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Thread: Is the Paleo Diet Eurocentric? page

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    Livetoride's Avatar
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    I saw this post on a friend's CrossFit affiliate page. Just wanted to post this to see what everyone thought of her statement. This does not portray my thoughts or beliefs, just found it interesting.


    "My friend Adrienne (who was a French major and I forgive her for that) who is a professor down south and very much a self identified Black woman (capital B), has taken to reading my nonsense regularly. Imagine my surprise when this intellectual, stable, professional woman actually takes me seriously and writes to me about doing CrossFit and that my posts are helpful…


    Anyway, I want to share a note I received from Adrienne after a phone call we had this week. While both of us of not anthropologists, we got to talking about the Paleo diet. And, well this is what happens after two Wellesley girls start talking diets, we get all intellectual and shit. Adrienne writes:


    Before I go to bed, I want to say thank you for introducing me to CrossFit. I’m going to to give it a try, but more importantly just hearing your enthusiasm gives me hope.


    I wanted to say something more about the Paleo Diet and how I feel about evolution and migration. The paleolithic period is prehistoric and as much as anthropology has told, there is still so much we don’t know. What we do know is that this is the period of time when Hominids (I think we were called that by then) started moving around the world.


    Many tens of thousands of years have passed since then. And if our ancestors adapted so differently, in ways that are visible to us now, it only makes sense that we may have adapted in ways that are invisible to us.


    For instance, Asians, Native Americans, and blacks are lactose intolerant, and blacks (the group I know best) tend to grow strong bones without consuming a lot of calcium through milk. White women are prone to osteoporosis and tend not to be lactose intolerant. Also, Sickle Cell is an adaptation that protects blacks from malaria, but can still kill us. Whites don’t have Sickle Cell. In our attempt to become colorblind (which I think is completely ridiculous), we forget that there are real differences that need to be acknowledged and respected.


    In all of these years struggling with my weight , I have come to the conclusion that any diet promoted widely in the U.S. is missing something for me. I can’t put my finger on it.


    I’ve been doing my own bit of research into where I came from prior to the most recent “migration”. I think there may be some answers there for me. In the meantime, I have had to acknowledge that my people–in the most immediate past–were incredibly active people who worked very hard with their bodies on very few calories. I have to find something that makes me work hard because the basic calories in/calories out equation isn’t going to work for me; nor, to put a fine point on it, is a diet based on only part of our evolutionary past that ignores the migration and the variation in our evolutionary pathways sufficient information that informs a wide based dietary program.


    I don’t mean to get preachy, but the minute I read about the Paleo Diet much of this occurred to me. Anthropology is complex, and I’m sure I’ve missed something crucial, but I think there is support for my perspective."


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    Asturian's Avatar
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    I agree very much with your perspective of variability in paleolithic diets and perhaps also the lasting effects of the more recent neolithic. I too have been doing research regarding my own ancestral migrations since the paleolithic (based on MtDNA and Y-Chromosome genetics).


    If you have not had a chance to watch a documentary called "Ghost in your genes", do so. There is a PBS and a BBC version. The BBC version is available free online. The PBS (Nova) version you can buy on DVD or wait til it shows in your area.


    I suspect you are already familiar with the National Geographic Genographic Project.


    Regarding the thread topic title. Do keep in mind that modern humans began migrating out of Africa and around the globe about 60,000 to 70,000 years ago. So I would not call it exactly Eurocentric.

    “It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creeds into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics.”
    —Robert A. Heinlein

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    Vitamin D deficiency comes to mind here. Your friend Adrienne mentions working hard on few calories, but Africans also had to spend a lot of time (entire days in some latitudes) in the sun to get enough Vitamin D.


    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100105170924.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium= feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+sciencedaily+%28ScienceDai ly:+Latest+Science+News%29&utm_content=Google+Read er


    -Many Africans are lactose tolerant (most of the Tutsi, Fulani, Sahel, many East African groups, about half of the Maasai) and intra-regional differences make this much more complex than one can judge by skin tone alone. Most on the Indian subcontinent (if one considers them Asian) are lactose tolerant, but it varies a great deal from north to south—and not necessarily by a strict north south dichotomy. In Italy, for instance, it’s the central Italians who are most lactose tolerant:


    http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/45/4/748


    -Researchers have discovered lactose-tolerating genetic changes in East Africa that occurred as recently as 3,000 years ago. It has become increasingly clear that we humans did not stop evolving once we began moving around, which your friend’s sickle cell observation may attest to.


    -Osteoporosis risk is highest in Native American, Hispanic and Asian women, none of whom consume that much milk. Though I’m not advocating milk.


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    I think it's an interesting point and certainly worth pondering.


    Overall though, are the principles of the PB / paleo not broad enough to apply globally?


    The weak vs strong bones is probably linked to vitamin D status. Paler skin occuring in the north helped our bodies use the weaker sunlight, whereas the pigment is needed for protection near the equator. So in that case, the vitamin D comes from diet e.g. oily fish (an idea that I've seen propsed but have no references for, sorry).

    Maybe it's only in modern, office-based times that Caucasians miss out on this sun and so have problems? Whereas now the black person is still eating the oily fish (etc) i.e. still has their "original" source. That could explain the present difference?


    I find our differences fascinating but most of the time daren't investigate for fear of racism etc. Which is sad.

    And yes I agree with Moshal that it's not about skin colour per se; skin colour is simply one of these differences that has developed along with e.g. lactose tolerance.... There has to have been a reason behind it!


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    Asturian's Avatar
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    Also should mention that the "Paleo Diet" as referenced to the paleolithic period would be based more on the diet of Neanderthals and modern humans.


    The "Primal (Blueprint) Diet" followed by most here is referenced to the diet of homonids throughout their evolution which goes back 2 million+ years ago and up to the start of the neolithic.


    In either case, not Eurocentric.

    “It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creeds into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics.”
    —Robert A. Heinlein

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    I do think there must be some variations depending on ethnicity. That being said, I think that these variations come into play when deviating from strict paleo into more modern foods such as dairy, for example, and maybe some plants.


    These adaptations might also make some people to be able to handle glucose better than others (re:tubers).

    “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” -Oscar Wilde
    "The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." -George Bernard Shaw
    "The trouble with jogging is that the ice falls out of your glass." -Martin Mull

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    Tarlach's Avatar
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    Any differences would be slight. It takes 10-40,000 years for a genetic mutation to become fixed in a population and conditions have to be consistent during this time (ie. not still migrating and changing diet).


    The genetic variations in the last 70,000 have been extremely rare and we are only seeing partial adaptions (ie. lactose tolerance in a portion of the population).


    As we only started moving out of Africa 60-70,000 years ago, the paleo diet equally applies to everyone. There might be slight tolerance differences in populations, but the basic principles apply equally across the globe.

    The "Seven Deadly Sins"

    • Grains (wheat/rice/oats etc) . . . . . • Dairy (milk/yogurt/butter/cheese etc) . . . . .• Nightshades (peppers/tomato/eggplant etc)
    • Tubers (potato/arrowroot etc) . . . • Modernly palatable (cashews/olives etc) . . . • Refined foods (salt/sugars etc )
    • Legumes (soy/beans/peas etc)

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    Being able to tolerate or not tolerate lactose does not seem to be a slight difference, especially when considering something so prevalent as dairy and so important as metabolism. It is an oft-cited instance of specialized local adaptation for that reason.


    Phenotypic variations, which informs the original poster’s comment, would be another example of a significant difference. That one skin tone may require more than 10 times the sun exposure of another tone to synthesize enough Vitamin D to be healthy certainly casts doubt upon the umbrella approach to health and decisions like diet.


    There is growing evidence that evolution not only continued after the Out-of-Africa migration but may require less time than previously believed.


    These lizards developed a radically different look in less than 6,000 years:


    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/05/science/05oblizard.html


    For a bigger-picture look at the continuous human evolution hypothesis, one might enjoy Gregory Cochran's _The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution_.


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    Asturian's Avatar
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    I must preface with fact that I'm just now jumping into trying to understand more of the details of human evolution. At this point of my understanding, I have to agree with Moshal that human evolution may occur more rapidly than previously believed.


    As I'm just beginning to research epigenetics, it appears that there is an underlying process that allows for genetic expressions to be passed onto several generations without actually altering or fixing a new mutation into the DNA structure. Again, I may have this all mixed up with my very elementary understanding of the topic.


    I ordered the Cochran book a week and a half ago and expect it to arrive any day now.


    Does anyone have other sources/references/books that they found enlightening about human evolution in general or detail?

    “It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creeds into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics.”
    —Robert A. Heinlein

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    Primal Blueprint Expert Certification


    Before the Dawn, by Nicholas Wade was a very interesting book. Not specically a book on genetics, but it includes genetic findings frequently.

    Start weight: 250 - 06/2009
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