Cereal grains affect the acid-base balance in the body and when fruits and vegetables become displaced by cereal grains, as has been the case, the diet shifts to net acid yielding (aka metabolic acidosis). This my friends promotes osteoporosis, hypertension, kidney stones and stroke! Refined grains and cereals also reduce the nutrient density and the fiber content of the Western diet causing metabolic problems due to mineral depletion as well as constipation, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, diverticulitis and gastroesophageal reflux.
Diary is another category of food that could not have been eaten by our ancestors in the Plio-Pleistocene era. Dairy pops up about 9000 years ago and presently represents 10.6% of the total energy in the US diet. Now skim milk, fermented milk and yogurts all have low glycemic indices BUT PARADOXICALLY have insulin indices similar to white bread and sugar! Chronically milk fed calves experience insulin resistance, hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and high urine sugar! In a recent study, 24 eight year old boys consumed 53 grams of protein as milk or meat daily for seven days. The results indicated that a short term high milk intake, but not meat intake,increased insulin secretion and resistance.
Prior to agriculture, all animal foods consumed by humans were wild animals. The entire edible carcass was consumed. In Western countries rarely are meats other than grain produced muscle meats consumed. Body fat in wild animals waxes and wanes seasonally. With the advent of animal husbandry 10,000 years ago it became possible to prevent the seasonal decline in body fat and it became feasible to slaughter the animal at peak body fat percentage. As this development became commonplace, the fatty acid balance was disrupted with ingestion of more inflammatory fats (omega 6) and less good fats (omega 3). The macronutrient balance was disrupted and humans began to eat less protein and more fat. These are all contributing factors to the development of chronic disease.
Likewise salt consumption has risen. Salt is added to processed foods, used in cooking and can be naturally occurring in some foods. The average human diet today contains 9.6 grams of salt and this consumption leads to hypertension, stroke, osteoporosis, kidney stones, insomnia, cancer and asthma. And not to be outdone, sugar entered the scene about 500BC and ever since 1835, per capita refined sugar consumption has risen almost exponentially now accounting for 18.6% of the total energy in Western Diets. Not to be outdone, High Fructose Corn Syrup came onto the scene with all of its complications. By the year 2000 Americans were consuming 64.9 pounds of this yearly! Diseases linked to refined sugars include Metabolic Syndrome, type 2 diabetes, obesity, dental caries, certain cancers and heart disease.
So you may be thinking, what can I eat and be safe and healthy and live long? Your ideal diet should consist of non-starchy fresh vegetables, a variety of fruits, fish and seafood (wild preferable over farm raised), nuts and seeds, lean meats (grass fed only) and healthy oils. This is in contradistinction to the US food pyramid which recommends grains and dairy, but in doing so reduces the nutrient density of the meal and promotes chronic disease. This high protein Paleolithic diet will improve blood lipids, will promote weight loss and will decrease chronic disease. Next time, we will discuss the Mediterranean Diet and all of its implications. Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcome!