Why Eat Paleo if Our Ancestors Died So Young?

I’m sure you’ve heard this argument or thought it yourself. So what’s the retort? It’s simple. We live in a fortuitous time when we have the best of both worlds – modern medicine AND high quality, organic Paleo foods at our fingertips. Hunter gatherers throughout time and geography weren’t (and aren’t) dying of heart attacks and complications of diabetes and obesity like we are in the Western world now. Their lives ended because of things like malaria, tuberculosis, falls from trees, starvation, and childbirth. They killed each other brutally with hand-made weapons or were eaten by predators that we don’t even have to think about in our cozy houses anymore. Or if they were lucky, they lived to be really old and died peacefully and quickly when their bodies finally gave out. They weren’t living out their formative years in hospitals and nursing homes being force-fed medicine to keep them “alive”. They weren’t in wheelchairs because they were so obese their joints gave out. And they weren’t having open heart surgery because their arteries were so inflamed that blood no longer flowed through them. They were dying of actually natural causes – not diseases of diet – which is how I’d prefer to go out any day. Let’s take a look at the Kitavans, since there’s so much data on them. A healthy, seemingly happy, peaceful culture in the Trobriand Islands in Papua New Guinea eating a Paleo diet. At the time they were studied in the late 1980’s, they ate tubers, fruit, fish, and occasionally pig, and they didn’t suffer from heart disease, obesity, or other common ailments of Westerners. [excerpted from The Paleo Plan website]

Staffan Lindeberg, The Man Behind The Kitava Study

Staffan Lindeberg, M.D., Ph.D., (born 1950) is Associate Professor of Family Medicine at the Department of Medicine, University of Lund, Sweden. He is a practicing GP at St Lars Primary Health Care Center, Lund, Sweden. He is best known for the Kitava Study, a detailed examination of the diet, lifestyle and health of the indigenous population of Kitava, an island in the Trobriand Islands group of Papua New Guinea, carried out in the early 1990s. Starting in 1989, Staffan Lindeberg led scientific surveys of the non-Westernized population on Kitava, one of the Trobriand Islands of Papua New Guinea. These surveys, collectively referred to as the Kitava Study, found that this population apparently did not suffer from diabetes, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, obesity, or strokes. Starting with the first publication in 1993, scholars associated with the Kitava Study have published a number of scientific works on the relationship between diet and western disease. [1][2] Lindeberg is a proponent of the paleolithic diet,[3] emphasizing the importance of eating whole foods low in antinutrients.[4] Based on his study of the Kitavans, Lindeberg postulates that most common Western diseases like atherosclerosis and diabetes stem from a diet and lifestyle humans are not well-adapted to. Foods he recommends are: vegetables, fruit, lean meat, fish, nuts, eggs.[5] He has stated that a plant-based diet rich in carbohydrates is consistent with the human evolutionary past.[6] Staffan Lindeberg advocates a Paleolithic diet, but does not recommend any particular proportions of plants versus meat or macronutrient ratios. According to Lindeberg, calciumsupplementation may be considered when the intake of green leafy vegetables and other dietary sources of calcium is limited. Lindeberg has authored and co-authored many scientific papers, focusing on the beneficial effects of adhering to a paleolithic diet. He has also written about the downsides of the typical Western diet.[7] The first animal experiment on a Paleolithic diet suggested that this diet, as compared with a cereal-based diet, conferred higher insulin sensitivity, lower C-reactive protein and lower blood pressure in 24 domestic pigs. There was no difference in basal serum glucose.[8] The first human clinical randomized controlled trial involved 29 people with glucose intolerance and ischemic heart disease, and it found that those on a Paleolithic diet had a greater improvement in glucose tolerance compared to those on a Mediterranean diet.[9][10] Furthermore, the Paleolithic diet was found to be more satiating per calorie compared to the Mediterranean diet.[11] A clinical, randomized, controlled cross-over study in the primary care setting compared the Paleolithic diet with a commonly prescribed diet for type 2 diabetes. The Paleolithic diet resulted in lower mean values of HbA1c, triacylglycerol, diastolic blood pressure, body mass index, and waist circumference and higher values of high density lipoproteinwhen compared to the diabetes diet. Also, glycemic control and other cardiovascular factors were improved in both diets without significant differences. It is also important to note that the Paleolithic diet was lower in total energy, energy density, carbohydrate, dietary glycemic load and glycemic index, saturated fatty acids, and calcium, but higher in unsaturated fatty acids, dietary cholesterol, and some vitamins.[12]


6 thoughts on “Why Eat Paleo if Our Ancestors Died So Young?

    1. Pepper Culpepper says:

      As one commenter noted:
      “I’m so glad you stated the life-expectancy at age 50 as well as the overall figure. To people who are interested in matters of diet/lifestyle, it’s completely unsatisfactory to state a bald life-expectancy figure (as so many do) and leave people to draw wrong conclusions from it.

      If a population is exposed to frequent warfare, wild animals, lack of emergency healthcare, etc., then their base L.E. doesn’t help us at all. I wonder what our much-vaunted life-expectancy in the West would look like if you withdrew all modern healthcare – I for one would be dead (burst appendix – age 11. Too many grains, LOL)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Aggie says:

        Thank you. You’ve supported what common sense tells me — they are the image of health. (Mine would have burst at just about exactly the same age.) I am currently longing to go live with the Australian aborigines.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Pepper Culpepper says:

        The photo is from Adrain Chesser’s book, The Return.

        According to one article, “The Return is a collaboration between photographer Adrain Chesser and ritualist Timothy White Eagle.”

        The article continues…

        “In 2007, Chesser attended a Native American ceremony called the Naraya in Short Mountain, Tennessee, where he met White Eagle, Finisia Medrano, and J. P. Hartsong. “It was at a time in my life when, due to medical conditions, I felt trapped in a system of employment, health insurance, and Western medicine that I was dependent upon to keep me ‘alive and healthy.’ When I learned how Finisia and Hartsong were living, I knew that I had to follow them out west to make the photographs that became The Return. My soul needed images of people living wild and free, untethered from society, specifically people whose life experience reflected my own feelings of being ‘other.’”

        The Return depicts a loosely banded tribe of people who move between Idaho, Nevada, California, and Oregon. Traveling with the seasons, the subjects of The Return use traditional hunter-gatherer skills along with knowledge of indigenous food crops to follow an ancient way of life known as “the Hoop.”

        “The subjects in The Return are predominately not indigenous Native Americans. Most carry European ancestry, and most come in one form or another from the disenfranchised margins of mainstream America,” says White Eagle. “Most are poor, some are queer, some are transgendered, some are hermits, and some are politically radical. All believe that major shifts are needed in the way modern society interacts with the natural world. And all are willing pioneers, stepping off into uncertain terrain and searching for something lost generations ago.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s