To many people, paleo, keto, and even intermittent fasting are just fad diets of the moment that will be replaced by the next big thing in a year or two. Although these labels are relatively new in the mainstream, the foundation of these diet approaches and the science behind them is not.
Collectively paleo, keto, and intermittent fasting make up the pre-agricultural human diet that we evolved with for millions of years. Our ancestors did not consume grains, dairy, legumes, soy, or other agriculturally based crops. They did not eat 3-5 meals a day, and they developed an internal cleansing process, called autophagy, that purges damaged cells, toxins and other garbage from our bodies during extended periods between meals. They consumed more than ten times as much fat as we do currently, primarily from animal sources, and were far less physically active than we are today.
The Football Field Analogy
Loren Cordain, one of the leading experts in evolutionary diet and disease, and several other anthropologists often use a football field analogy to help demonstrate just how abruptly the human diet has changed in recent years and how far out of alignment it is from what we are genetically programmed to eat. The football field analogy varies slightly depending on which events are highlighted over time, but generally goes as follows:
The 0-yard line – Represents 2 million years ago and the approximate initial appearance of one of the first members of the human genus, Homo erectus. Anatomically, H. erectus was very similar to us from the neck down.
The 10-yard line – Represents 1.7 – 1.8 million years ago. A discovery in Dmanisi, Georgia (Europe), confirms that H. erectus had left Africa and crossed into Europe. Their existence at or above 40 degrees North Latitude provides supporting evidence that they utilized animal protein as plant material would not have been available all year-round.
At approximately 17.5 yards – 1.65 million years ago. H. erectus is present in Zhoukoudian, a cave system in Beijing, China (Asia).
Cross the 20, 30, 40- and 50-yard line. Begin down the other half of the field and a little over a million years later.
The opposing end 25-yard line – Represents approximately 500,000 years ago and the initial appearance of Homo heidelbergensis, another extinct relative of modern humans (Homo sapiens). Our knowledge of H. heidelbergensis stems primarily from a discovery site in Boxgrove, England.
The exceptional strength of the bone fossils collected from the site are indicative of cold adaptation. Present at the site were hundreds of stone tools, and the remains of several now extinct species of rhinoceros, bears, and voles. Evidence collected from the animal remains confirm that they were butchered, but whether or not they were hunted or scavenged was not definitive.
The 20-yard line – A discovery of wooden throwing spears in Schöningen, Germany carbon dated to 400,000 years ago, represent the oldest complete hunting tools ever found. More than 10,000 animal bones, predominantly of horse, red deer, and European bison, were also present at the site. Several cut marks made by stone tools were observed on the animal bones.
The 12-yard mark – represents approximately 230,000 years ago and the arrival of Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis). This extinct human relative was also determined to be heavily dependent on animal-based food, and possessed a larger brain and a greater behavioral sophistication than earlier representatives of the Homo genus. A commonly supported theory among scientists is that a high consumption of omega-3 fatty acids contributed to the observed increase in brain development.
At approximately 8.5 yards – Represents approximately 192,000 years ago and the existence of the anatomically modern human (Homo sapiens) in Africa.
At 2.5-yards – 45,000 years ago. Anatomically modern humans entered Europe. Full capacity for speech is noted, and increased sophistication in tool making, art, musical instruments, and other behaviors such as burying of their dead. Cave paintings from this period depicting humans hunting animals have been discovered in France.
At 0.5 yards – Represents the onset of the first Agricultural Revolution (approximately 12,000 years ago) also known as the Neolithic Revolution. Prior to this point, the consumption of milk (aside from nursing infants) or grains was extremely rare, yet refined sugars, grains, dairy and processed oils began to occupy a large proportion of human diet at this point.
At 0.01 yards – Represents the 17th – 19th century (100-300 years ago). An unprecedented increase in agricultural production in Britain known as the British Agricultural Revolution.
At 0.001 yards – Represents approximately 60-90 years ago, the Third Agricultural Revolution. Processed foods are beginning to dominate the human diet taking us completely off-base from what we had been adapted to eat during the previous 2 million years of development. Health issues relating to this drastically adjusted diet become rampant.
For the entire length of the football field, representing 2 million years of development, our current way of eating occupies a fraction of one yard.
If this is how we are supposed to eat than why did we stop?
Our knowledge of the human diet is extensive. More than 15,000 scientific papers, and an innumerable number of books have been published on the topic of primitive nutrition, and on the detrimental effects of our post agricultural diets.
This is not an attack on farmers, or the agricultural industry. The First Agricultural Revolution began as a means of survival. Much of the world’s mega fauna (large or giant animals) were lost during the last ice age and as a result of overharvesting, and humans were in need of food.
Our increased use and dependence on more plant-based foods in more recent years however is less about need, and more about money and addiction. Agriculture in the US is a huge industry. Larger than big pharma and the NRA combined, and with even more influence. Similar to the tobacco industry, the products they are pushing are addictive.
The agricultural industry has massive influence in government and is responsible for creating our dietary guidelines. The US. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) food pyramid, aka “the feed lot diet”, is crammed into school curriculums, and every government food program imaginable, despite the fact that the science overwhelmingly advises us against this way of eating.
Products made of grains and/or many other agricultural crops contain exorphins, which are morphine- like substances that are highly addictive. These are what makes dieting so difficult, and why people have such difficulty with overeating. These foods have also been linked to increased risk of cancer, diabetes, obesity, inflammation, heart disease, mineral deficiencies, mood disorders, learning disabilities, Attention Deficit Disorder, Autism, Asperger’s disorder, anxiety disorders, immune and autoimmune diseases and countless other conditions.
Once these conditions began to emerge however, government agencies, and numerous government funded health organizations were quick to point the finger at cholesterol and dietary fats as the scapegoat. Once enough fear and confusion were created, these organizations then profited by producing and selling vegetable-based, artificial, and hydrogenated fats. Meanwhile, these conditions continue to increase rapidly.
My Experience Going Against The Grain
As noted in a prior article, I had tried to follow the paleo diet for several years, but I was still struggling with the wavering energy levels and mood swings associated with my carbohydrate intake and the resulting insulin spikes. I was eating healthy foods but, still having trouble regulating the volume I was consuming, and fighting against persistent cravings for unhealthy carbohydrates (carbs).
Most low-carb diets suggest replacing carbs with higher protein, but we don’t really need very much protein, and if consumed in excess, it can actually cause problems. It wasn’t until I replaced carbs with healthy fats (keto) that I finally gained control of my food intake and cravings. I saw marked improvements in my hair, skin, nails, eyes, inflammation, mood, and energy levels. My grocery bill has been cut in half, and for the first time I feel that I have complete control over my diet.
Despite what you may read or hear elsewhere, we don’t need to consume carbohydrates to be optimally healthy. Yes, there are functions within our bodies that require glucose, but our bodies can manufacture glucose, as needed, from a combination of protein and fat in our diets. There are no actual human dietary requirements for carbohydrates.
I have since also incorporated periods of fasting into my dietary approach with great success. I found this approach to be easy to adopt because I simply was not hungry all the time anymore. After eating a dinner of high fats, moderate protein, and little to no carbs, I wasn’t hungry until later in the afternoon the following day. I now start my day with a cup of coffee, in which I add a pinch of cinnamon and a dash of stevia, and then eat my first meal at noon or 1pm. My energy levels and cognitive function are high and consistent throughout the day, and only lull briefly after a meal.
There are several ways to successfully incorporate paleo, keto, and intermittent fasting into your life. It is however important not to look at these as a fad, or short-term fix. Although these dietary approaches are often discussed independently, collectively they make up the original human diet.