28 August 2012

Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: Why the "paleo diet" doesn't make sense

Nuts! Gathering hazelnuts is a nice way to spend an afternoon, but a lousy diet plan. Photo by ParaScubaSailor.
Just up at the collaborative science blog Nothing in Biology Makes Sense!: Sarah Hird takes down the "paleo diet" trend, which is based on eating what we think our ancestors ate before the invention of agriculture. Readers of D&T will recognize some of the points Sarah makes:

... this assumes that no evolution has occurred since the advent of agriculture. This is demonstrably false. One example of post-agricultural evolution is the human lactase gene, which breaks down lactose, the dominant sugar in milk. In ancestral humans this gene was turned off after infancy; those humans would have been “lactose-intolerant”. Most humans of European descent now have a mutation that keeps that gene turned on their entire lives. Not surprisingly, this gene spread throughout Europe at approximately the same time cattle were domesticated. There are other known examples of agricultural dietary adaptation, and doubtless more to be discovered. If we are going to use evolution to justify our dietary choices, why throw out the last 10,000 years of it?

That's just a taste (heh) of Sarah's objections; for the full case against trying to eat like a hunter-gatherer, you'll need to go read the whole thing.◼

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