ROI Primal group here! http://www.marksdailyapple.com/forum...php?groupid=67

                            Give me a poke on facebook http://www.facebook.com/#!/pistepals
                            **Remember to tell me your forum name so I know who you are!**

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by queen_sheba View Post
                              yes but also look at what "civilisation" has brought us. Crime, deviance, poverty for some - apathy over our fellow man, breakdown of family structure, lack of respect for our elders..

                              tough call....bach vs all that hideous stuff.
                              I think you make some pretty big assumptions about "pre-civilization" life. Life was extremely hard, even up until the last century. I think it's wrong to assume that crime, deviance, and poverty weren't present, or even worse, during pre-civilization life.

                              I love the primal lifestyle from a health standpoint, but I will take everything else in our current state. Hell, even if I was forced to eat grains and sugared cereal every single day I'd more than likely outlive my pre-civilization ancestors. Throw in air conditioning and blogs, and it's no contest.

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