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If human beings have not evolved to our "new diet", why is it that...

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  • If human beings have not evolved to our "new diet", why is it that...

    ... races of people (e.g. Europeans) that have been exposed to alcohol for thousands of years can handle it much better and more easily than races of people who have never been exposed to it until extremely recently (e.g. Australian Aboriginals)?

    I was explaining the concept of the paleolithic diet to some of my friends last night, citing that paleolithic man is genetically identical to modern man, and they we have not evolved to cope well with our "new diet" of grains, sugars, etc.

    One of them asked me this question and I have to admit I was stumped. Any answers?

  • #2
    Well, it's a better tolerance for a poison, but when you get right down to it, alcohol is still pretty toxic stuff. I mean, it's fun and all, but a hangover is the result of mild alcohol poisoning, and more severe alcohol poisoning frequently happens among youth particularly.

    Just because a toxin is better tolerated over generational exposure doesn't mean it's no longer a toxin.
    “If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.” --Audre Lorde

    Owly's Journal

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    • #3
      That sounds right to me. Ethnicities that traditionally did not eat much grain (blacks, hispanics) are much more predisposed to obesity.

      However our modern diet involves much more sugar than the average middle-ages peasant could afford so there are definitely aspects of SAD that most bodies cannot handle.

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      • #4
        @Owly: Sure, the argument isn't that alcohol is good for us though.

        The argument is that over a relatively short period of time (a few thousand years), humans seem to have adapted to cope with it better. Meaning that at-least some evolutionary(?) adaptation had occurred in that time. Given 10 times that amount of time, who is to say we haven't also adapted to be able to consume grains and diary, which are obviously far less toxic than alcohol...

        The whole premise of the paleolithic diet is that we are genetically identical to our most recent paleolithic ancestors, and have not adapted at all to our new diet. If it turns out we have actually adapted, and considerably, then it sort of throws the whole idea out the window...

        That's the argument anyway.

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        • #5
          That is a hypothesis and should never be treated like anything more. We are genetically identical and thus we MIGHT not be adapted to our new diet. You can still be adapted to things that you have never seen before. Being able to metabolize lactose was lucky because all it took was persistence of an infantile trait into adulthood, more or less. Our gut flora actually produce some ethanol so that was already there. While we're more or less identical (would we really say exactly identical?) there has been much natural selection of pre-existing genes.

          The thing with grains is that it is their biological niche to poison anything that tries to eat them. To be able to adapt to lectins and such we would need some pretty profound evolution and I don't think it has happened. That doesn't mean that we haven't adapted a bit, some have somewhat of an adaptation to gluten, just not enough to make it a healthy food, probably. The conclusion is a bit of a truism, we haven't adapted to our new diet because sufficient adaptation hasn't taken place.

          We always need empirical evidence to back these claims and I don't think anyone really takes pure paleo logic as a valid conclusion unless tested for. If they do then they shouldn't. That a good way to be wrong about stuff.
          Stabbing conventional wisdom in its face.

          Anyone who wants to talk nutrition should PM me!

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          • #6
            Originally posted by captaineight View Post
            The argument is that over a relatively short period of time (a few thousand years), humans seem to have adapted to cope with it better.
            Why would you think our adaptation to alcohol is only a few thousand years? The linked video is to wild animals getting loaded on over-ripe fruit. I'd guess (and it's only a guess) that early man followed suit and adapted before we were even 'human'.

            YouTube - African Animals Getting Drunk From Ripe Marula Fruit <--this is to YouTube, as it's sort of funny. You can find a source in the scientific literature with a quick search.
            Retirement has afforded me the ultimate affluence, that of free time (Sahlins/Wells)

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Stabby View Post
              That is a hypothesis and should never be treated like anything more. We are genetically identical and thus we MIGHT not be adapted to our new diet. You can still be adapted to things that you have never seen before. Being able to metabolize lactose was lucky because all it took was persistence of an infantile trait into adulthood, more or less. Our gut flora actually produce some ethanol so that was already there. While we're more or less identical (would we really say exactly identical?) there has been much natural selection of pre-existing genes.

              The thing with grains is that it is their biological niche to poison anything that tries to eat them. To be able to adapt to lectins and such we would need some pretty profound evolution and I don't think it has happened. That doesn't mean that we haven't adapted a bit, some have somewhat of an adaptation to gluten, just not enough to make it a healthy food, probably. The conclusion is a bit of a truism, we haven't adapted to our new diet because sufficient adaptation hasn't taken place.

              We always need empirical evidence to back these claims and I don't think anyone really takes pure paleo logic as a valid conclusion unless tested for. If they do then they shouldn't. That a good way to be wrong about stuff.
              Stabby, as usual, a great response.
              “If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.” --Audre Lorde

              Owly's Journal

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              • #8
                Originally posted by TCOHTom View Post
                Why would you think our adaptation to alcohol is only a few thousand years? The linked video is to wild animals getting loaded on over-ripe fruit. I'd guess (and it's only a guess) that early man followed suit and adapted before we were even 'human'.

                YouTube - African Animals Getting Drunk From Ripe Marula Fruit <--this is to YouTube, as it's sort of funny. You can find a source in the scientific literature with a quick search.
                The reason is because we're talking about consistent intake. And it's evident that it happened over a few thousand years in that the cultures who have drank a lot of it over that time are seemingly now much better able to cope than those who didn't.

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                • #9
                  Thanks guys, some interesting responses so far. I would also add (just for the curiosity of it) that scientists have also observed wild animals purposefully ingesting magic mushrooms, bears in particular. Which vommit, run around in a frenzy, seemingly chasing imaginary prey, fall asleep for 12 hours, then get up and do it again.

                  lol.

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                  • #10
                    @Tom: that video was really funny.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by captaineight View Post
                      Thanks guys, some interesting responses so far. I would also add (just for the curiosity of it) that scientists have also observed wild animals purposefully ingesting magic mushrooms, bears in particular. Which vommit, run around in a frenzy, seemingly chasing imaginary prey, fall asleep for 12 hours, then get up and do it again.

                      lol.
                      I would love to see that in my lifetime. hahaha.

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                      • #12
                        I've done that! Strange times in this raccoon's life. There weren't any scientists though, I think.
                        Stabbing conventional wisdom in its face.

                        Anyone who wants to talk nutrition should PM me!

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                        • #13
                          We certainly don't look the same or at least most people don't.
                          Last edited by O_O; 04-20-2011, 06:39 PM.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by O_O View Post
                            We certainly don't look the same or at least most people don't.
                            Yes, that's another point....

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                            • #15
                              Google Image Result for http://www.wordinfo.info/words/images/evolution-of-man.gif

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