A 7,000-year-old man whose bones were left behind in a Spanish cave had the dark skin of an African, but the blue eyes of a Scandinavian. He was a hunter-gatherer who ate a low-starch diet and couldn’t digest milk well — which meshes with the lifestyle that predated the rise of agriculture. But his immune system was already starting to adapt to a new lifestyle.
Researchers found all this out not from medical records, or from a study of the man’s actual skin or eyes, but from an analysis of the DNA extracted from his tooth.
The study, published online Sunday by the journal Nature, lays out what’s said to be the first recovered genome of a European hunter-gatherer from a transitional time known as the Mesolithic Period, which lasted from 10,000 to 5,000 years ago. It’s a time when the hunter-gatherer lifestyle was starting to give way to a more settled existence, with farms, livestock and urban settlements.
Our comment on all this is that they have found the “Meso” man to be lactose intolerant and according to the BBC news summary this morning, he did not digest starch very well either. At the Taymount Clinic, we often suggest that if one could wipe out all processsed dairy (lactose) and grain foods (starch) from the diet, you would possibly eliminate around 70% of the UK (or world) health problems (possibly the other 30% would be alcohol-based and accidents). From the findings about Meso man, it seems that this might just be true.
Before he started looking at settling and starting farming, the parents of Meso man did not have access to cows and farmed grains. They grubbed around, digging up roots and tubers, picked sour, gnarled and pithy fruits and wrapped them up in leaves to temper the bitterness. They had access to honey only maybe one glorious day per year when a hive was found and they had meat when they had hunter’s luck to kill something edible that didn’t kill them first. So it was largely a raw, hi-vegetable diet high in natural bacteria and yeasts. Low sugar (a very important consideration given the dawning realisation that sugar may be even more addictive than cocaine – more about that in another blog…). Meat was a garnish, a treat and certainly not every day. This is extremely like the Paleo diet, which is finding a lot of publicity and followers all over the world today.
We are often asked about the Paleo diet as we do recommend it. However, there are permutations of “Paleo” and it is now becoming a misused label, so which Paleo diet do we recommend? To illustrate, I will give an example. When one is contemplating going on a raw, vegan diet (which I have done for several months at a time before now), one is faced with a library of “cook” books to help you create your favourite cooked dishes in the new raw, fresh and vegan form. The purists will ask why would you want raw, fresh foods to mimic the cooked, processed dishes? A good question. You don’t do yourself any favours trying to give up junk foods by developing raw, fresh versions of the same thing. It rarely works, makes you yearn for the junky, “real” thing and is self-deluding. Likewise with the Paleo diet; focus on the things you can have as a natural part of this diet, rather than try and re-create cookies, cakes, biscuits, pies and other baked goods in “Paleo” form. I refer to the need to use large amounts of maple syrup and processed, refined starch like arrowroot and tapioca starch to take the place of gluten flours. It may not be grains, but it is still very concentrated starches and sugars. Keeps your cookie-head and sweet tooth (sugar addict) running the show.
And to refer back to where we started with all this, our 7000 year old man has shown from his tooth DNA, that he did not eat many starches (that would include the fruit sugars and the maple syrup also).
So let’s try to get out of the baking and cookie mentality and see what a real Paleo diet would have looked like and this fits very well with the latest spotlight being thrown on sugar and how it is a poison that is getting into everything, sweet and savoury. Check out the books by David Gillespie about Sweet Poison.
The thing that is hinted at in the article is that Meso man was beginning to make changes to his immune system to adapt to farming and agriculture. It does not offer any evidence to support this and the statement uses the word “may” rather whimsically. To adapt the DNA, you need mutations which are selectively chosen to continue in the population gene pool. Mutations which are given preference at breeding time; preferences of survival or attractiveness to mates. The trouble is, we vastly underestimate how much time evolution needs in order to make these changes and for them to become a stable part of the population characteristics. 7000 years may sound like a long time, but it is only a lineage of 280 conceptions. 4 generations per century, it is only 280 generations. This is no time at all in the evolution time clock. He may have started farming, but he was lactose intolerant and did not digest starch well. One might ask why be a farmer then…?
So we stay firm in our assertion that modern man would be much healthier if he ate the way Paleo man really ate; not with concentrated starch recipes and lashings of maple syrup, but with high vegetable content and meat as a luxury garnish. Meso man does not offer concrete evidence that mankind can deal with anything else than this. In fact, he does the opposite and underlines the recency of our divergence away from the Paleo-style diet and our inability to cope with farmed foods.
7000 years is not probably not enough time for population-wide biological adaptation to a diet. So the way food manufacturers have been fooling with our diets over the last 50 years, has absolutely no chance of being coped with biologically. Hence we are sicker, fatter and more miserable as a species, than ever before. The answer is on your plate. (Meso-)Paleo is the way to health.