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					Why Paleo?



   Courtesy of Dustin Lord
Paleolithic man was a hunter-gatherer. He subsisted almost exclusively on
meat and vegetables, eating eggs, fruits, nuts, and berries when they could
be found and catching fish if there was a nearby river.

Our [hunter-gatherer] ancestors were remarkably healthy. They were as tall
or taller than modern Americans and Europeans, which is a sign they ate a
very nutritious diet. They were virtually free of cavities and bone
malformations that are common with malnutrition. Despite a lack of medical
care, they had remarkably low infant mortality rates, yet had better than 10
percent of their population live into their sixties. (Wolf 39)

Studies done by anthropologists have shown that Paleolithic man was
essentially free of degenerative diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and
cardiovascular disease that are the norm today. There was also little to no
near-sightedness or acne. Being powerfully built, our hunter-gatherer
ancestors had the strength and endurance of modern athletes (Wolf 39). If
one stopped to look at the general population today, it would be painfully
obvious how many unhealthy people are out there: chubby kids, breathing too
hard from walking to even consider playing, hollow-eyed teenagers, and older
people living out their “golden years” in walkers and wheelchairs. Given all
this information on how healthy and fit our ancestors were, I began to
wonder what went wrong along the way. What changed things more than any
other event or occurrence? Many anthropologists would give this simple
answer: the agricultural revolution.

The agricultural revolution was the time period in human history that saw
the most drastic change to humanity's diet. Once humans could control what
they grew, the hunter-gatherer lifestyle quickly became obsolete. Our
ancestors made a rapid shift from meats, fruits and vegetables to the more
“normal” diet of grains, legumes, and dairy. Genetically speaking, the
agricultural revolution did not take place too long ago - only about 10,000
years. That's not long at all considering Paleolithic man was around for
almost 500,000 years! To put it into perspective, imagine a football field
(100 yards from one end-zone to the other). If one were to walk from one
end-zone to the other, 99 yards out the 100 would represent all of human
history except the last 10,000 years. The last yard would represent
humanity's transition from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to an agricultural
one, with the last few inches representing modern technology (Wolf 39).

Although 10,000 years seems to be a long time, it is actually rather short
in terms of evolution. And it is surely not enough time for humans to adjust
to such a change in diet. To reinforce this point, an analysis was done of
two peoples, farmers and hunter-gatherers, who lived near the Ohio River
valley. The farmers lived in the area about 500 years ago and the
hunter-gatherers lived there 3000 to 5000 years ago. Being a historical gold
mine, this particular site provides numerous skeletal remains of both groups
of people, making it a good place to make comparisons between the two. The
farmers, being agriculture-based, survived on corn, beans and squash while
the hunter-gatherers lived on a foraging diet of meat, wild fruits, fish and
shellfish. A trained forensic scientist or medical anthropologist could tell
within minutes whether an ancient skeleton belonged to a farmer or a
hunter-gatherer due to the staggering differences in health between the two.
By performing extensive bone testing and examining the fossil record,
anthropologists determined that the hunter-gatherers had almost no cavities,
a lower infant morality rate, lower rates of bone malformations, longer
lives, and no deficiencies in iron, calcium and protein. The same tests
determined that the farmers showed nearly seven cavities per person, a
higher infant mortality rate, a greater number of bone malformations due to
infectious diseases, shorter lives, and deficiencies in iron, calcium and
protein. The differences are vast but why? The change in health between the
groups compared above are similar to every transition from hunting to
farming studied. Our ancestors shifted from a nutrient and protein-rich diet
that varied with location and season to a uniform diet that depended on
three to four starchy crops. Although agriculture has always been considered
to make life easier, this is not the case when examining the atrocities that
foods such as grains commit inside the body. Not only are they a poor source
of the vital vitamins and minerals found in fruits, vegetables and meats,
they also lead to a profusion of health complications that range from
autoimmunity to cancer to infertility (Wolf 41).

Have you ever considered that grains and poison oak are far more similar
than they appear to be? The answer is probably not. Some plants, especially
berries, have evolved to include animals, including humans, as part of their
survival strategy. Once eaten, the seeds are carried through the digestive
tract and come out in a warm, fertilized package that ensures the survival
of the next generation. Not all plants are so benign. Plants such as poison
oak take on an entirely different but equally effective survival method.
When an animal comes in contact with the infamous three-leaved plant, the
oils rub off and cause and irritation of the immune system. This response
causes pro-inflammatory chemicals to release, leading to an irritating (and
sometimes embarrassing) rash. When grains are compared to these two
different strategies, they are actually far more similar to poison oak.
Grains want to survive and if they are eaten that's the end of the line.
That doesn't mean they'll go peacefully. Grains are equipped with a variety
of antinutrients, lectins and gluten (livingpaleo.com) in order to dissuade
other organisms from consuming them (Wolf 52).

Antinutrients are just that – ANTI nutrients. The antinutrient in grains
that causes the most problems is called phytates. This is a grain's best
defense. It binds to vitamins, minerals and enzymes, making them unavailable
for absorption. Phytates targets calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc -
the same minerals that the farmers were deficient in. Grains actually
contain all the minerals above that are blocked by phytates. Lastly,
phytates attack the enzymes that are used during digestion, inhibiting
protein digestion. Grains are not the only culprit. Antinutrients are also
found in legumes, dairy and some nuts and seeds (Avoiding Grains Part 1).

Both lectins and gluten are two types of protein that belong to the same
family but each come with their own unique dangers. Lectins are resistant to
both cooking and our digestive enzymes, making it difficult to stop them
from harming our bodies. Lectins are a major cause of inflammation and
digestive diseases such as leaky gut syndrome and autoimmune disease. The
reason for such effects on our system is that lectins damage the gut
defenses, called microvilli, which line the small intestine and help digest
and transport food particles into the blood stream. Leaky gut syndrome
occurs when significant damage has been done to the microvilli. Once the
damage has been done the absorption of fats, vitamins and minerals is nearly
impossible (Avoiding Grains Part 1).

When a person has gluten intolerance it is known as celiac disease. Not
everyone has celiac but across every species of animal tested grains have
shown to cause gut irritation. Many people think that grains are not causing
any damage because they do not notice anything wrong in their bodies. The
negative effects happen slowly and the damage is done before a person
realizes that something is not right. Sufferers of celiac disease usually
only find out once they are already sick.

Along with all the other problems that grains cause, there is one more that
is important to talk about. Carbohydrates. Grains have a huge amount of
carbs in them when compared to the amount of protein and fat they contain.
But why worry about carbs? For over thirty years the government and the USDA
have been pushing a high-carb, low-fat diet on the public. “But a growing
number of top nutritional scientists blame excessive carbohydrates – not fat
– for America's ills. They say cutting carbohydrates is the key to reversing
obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and hypertension” (Mckoy). A
confusing proclamation considering that many people have grown up hearing
that too much fat will kill you.

Unfortunately, the people who push for and promote the high-carb, low-fat
diet, on which our nutritional guidelines are based, deny that our
Paleolithic origins hold any sway over our health. “Our system is confused
and broken, and we are being held hostage by an Orwellian nutrition and
health research community that lacks a unifying theory to assess the
validity of one study over another” (Wolf 34). This results in constant
changes in information regarding what is healthy and what will lead to an
early death. “One year eggs will save your life, and the next they will put
you into the grave” (Wolf 35). Few people even attempt to fix this broken
system. But nobody can blame them for it. It's much easier to make money off
of sick people than healthy people.

With the help of a thirty year old government message that carbs are good
and fat should be cut from the diet, Americans consume an average of 250 to
300 grams of carbohydrates every day – about 55 percent of daily caloric
intake. Considering that the country's levels of obesity, Type 2 diabetes
and heart disease have risen dramatically over the past couple decades, a
high-carb lifestyle is beginning to look like a bad idea. “'The country's
big low-fat message backfired,' says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition
and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. 'The overemphasis
on reducing fat caused the consumption of carbohydrates and sugar in our
diets to soar. That shift may be linked to the biggest health problems in
America today'” (Mckoy).

All carbohydrates convert to sugar in the blood. The more refined the carbs
are, the faster the conversion goes. Bread, pasta and similar foods turn
into blood sugar almost immediately upon consumption. The pancreas manages
blood sugar by secreting insulin which moves sugar into cells to be stored
as fuel in the form of glycogen. As time goes on, the body has a harder time
processing high amounts of carbs and its response to insulin changes. Cells
begin to become resistant to insulin and the pancreas must produce more in
order to move the same amount of glycogen into them. As insulin resistance
continues to increase, carbs become a bigger problem for the body. Diabetes
develops once the pancreas can not produce enough insulin to keep up with
the glucose in the blood. (latimes.com)

Carbohydrates aren't all bad. They even have some redeeming qualities,
especially for people who need a quick source of energy to burn and a
shorter recovery time. The people that I'm talking about are athletes. The
carbohydrates that an athlete takes in are important for maximizing
performance but it's all about timing and where the carbs come from. An
athlete strictly following the Paleo Diet will actually not be able to
maximize his performance because the diet does not deliver enough carbs to a
body that is rapidly burning through them. There are five stages of eating
that can be followed in order to get the most out of the food being
consumed.

Stage I details what should be eaten before exercise. Without the right
nutrition the morning of the big race or a few hours before a tough workout,
an athlete's performance will suffer. There are five major pre-exercise
eating goals: to “satisfy hunger,” to “restock carbohydrate stores depleted
by the overnight fast,” to “reestablish normal body fluid levels,” to
“optimize performance” and to “prepare the body to recover quickly
post-exercise” (Cordain, Friel 20). Satisfying hunger is essential but many
athletes do not eat food prior to working out. Without adequate nutrition
before a workout, the body becomes underfueled, running low on glycogen from
both the muscles and the liver. The body is then forced to slow down or stop
completely. During sleep the body constantly repairs itself, using the
energy from stored glycogen to do so. Therefore, carbohydrates must be
replaced in the morning. The longer the workout, the more carbs the body
needs. It is important to get those needed carbs from the proper foods.
Athletes familiar with the Paleo Diet will know that there is a high amount
of carbs in fruit. Proper nutrition is key to optimizing performance. It is
much better to get the carbs from fruits and vegetables than from bread or
pasta because, as discussed previously, refined carbs are something the body
is better without. Lastly, it is important to properly hydrate the body.
Hydration, along with proper pre-exercise nutrition, will insure a faster
recovery period.

Eating during exercise is what stage II is all about. However, caution must
be used during this stage due to the way the stomach reacts to food during a
workout. At higher intensities of exercise the digestive system will
actually begin to shut down. During digestion blood is diverted towards the
stomach to aid in the process. During exercise the opposite occurs and blood
is diverted to the muscles that are hard at work keeping the body going. If
too much food is deposited in the stomach, it will just sit there instead of
being distributed throughout the body, causing intense, uncomfortable
cramps. For shorter athletic events, lasting two to 90 minutes, there is no
need to eat. During longer exercise, ranging anywhere from two to 18 plus
hours, both calories and carbs are burned at a rapid rate. To keep from
crashing, snacks are important – a banana or a few cookies is always good to
have along (Cordain, Friel 27-49).

Stage III, IV, and V are all in the same category because they all involve
what should be eaten after the workout. Stage III begins thirty minutes post
exercise. During this stage it is important to replace expended carbohydrate
stores since most of the energy used during a workout is carb-based. High
glycemic carbs from foods such as potatoes and low glycemic carbs from foods
such as fruits are a good mix in order to provide a steady release of
glycogen into the blood. Protein is also important to replenish tired
muscles and help them grow at the same time. Sixty to ninety minutes post
exercise is when stage IV begins. Exercise causes the blood to shift to a
more acidic environment so this stage is all about taking in foods high in
alkalinity to bring the blood back to normal pH levels. Vegetables, fruits
and fruit juices all provide a net alkaline effect. It is also time to shift
from a high carb intake to a lower carb, higher protein intake in order to
give the body amino acids for re-synthesis of physiological structures.
Stage V is for any days that no training occurs. It is important to maintain
a healthy diet of mainly lean meats, fruits vegetables – all Paleo staples
(Cordain, Friel 50-62).

				
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