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The War On Tastebuds

Today I bring you another post by the remarkable “Duck Dodgers.” It’s part overview of the current state of the anthropological science in terms of hunter-gatherer diets, part critique of  the current state of the low-carbohydrate Paleo fantasy that refuses to keep up with said advances in scientific understanding. In typical Duck style, he does his homework, so this is heavily referenced—posts from this blog (some of which he wrote), articles, and the scientific literature. I hope you don’t skip over them.

Over the past year we discovered early hominids ate a raw, sweet and starchy sedge tuber that is more nutrient-dense than red meat. We dug up evidence of starch consumption during the peak of the ice age. We detected starch granules all over the hand tools of North American Paleo-Indians—including granules from the same sedge tubers found all over the African savanna. We found that even the most carnivorous indigenous cultures consumed sufficient levels of carbohydrates and were not in ketosis, when fed their native diet. We learned that VLC advocates developed a false diabetes while being unable to reproduce the diet of the carnivorous cultures that they championed. And, we learned that fermentable carbohydrates are essential for our health and our microbiome.

And just this past month, National Geographic—you know, the magazine that spends each issue examining the latest research on cultures and ancient anthropology—ridiculed the notion of a highly-carnivorous Paleolithic Diet. Times have certainly changed.

Despite all this new knowledge, the old-guard VLC advocates are still promoting their outdated theories. Case in point, Nora Gedgaudas in a recent podcast with Jimmy Moore:

(12:14)

Nora: To me, what our ancestors relied on as the most consistently available food sources throughout our evolutionary history, has to be a starting place, when we’re trying to evaluate what’s essential to us now…All the research in paleo early on, almost all of it, started out in support of a very low carbohydrate approach. Because that was really the only rational way to see it.

Ah, to live in a simpler time when people still thought that our ancestors sat around and only ate fatty slabs of meat all day. Apparently the high fat/low carb advocates haven’t noticed that if you open your mouth and look in the mirror, you will find that—unlike a carnivore—Homo Sapiens evolved with omnivorous dental features. At no point in evolutionary history has the dental morphology of hominids ever presented as highly carnivorous. In fact, the canine teeth of hominids have only gotten shorter over the course of evolutionary history, and even the earliest hominids had canine teeth that were shorter than those of living apes and chimpanzees.

Interestingly, the saliva of true carnivorous animals do not contain digestive enzymes. Since liberating their proteolytic (protein-digesting) enzymes in the mouth would induce autodigestion (damaging the oral cavity), carnivores do not mix their food with saliva—they simply swallow huge chunks of meat. As you might guess, we omnivores tend to do things a little differently. Our mouths and throats are much smaller. We masticate and we evolved to liberate salivary amylase—a carbohydrate-digesting enzyme in our saliva. If we don’t masticate well enough, we tend to choke.

Keep in mind that our carbohydrate-degrading enzymes are secreted into every bite we take, even when we are only eating meat. In fact, you are secreting salivary amylase 24 hours a day, seven days a week until the day you die.

So, did our ancestors purposefully shun the nutrient-dense starchy tubers that were all over the African savanna? It’s highly unlikely given their high nutrient density, extremely easy harvesting, their year round availability and long-term shelf life. They were invasive too, with a single tuber able to produce 2,000 plants and 7,000 tubers in a single growing season. No hunting spears or tools were required to eat them—just a human-like grip to dislodge the tubers, by pulling up on the blades of grass, and an omnivorous mouth with a few molars for mastication. Easy peasy.

And, in fact, the clear lack of carnivorous dental morphology, combined with the isotopic signatures discovered across a wide range of hominid fossils, has now led anthropologists to believe that early hominids were thriving on these starchy sedge tubers.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9]

Given all these clues, it should come as no surprise that—as National Geographic pointed out last month—virtually all of the documented indigenous cultures and hunter-gatherer societies across the planet have relied heavily on plants and carbohydrates.

Anyhow, back to the show!

(14:15)

Nora: …But, somehow, you know, people…like…carbs. They like sugar. And they want to be able to believe that they can enjoy these things. They want to be able to rationalize that idea that these are somehow good for them in some way or another. And it’s really, really hard to, ummm, you know it’s become very PC to say, “well…you know, it’s ok. As long as it’s real food, it’s ok.

Jimmy: And they make up problems with very low carb diets that aren’t true.

Nora: Exactly. Right like, ‘This is going to destroy your thyroid.’ That’s a real gem.

If we can look past Nora and Jimmy’s outright dismissal of any potential for health issues from a VLC diet, you have to wonder where Nora thinks the universal human desire for craving sweetness ever evolved from, if we supposedly shunned carbohydrates while we evolved as humans. She seems completely mystified.

Does she think this natural desire for sweet tastes is some flaw in our evolution? We “somehow” evolved liking carbs. We “somehow” evolved with omnivorous dental morphology and continuous salivary amylase secretion. We “somehow” have highly-sensitive tastebuds for sensing sweets on our tongues with strong cravings for carbohydrates after supposedly evolving for millions of years eating buckets of fatty meat?

There’s a tremendous irony in having a discussion of human evolution while telling people to completely ignore their own anatomical features and universally-innate cravings.

Skipping ahead a bit…

(16:10)

Nora: There’s also the whole issue that a lot of people just really, what they think they’re doing as a ketogenic approach may not be. We both know of instances, it’s very easy to underestimate the amount of carbohydrates you’re getting. It’s very easy to underestimate the amount of protein you’re consuming. Or to over… yeah, to underestimate the amount of protein you’re consuming.

Jimmy: Or assuming that you’re ketogenic just because you’re low carb, without really testing to see where you are.

Nora: Right.

The thought of our Paleolithic ancestors avoiding all of the invasive energy-positive plants around them and having to test their blood and urine in order to stay in ketosis is just too hysterical for words. I can just imagine the diorama at the Natural History Museum showing cavemen stressing and obsessing about their ketone levels.

You can see where this is going. They want you to believe that people will only have problems on low carb diets if they aren’t in ketosis.

And sure enough…

(23:53)

Jimmy: Nora, I have a theory why people feel better when they added carbohydrate back into their diet when they do a quote-unquote ketogenic diet…

Nora: Opiate centers?

Jimmy: Well, obviously that’s part of it. But, I think they haven’t fully gotten ketogenic. They’re stuck between a low carb and a ketogenic diet and they’re not really keto-adapted.

Nora: Yes, I actually agree with you and I had the same thought myself and I ran it past Ron Rosedale and I was thinking it occurred to me that a lot of people who failed on an Atkins diet early on, for instance, might have failed because they never really did stop relying on sugar as their primary source of fuel.

Jimmy: Right.

Nora: They were deriving it from the excess protein consumption, which is less carbs certainly, than they were getting before, but at the same time still carbohydrate dependence. And that makes it really dicey…

Jimmy: Still a sugar burner.

Nora: Right, still a sugar burner. And therefore, more likely to experience carbohydrate cravings as a result of that, if they’re not eating regularly enough. You can go longer on a more protein-based diet. But it’s still not a ketogenic approach. And high fat, and high protein, still does not ketogenic make. And that’s the rub.

And there we go.

Did you catch the massive flaw in their logic? If you consistently fall out of ketosis—whether it be from accidentally eating too much protein, or from consuming a few starchy tubers, and not eating regularly enough—you are likely to feel worse, and you’ll burn sugar, crave carbohydrates and then feel better as you eat more carbohydrates. At this point, the listener should be left wondering how our ancestors—who obviously couldn’t test their ketone levels—didn’t just start craving more carbohydrates whenever they executed ketosis incorrectly and then concluded that consuming more carbohydrates made them feel better.

Let’s keep listening…

(46:30)

Nora: It helps to reinforce what’s already kind of an addictive predisposition. Or an addictive tendency, I should say. I don’t think we’re at all predisposed to rely on carbohydrates as our primary source of fuel. We’re actually born in a state of ketosis. We’re born to rely on fat as our primary source of fuel. We would not have the brains we have were it not for the enormous amount of fat that we consumed in our evolutionary history. When we had access to more of it. When we were hunting the great big megafauna. The Pleistocene megafauna. Umm.. you know, once they died out, we had comparatively leaner animals to hunt. Umm, and but fat was always even among more Neolithic societies fat has always been coveted and central to our umm.. to our tastes and was always considered probably the most important dietary inclusion. Certainly Weston Price found that consistently, that those were the sacred foods among every society that he studied no matter how different they were. Umm.. most sacred foods among all cultures were fat-based foods.

[…]

(51:14)

Nora: Milk is fundamentally a very high carbohydrate food…

Let’s recap. Humans are born in ketosis but grow with substantial amounts of carbohydrate (39%) from their mother’s milk. Supposedly, as adults, we evolved over millions of years only eating lots of fatty megafauna all day and somehow stayed in ketosis all the time (forget that virtually no anthropologists actually believe this and the latest data doesn’t support it). At some point in our life span, we should naturally come to the realization to begin shunning those tasty carbohydrates and only crave lots of fat, but not too much protein. And we should have no desire to eat sweets with the caveat that those who consistently fall out of ketosis will likely feel worse and crave more carbohydrates to feel better. And we also simultaneously evolved with the ability to develop an “addictive tendency” toward carbohydrates when we fall out of ketosis, thanks to those darn “opiate centers”.

So, now we are all left wondering how billions of our ancestors made this perfectly-engineered transition from a child who is carbohydrate-adapted to an adult that is expected to ignore their innate cravings for sweets when anything slightly off a ketogenic diet causes our brains to reinforce its own desire for carbohydrates.

No, no.. Don’t think too hard about it people! Ignore that natural desire in you for carbohydrates. It’s just the devil on your shoulder—a miswiring of the brain. You have to fight those instinctual tendencies. It’s simply a design flaw that you’re supposed to know to resist for your entire adult life.

Incidentally, 50 years ago, Norman Jolliffe’s “Prudent Diet” only furthered to scare Americans into believing that animal fats were the cause of all their health problems. Jimmy and Nora worked hard to undo those fears, and they sensibly cited our innate craving for fat as a reason for adding animal fats back into Western diets. However, in a strange twist of fate, they are now the ones scaring people into believing that an entire macronutrient is the root of all their health problems—despite everyone’s obvious cravings for it. Nevermind that nearly all hunter-gatherer societies and indigenous cultures thrived on whole foods carbohydrates. Indeed, VLC is the new “Prudent Diet”—simply replacing animal fats with carbohydrates and blood cholesterol with blood glucose. The message from 50 years ago is the very same message Jimmy and Nora are telling us today: ignore your own tastebuds and your cravings for “optimal” health.

Duck Disclaimer: I do not discount that ketogenic diets are therapeutic for some health conditions. However, I do not believe that we should be persuaded by VLC advocates that ketogenic diets are “optimal” based on their shoddy interpretation of a Paleolithic diet that is widely rejected by anthropologists and deviates from the overwhelming majority of documented hunter-gatherer societies.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

78 Comments

  1. martin on September 22, 2014 at 12:36

    Good piece. In a way. It seems only obvious that humans are omnivorous and eat what they can sink their teeth into. And there is of course no single human origin, in whatever terms, nutritionally or not. Hence no such thing as a unified “human nature”

    Anyway,

    Two things came to mind:

    1: Would the evolution of human teeth vis-a-vis carnivorous animals’ teeth be influenced by the use of tools? If you have tools, do you need to rip flash apart in the same way that, say, a lion does?

    2: the comment about not hunting, just whistling brought back Grandfather Alonso, who said they used to pick up animals with their bare hands (as far as my memory serves – anyway, it’s a good read):

    “The Life and Times of Grandfather Alonso: Culture and History in the Upper Amazon”:

    “In Blanca Muratorio’s book, we are introduced to Rucuyaya Alonso, an elderly Quichua Indian of the Upper Ecuadorean Amazon. Alonso is a hunter, but like most Quichuas, he has done other work as well, bearing loads, panning gold, tapping rubber trees, and working for Shell Oil. He tells of his work, his hunting, his marriage, his fights, his fears, and his dreams. His story covers about a century because he incorporates the oral tradition of his father and grandfather along with his own memories. Through his life story, we learn about the social and economic life of that region.
    Chapters of Alonso’s life history and oral tradition alternate with chapters detailing the history of the world around him–the domination of missionaries, the white settlers’ expropriation of land, the debt system workers were subjected to, the rubber boom, the world-wide crisis of the 1930s, and the booms and busts of the international oil market. Muratorio explains the larger social, economic, and ideological bases of white domination over native peoples in Amazonia. She shows how through everyday actions and thoughts, the Quichua Indians resisted attacks against their social identity, their ethnic dignity, and their symbolic systems. They were far from submissive, as they have often been portrayed.”

    • martin on September 22, 2014 at 14:46

      Perhaps a paradox in some sense (such as a linear one), but chicken and egg scenarios are really not paradoxes, but the very process of evolution and the engine of individual thought. By the time of existentialism this was phrased as “life is understood backwards, but must be lived forwards”. You experiment, you try and you do, then you learn. From cave painters to astrophysicists, the mind seems to evolve that way. You don’t learn, then do.



    • martin on September 22, 2014 at 15:27

      We’re at cross-purposes – this was a conceptual point, not an argument for or against, but a point about the nature of the argument. There is no paradox, so it doesn’t strengthen the argument.

      With regard to plants, I am in agreement. Indeed, I find it instructive to listen to Terence McKenna here, even if he was a bit wild and perhaps off the mark with some of his evolutionary ideas:

      “Animals are something invented by plants to move seeds around. An extremely yang solution to a peculiar problem which they faced.”

      This suggests something prior to, below and beyond what western philosophers call free will – and we’re witnessing the explosion of science on gut microbiota undermining the rational animal even further. Plants were here before us and will likely be here after we’ve gone. It is no doubt a big challenge to synergize with them – let’s eat them, smoke them, make ornaments – but some of them are not so very conducive for human survival when ingested.

      Once we move to an intuitive way of eating, we will be “mere” spectators to a theater play where the main actors are plant compunds and gut bacteria. We’re just facilitators – but what a show plants can bring on! Meat is good food for the body, I find, but nothing beats plants to stimulate the mind. Just to end on a dualistic note.



    • Duck Dodgers on September 22, 2014 at 13:22

      “Would the evolution of human teeth vis-a-vis carnivorous animals’ teeth be influenced by the use of tools? If you have tools, do you need to rip flash apart in the same way that, say, a lion does?”

      As far as I know, hominids only used tools to rip open the contents of the animal (Oldowan & Ascheulean stone tools, for instance). And anthropologists don’t even know what the tools were exactly used for. It’s not like they had knives and forks—at least I’ve never seen evidence of tools beyond those primitive tools that were potentially used for butchering.

      I’ll let Gabriella answer dental questions, if she’s interested. But, the widespread presence of salivary amylase being secreted 24/7 should be a giant flashing sign that we weren’t just eating meat all day.

      Secondly, I think @rob’s comment, “subsisting on animal fat was actually EASIER than subsisting on tubers, as the tubers had to be dug out of the ground, which is damned hard work” is bullshit, as it implies that butchering the meat and bones of a large animal and carrying its massive bones all the way back to base camp is somehow “EASIER” than someone gently tugging on a few blades of grass, just like this. It literally takes the guy 10 seconds to harvest about 20 tiger nuts in that video.

      I visit the butcher a few times every week, and they need very sharp saws to break down the animals and the skins are usually undressed at the slaughterhouse (not so easy with primitive stone tools). It usually takes a fair amount of time to break down a fully dressed cow or a pig. And @rob wants us to believe that butchering an animal at the kill sites and bringing the precious fat back home to the family and then extracting all the marrow is “EASIER” than pulling up on a few blades of grass? No so. Just because he puts it in capital letters does not make it so.

      There is a ton of research on bone marrow extraction and which bones were brought back to base camps and which ones were left behind at the killing sites. I have no doubt that the fat was targeted. I’ve seen the research showing that fat was highly prized. But, it doesn’t mean that hominids were eating 80% fat. That’s just a fantasy. Virtually no anthropologists believe it and the data just isn’t there to support such a theory.



    • Duck Dodgers on September 22, 2014 at 13:28

      Sorry, meant to say that tools were definitely used to butcher (breaking bones, etc) in addition to ripping open the animal. But by no means was it “easier” than tugging up on a plant like this.

      I think people don’t have a sense of how nutrient-dense these tubers are. You could harvest 2,000 calories worth of these tubers fairly quickly and have most of the day free to do other things—which is absolutely crucial if you’re a human that wants free time to invent new technology.

      And again, they are more nutrient-dense than red meat and have a macronutrient profile similar to that of breast milk. It wouldn’t make sense to avoid them.



    • Richard Nikoley on September 22, 2014 at 13:47

      Duck:

      1. rob Trolled you GOOD! 🙂

      2. This whole tool thing always makes me think of one of the first objections to “Paleo” I saw: we can’t outrun predators.

      I dispensed with #2 easily: The chief predator of humans are other humans, like 99%.

      On the tools issue, never forget that we did evolve an amazing tool. We call it a mind.



    • Duck Dodgers on September 22, 2014 at 13:57

      Another paradox to consider… How does an early hominid grow its brain large enough to invent stone tools, by eating lots of animals, without those stone tools available in the first place and not get a more carnivorous dental morphology in the process? The evidence just isn’t there to suggest that we ate a lot of meat with just our bare teeth to grow bigger brains to invent stone tools for butchering.



    • Duck Dodgers on September 22, 2014 at 15:10

      Nevertheless, when you put all the clues together (widespread 24/7 amylase secretion, extremely nutrient-dense winter-proof tubers, ease of harvest and availability/invasiveness, early Neolithic harvesting of those sedge tubers, wear patterns on hominid teeth, shifts in C4 inferred isotopes from δC13 isotopic signatures, omnivorous dental morphology, fossilized corprolites (admittedly, less precise), modern-day hunter gatherer foraging habits, dismal hunting success of modern hunter gatherers, no widely noticeable change in hominid evolution after megafauna disappear, marrow bone transportation logistics and catalogues of such bones at various sites, recent anthropological opinion, and of course, widespread cravings for carbohydrates, etc. etc.) it’s hard not to begin to see a bigger picture of energy-positive plants emerge within that evolutionary history.



    • Duck Dodgers on September 22, 2014 at 15:45

      Understood. Great contribution, Martin.



    • Bret on September 22, 2014 at 16:45

      “Just because he puts it in capital letters does not make it so.”

      Damn it. There goes my whole internet debate strategy.



    • Richard Nikoley on September 22, 2014 at 19:55

      “Animals are something invented by plants…”

      And everything was invented by bacteria. Or maybe even viruses.



    • Bret on September 23, 2014 at 07:02

      “I’ve seen the research showing that fat was highly prized. But, it doesn’t mean that hominids were eating 80% fat.”

      You nailed the logical disconnect here, Duck. KG advocates tend to leap from point A to point B without connecting the dots.

      Because they can’t connect them.



    • GTR on September 23, 2014 at 13:35

      @DuckDodgers – “How does an early hominid grow its brain large enough to invent stone tools, by eating lots of animals, without those stone tools available in the first place and not get a more carnivorous dental morphology in the process? The evidence just isn’t there to suggest that we ate a lot of meat with just our bare teeth to grow bigger brains to invent stone tools for butchering.”

      That one has been solved. One of the possible solutions is precise throwing during hunting. Throwing requires accuracy unusual in the animal world – carnivores rely on last-second corrective moves and manevours in order to catch their prey, while a thrower has to both predict the move of the animal as well as lead the tool with just tiny errors possible – with the tolerance inversely proportional to the distance. Meaning a thrower is good depending on:
      1. The predictive ability – implies some thinking.
      2. Lack of noise in the nerovous system – that’s also a big one! It might lead to the impulse for both:
      – more neurons as a way to avoid noise by averaging noise over multiple connections
      – better neuron insulation as a way to shield from the noise.
      There’s a great way for evolution via small steps here – start from throwing at small distances (dangerous, not efficient – animals can escape seeing you), while the improvements move you towards safer and more efficient long-distance throwing. Or start by throwing to the middle of the animal pack – high probability of hitting something, while the improvements would allow you to hit single animals.
      More details:
      http://williamcalvin.com/bk5/bk5ch8.htm

      That’s one of the possible ape -> human brain enlargement beginning motives. Ordinary mammal -> ape brain enlargement was motivated partially by plants, eg. spatial memory – apes are able to remember locations of fruit in 3D: the better they do, the more successful they are. Great memory is also a way elephants utilize their large brains: eg. they remeber maps of the territory, like being able to go back to remote water location after only being there once (remember – elephants never forget!). Visual and spatial memory is also an aspect in which modern hunter-gatherers are good. One example being Australian Aboriginals beat average whites at pathfinding or visual-spatial memory, while having much lower average IQs. In all fairness you only need to take a look at older humans skulls to notice their huge backs of the brain where the visual processing is located (compared do moderns!), to undersand one of the motives for larger brain during the Paleolithic.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXWx0MHQVO4

      Back to hunting – deception, tricks, clever tactics are advantageous in hunting. You can do this watching not only humans but also dolphins, orcas or whatever other high-brain hunting animal.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3xmqbNsRSk
      Add to this a typical social advantages of intelligence, and you have a strong case for a gradual brain enlargement.

      But the story is not smooth – it has some drama moments. When small jaw / larger brain mutation happened the affected individuals just had no choice to use teeth: they either had to use their larger brains or die. We are the descendants of those who made it.
      http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=1116



    • Richard Nikoley on September 23, 2014 at 13:43

      Great contribution, GTR.

      Indeed, to me, the morphology of hominid brain size (and gut shrink, see latest post on Tigernuts) is one great mystery.

      I simply think starchy tubers are PART of the puzzle.



    • Duck+Dodgers on September 23, 2014 at 14:28

      Very cool, GTR!

      However, I probably should have mentioned that the &deltaC13 isotopes showed a significant shift to C4 foods starting around 3.5 million years ago. Whereas the first crude stone tools (Oldowan tools) did not appear until 2.5 million years ago. And the next generation stone tools (Acheulean hand axe) did not appear until ~1.6 million years ago.

      So, the big shift to C4 foods implies sedges since the dental morphology did not become more carnivorous along with the rapid increase in C13 levels were too high to not come from sedges. At least, that’s the conclusion that the anthropologists are coming to.



    • GTR on September 23, 2014 at 16:37

      In one AHS presentation a presenter said that during our evolution we have gained adaptations – but didn’t loose them.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Txrs-FLz64Y

      Unfortunately such twisted evolution means complications, a’la “Omnivores Dillema”. All the contemporary diets, be it PHD or Wahls Paleo (non ketogenic one) are “obligatory omnivore” highly-structured type, with mandatory high-variety of foods from all major groups, which means complex and complicated. Pure carnivores have it easy, pure grass eaters have it easy. Previous diets, worse than those modern ones, tried to oversimplify – like “eat whole grains”, or “just count calories”, “just lowcarb” or “avoid saturated fat” and they failed in some aspect.

      So it’s like we have the ability to temporarily survive on anything but for optimal performance means we have to eat a mandatory high-variety all-category diet of real foods?



  2. martin on September 22, 2014 at 15:15

    Thanks for your answer, which is interesting, but it doesn’t really address my question, which was a somewhat simple, conceptual one and concerned the strength of the teeth/evolution argument – notwithstanding its tactical use on either or any side.

    If technology use shapes the mind and its evolution (such as language centres stimulated by the act of making simple stone tools – another “paradox” btw: did they talk about making them before or after they made them?) and if wearing shoe technology, as another example from a different realm of tech, shapes your feet, then it is not so farfetched to think that given the use of some, even simple tools to perform certain actions that carnivorous beasts do with their characteristic teeth, then hominids would not necessarily develop such teeth, even if they were carnivorous or just ate a lot of meat. They would not have to — in theory and corresonding with other instances of body/tech relations. Their teeth would look like this, just to be a bit dumb: lion tooth – (tools x time).

    Technology can also be understood as an external embedding of knowledge – and an associated forgetting of skills – that shapes our being. Technology, of course, is shaped by our being. That’s not a paradox, but the core of the process of the evolution of technology.

    With regard to the amylase debacle: many “argue” that the increase of amylase associated gene copies proove that we are (naturally) carbvores. Well… there is no such thing as the right way in nature. Cf: “There are in nature neither rewards nor punishments, there are consequences.” Robert G. Ingersoll (1833-1899).

    There are some indications that the increase of amylase has correlations with tooth decay and stress. The more amylase, the poorer teeth and the more stress. Not a “good” thing to produce lots of amylase maybe. Perhaps it is a desparate attempt by the body to protect its gut at the cost of its teeth and stress levels.

    I tend to agree with what you said in the original article, but for different reasons it appears. Not because there is another and better nutritional narrative of the species than Nora’s. Rather, becausde there is not one origin of human kind and any argument based on “truths” about “the way it once was” is principally flawed in my perception. Additionally, it doesn’t matter anyway: if there was one or other way that we all came from, then it certainly doesn’t mean it was good one we should return to. Refer back to amylase.

    • martin on September 23, 2014 at 01:50

      … if we get more caries from more amylase, is it a good component of a starch/carb eating argument that we are “amylasers” – when discussed in a health context? It might very well be that it is arguably “natural” for humans to eat starchy tubers – I’d certainly agree that it seems to have been going on – but there is also a seemingly long history of hitting each other over the head with large, heavy objects (nowadays done from remote centres with computing technology and deadly so), but that’s no reason – for me – to argue that we are at heart, deep in our minds, killers that we should continue to act on that part of history.

      The “not one origin” will have to wait a little bit – life is calling…..

      PS: I did deliberately not say “causation” (that simplistic word that Science Followers, those religious people who’ve found a new Church, deploy far too much) about amylase and stress, but correlations. In a multi-dimensional reality and very complex world, who can say something for sure about causation – outside of the production of washing machines, perhaps?! I just wanted to mention to there is work done on amylase as a useful biomarker of stress:

      https://www.google.com/search?q=biomarker+amylase+stress



    • martin on September 23, 2014 at 01:53

      Thanks. It sort of interests me, but the facts part interests me not very so much. I am mainly interested in the conceptual strength of the various arguments.

      Of course it is speculative, anyone who was around is long dead.



    • martin on September 23, 2014 at 02:22

      “And I’d say that it would probably take a very long time to chop up meats into bite size pieces with those primitive axes. I just don’t see how you could use them to make meat eating much easier.”

      I just don’t understand this. Any use would have been part of making eating easier. Throwing a stone at a beast is likely an easier thing than running up to it and knocking it when a fist. Banging a bone with a stone makes it easier than gnawing through it. Surely?!?

      I am well aware of the hand axe “problem” and even the findings where they were seemingly mere decorative objects or, perhaps, a form of currency, as large unused collections have been found.

      Anyway, just to make this clear to the cursory reader, I am not for or against any of this and would never use evolution to argue for nutrition. I just like conceptual thought and have been trained to disentangle, deconstruct and recombine arguments. That’s my honey, baby.

      And I eat far too my fermented fruits, drink too much kefir and supplement with honeys to ever come close to ketosis. I love tastes – sweet, fat, bitter, sour and more – and I hate calculating my food: I eat what I fancy.

      That said, as also current research on the gut microbiota and neurology, the more sugar I eat, the more I want it. That makes me want to cut out certain forms of it, since they seem to me to stir cravings strongly and unrelenting (that would be starches).

      Finally, given that sugar munching bacteria might be a significant part of those cravings, it is perhaps relevant for the ketotics to consider whether they have fallen prey to fat munching bacteria that have begun to dictate their cravings, feelings and, even, intellectual output.



    • Duck Dodgers on September 22, 2014 at 15:37

      “There are some indications that the increase of amylase has correlations with tooth decay and stress. The more amylase, the poorer teeth and the more stress.”

      I could be wrong, but I think you may be confusing the well known effect of increasing stress levels triggering an increase in salivary amylase. I don’t remember seeing any research that increasing amylase causes an increase in stress. But, I’m happy to learn. (I find it all fascinating).

      Amylase breaking down more sugar could certainly increase tooth decay, that’s well known too. However, we should keep in mind that humans are not the only animals to have tooth decay:

      From: Caries Through Time: An Anthropological Overview

      “Caries is a very old disease and it is not exclusive of the human species. Evidences of dental lesions compatible with caries have been observed in creatures as old as Paleozoic fishes (570-250 million years), Mesozoic herbivores dinosaurs (245-65 million years), pre- hominines of the Eocene (60-25 million years), and Miocenic (25-5 million years), Pliocenic (5-1.6 million years), and Pleistocenic animals (1.6-0.01 million years – Clement, 1958; Kear, 2001; Kemp, 2003; Sala et al., 2004). Caries has also been detected in bears and other wild animals (Pinto & Exteberria, 2001; Palamra et al., 1981), and it is common in domestic animals (Gorrel, 2006; Shklair, 1981; Wiggs & Lobprise, 1997)

      Certainly I would expect we got more caries as developed more salivary amylase. Nobody’s perfect 🙂

      Can you expand on your “not one origin of human kind” perception?



    • Duck Dodgers on September 22, 2014 at 16:11

      And in terms of answering your question on teeth strength, I don’t have all the answers on that front. Few people probably do, as it is heavily debated. All I can say is that the actual tools they used—namely the Oldowan & Ascheulean stone tools—were extremely crude but were reproduced for millions and millions of years without much improvement in their design. They likely couldn’t have acted the way forks and knives currently do for us.

      There is certainly evidence that they were used for crude butchering, but oddly the design is a weird one for such activities as you would slice your hand on the back side if you tried to use it as a butchering axe without eventually learning to tie it to a stick (which is a bit more advanced tech and didn’t happen until later on).

      Here’s a neat podcast episode examining the later and more advanced Ascheulean hand axes, from a design standpoint:

      http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/genesis-object/

      As you can see, scientists don’t completely agree what the Ascheulean hand axe’s main purpose was. And it was really the only advanced tool of its time. Now, obviously hominids used it for butchering at times—they’ve found cut marks on the bones and animal residue on some of the stones, if I recall. And they were found in the same places as the bones at times. But, the tools were seen to have other purposes as well. They are more seen as a multipurpose swiss army knife of sorts. They are by no means the precision tools one would expect to slice and dice an animal with into bite-size pieces. I would imagine you would still need substantial canine teeth to rip off pieces of meat. And I’d say that it would probably take a very long time to chop up meats into bite size pieces with those primitive axes. I just don’t see how you could use them to make meat eating much easier.

      Evidence on bone marrow extraction that I’ve seen explains that hominids selected the prime marrow-yielding bones for transport back to their base camps for extraction. So, I have no doubt that early hominids craved fat and ate lots of fat. Nobody is really arguing that fat wasn’t part of the diet (we evolved highly-functioning gall-bladders after all). But, it seems very unlikely (to me) that we only ate lots of fat/marrow and the hominids knew to eat the right amount of protein to stay in ketosis, while avoiding energy-positive plants.

      I realize you were just focussed on the dental morphology, but all I can tell you is what I know about the tools that are in question. Hope it helps, but I’m sorry if I can’t do better than that. It’s not an easy topic!



    • Duck Dodgers on September 22, 2014 at 17:16

      Martin,

      I did find this paper, if it interests you.

      Tools and Teeth: Some Speculations Regarding Canine Reduction

      It does seem that many researchers have argues that tools influenced canine size. However, the paper provides a number of competing theories and it suggests a wide range of variables—one of them being that the canines help primates rip open vegetables and even speculations that the canine reduction may even be linked to other factors like hormones. But, again, it’s all very speculative, as the title points out.



    • Duck Dodgers on September 23, 2014 at 07:48

      Martin said: I just wanted to mention to there is work done on amylase as a useful biomarker of stress

      Big deal. Ketones are also a “biomarker of stress”.

      From: Effect of estradiol on the sympathoadrenal response to mental stress in normal men

      “Plasma free fatty acid, acetoacetate, and 3-hydroxybutyrate increased significantly from basal values during PL [placebo session]…We observed an increase in ketone body level during the PL [placebo session], which was significant only 15 min after the end of the mental stress. Other researchers did not find any change in plasma ketones during mental stress (34), but did not present the data for the recovery period.”

      There are many of biomarkers for stress. Not sure you can draw any meaningful conclusions from these biomarkers.

      Martin said: “I did deliberately not say ‘causation’…about amylase and stress…

      No, but you certainly implied it when you said, “The more amylase, the poorer teeth and the more stress. Not a “good” thing to produce lots of amylase maybe. Perhaps it is a desparate attempt by the body to protect its gut at the cost of its teeth and stress levels.”

      At any rate, not all carbohydrates are cariogenic.

      For instance, despite eating lots of carbohydrates, cavities were very rare amongst the Ancient Egyptians. However, they had tremendous wear on their teeth (attrition), apparently from the course millstone shavings/sand in their foods, and this attrition directly led to their decay as the pulp of their teeth was exposed. The Egyptians did not have access to any refined sugars—they only had honey and a selection of carby sweet-tasting plants.

      Furthermore, researchers have found that Cyperus Rotundus—another starchy sedge tuber, that is very similar to tiger nuts—have the ability to suppress cariogenic bacteria when chewed and therefore result in a low incidence of dental caries in the populations that ate them.

      From: Dental Calculus Reveals Unique Insights into Food Items, Cooking and Plant Processing in Prehistoric Central Sudan

      “The development of dental caries is strongly associated with diet, most notably the presence of sugars including fermentable carbohydrates which interact with plaque bacteria to cause demineralisation; the presence of caries also increases with age (68). At the late Palaeolithic site in Taforalt, Morocco [69] a link has been made between specific highly starchy cariogenic foodstuffs found at this site, the time period of expansion of Streptococcus mutans which is a leading contributor of tooth decay today, and the unexpectedly high prevalence of caries in teeth, to suggest that the food items ingested caused the high caries rate found in the population here. Laboratory testing of C. rotundus extract has demonstrated that this inhibits S. mutans [70] [71]. As the type of food ingested can have a direct effect on the health of teeth (68), we suggest that chewing C. rotundus tubers may have contributed to the unexpectedly low prevalence of dental caries in the Meroitic samples at Al Khiday and possibly also Gabati.”

      So, I don’t think you can easily argue that eating carbohydrates automatically leads to dental decay. It clearly depends on other variables, such as which carbs you are eating, and which barks/herbs you are chewing as a counter-measure (i.e. miswak), which bacteria are prevalent in your mouth, etc.



    • martin on September 23, 2014 at 11:19

      I think we agree, mostly.

      However, I am not interested in any nutritional arguments based on what “things used to be” – whether carbs, fat or not.

      Yes, so it seems well documented here, Nora and Jimmy might have some outstanding issues with “the science” and its development, but that’s not the main problem I have with their form of advocacy: I have a problem with the very concept of using science as a definitive truth teller for any kind of advocacy.

      Also, of course, the appeal to the good old days is a dangerous route. It is demagogic because it plays on passions (of the uneducated).

      So they might be wrong this week, but next week it might be you or someone else who is wrong, according to the science of the day.

      The beauty of science is that it is a moving thing – at least it used to be, but of course it is becoming increasingly much like the religions it replaced: run by committees of old men who wants the world to stop spinning – and proper knowledge, in my opinion, cannot rely on science alone, and certainly not a selective tapestry of studies. That way you can “prove” anything.

      History and philosophy and integrative/integrating perspectives across paradigms, as well reflection and introspection, are needed to arrive at anything worth knowing in my experience. In that sense, it is not unlike what the Roman architect Vitruvius said about his work:

      “Beauty is produced by the pleasing appearance and good taste of the whole, and by the dimensions of all the parts being duly proportioned to each other.”

      Modern science is but one part of the beauty of knowledge and it has become disproportionately dominant in the making of knowledge these days. Good for washing machines and missiles, obviously, but for an understanding of the universe and the weirdnesses of existence within it, science – and the manner in which it has become ever more reductionistic – is just not enough.



    • martin on September 23, 2014 at 12:02

      Flattery will get you far 🙂

      Oh, parting question: what if they ditched their paleoanthropological science base and just said: eat VLC if you want to live long and happily?



    • Duck Dodgers on September 23, 2014 at 08:39

      “I just don’t understand this. Any use would have been part of making eating easier. Throwing a stone at a beast is likely an easier thing than running up to it and knocking it when a fist. Banging a bone with a stone makes it easier than gnawing through it. Surely?!?”

      Well, it’s only “easier” if the diet previously included lots of meat. But if an ape evolves from C3 fruits to a hominid gnawing on large femurs and ripping through tons of meat, with only a rudimentary rock to help out, you would expect to see larger canines than the fruit-eating ape after some time. But that didn’t happen. The canines just got shorter after we supposedly started eating tons of meat.

      “Anyway, just to make this clear to the cursory reader, I am not for or against any of this and would never use evolution to argue for nutrition. I just like conceptual thought and have been trained to disentangle, deconstruct and recombine arguments. That’s my honey, baby.”

      I hear you. But that’s really all I was doing in the first place. I assume you know that many healthy people get sucked into a VLC Paleo lifestyle—fearing carbohydrates and testing their blood—simply because someone like Nora or Jimmy told them it was the most “natural” way to eat. I’m trying to put a stop to that rationale.

      My arguments are not intended to be spotless. I am merely pointing out the latest anthropological research/opinions and that there are obvious issues in the logic coming from the VLC camp. I am hoping that it will prevent some people from blindly being scared into a radical diet simply because it sounds “primal” to them based on what they learned about our ancestors in grade school.

      If Nora and Jimmy want to convince those with specific health issues to try a VLC diet, I think that’s great. I just don’t think they should use a “primal” justification—particularly if most the evidence and opinions don’t support it.



    • Duck Dodgers on September 23, 2014 at 11:53

      “that’s not the main problem I have with their form of advocacy: I have a problem with the very concept of using science as a definitive truth teller for any kind of advocacy.”

      Well, then go tell it to them.

      I’m not telling people how to eat. I’m simply giving current and future VLC orthorexics a logical reason to ignore the VLC advocates. It’s about giving people the logic they need to liberate themselves from VLC bullshit and eat whatever they want to eat that makes them happy. To Free The Animal.

      If you think people aren’t influenced into giving up foods they want to eat by listening to the latest scienz opinions—no matter how incorrect they might be—you need to get out more. I’ve met plenty of medical doctors who read the Paleo Diet™ and were convinced that the natural human state is to give up carbs entirely. And guess what they tell their patients to do?

      Anyway, I think we all see what you’re saying. And I generally agree. Thanks for stopping by.

      “So they might be wrong this week, but next week it might be you or someone else who is wrong, according to the science of the day.”

      The difference being that I don’t mind being proven wrong next week or next decade. Being wrong is how we learn. Unlike the VLC advocates, I’m happy to learn and evolve my thinking over time.

      Martin, you seem like a smart guy, and it seems like we actually agree on pretty much everything. Keep in mind that this article wasn’t written for someone like you, who knows better than to listen to the latest scientific opinions. Are we done here? 🙂



    • Duck Dodgers on September 23, 2014 at 12:26

      what if they ditched their paleoanthropological science base and just said: eat VLC if you want to live long and happily?

      I’d be fine with that. I think a lot of people would then want them to prove it, of course. And that’s typically done with population observations. So, they tend to fall back on the populations that lived in marginal habitats to make their case. People ask, “how do I know this is safe?” and they respond, “well, the Inuit did it!” But that’s not based on any measurements or tests. It’s based on the distant observation that they seemed to eat a lot of meat.

      But, it you look at the research on those cultures in marginal habitats, all the published tests and research shows the cultures weren’t in ketosis—they consumed too much protein and the meats contained a lot of glycogen. The VLC advocates never bothered to mention any of this, of course. They just didn’t want people to think about it much. I think that’s really disingenuous. And some people get quite sick because of it (myself included).

      So, if they were to make their case and admit that chronic ketosis is modern diet that’s never been documented to be tested on any populations, I’d be fine with that. Chronic ketosis does seem to be helpful for certain conditions—I certainly don’t dispute that. And if that’s what they want to use to defend their hypotheses, so be it. I’d be fine with that.



    • Richard Nikoley on September 23, 2014 at 12:39

      Yes, I think the record demonstrates that mine and Duck’s collaboration is solidly Poperian Falsification. We’re not really trying to prove anything except that a ketogentic diet in perpetuity is not supported by the anthropology (nor thousands of anecdotes on this blog over about 6 years).



  3. Bret on September 22, 2014 at 16:17

    Homo Sapiens evolved with omnivorous dental features.

    A fact so inconvenient, VLC/KG advocates wish it would just go away. Not only does the oral cavity indicate an omnivorous diet — not even in the dead middle between herbivore and carnivore, really, but toward the herbivore side to at least some degree — but the length, complexity, and organization of the digestive tract does as well.

    I have never heard a VLC/KG enthusiast acknowledge these facts, let alone the paradox that results from the clash of their decidedly carnivorous advice with this evidence. It’s pretty clear these folks skip right over such info with extreme haste as soon as they get a glimpse of it. Don’t have the time or interest for this stuff (Nora dropped nearly that exact line a few months back)…it contains too much cognitive dissonance.

    Does [Nora] think this natural desire for sweet tastes is some flaw in our evolution? We “somehow” evolved liking carbs. We “somehow” evolved with omnivorous dental morphology and continuous salivary amylase secretion. We “somehow” have highly-sensitive tastebuds for sensing sweets on our tongues with strong cravings for carbohydrates after supposedly evolving for millions of years eating buckets of fatty meat?

    There’s a tremendous irony in having a discussion of human evolution while telling people to completely ignore their own anatomical features and universally-innate cravings.

    This bites like a rattlesnake, but it is absolutely true. VLC/KG folks’ explanation for all these features is just a poorly rationalized grasp at random straws. It reminds me of Dr. Mike Eades’ explanation for why the Inuit did not register beta-OHB readings — because they had genetically developed some unique metabolic functions that kept their ketone production below 1 mmol (in the comment section of this post). Proffered no evidence whatsoever to corroborate this explanation…it’s very clearly just a reactionary spew of random thoughts to dismiss contrary evidence.

    The thought of our Paleolithic ancestors avoiding all of the invasive energy-positive plants around them and having to test their blood and urine in order to stay in ketosis is just too hysterical for words.

    Chronic ketosis advocates would argue that our ancestors were eating so much fat, so little protein, and such nonexistent carbs that they would not have to test. But still, Duck’s point is totally valid — eating that way is not natural. Even paleolithic hunter-gatherers would have had to go well out of their way to suck down enough fat and dodge enough protein to sustain non-fasting ketosis. It just makes no sense at all.

    Jimmy and Nora worked hard to undo [the fear of animal fat], and they sensibly cited our innate craving for fat as a reason for adding animal fats back into Western diets. However, in a strange twist of fate, they are now the ones scaring people into believing that an entire macronutrient is the root of all their health problems—despite everyone’s obvious cravings for it. … Indeed, VLC is the new “Prudent Diet”—simply replacing animal fats with carbohydrates and blood cholesterol with blood glucose. The message from 50 years ago is the very same message Jimmy and Nora are telling us today: ignore your own tastebuds and your cravings for “optimal” health.

    Yes!!!!!

    This is so unbelievably frustrating for me to behold, because it is thanks to people like Jimmy and Nora that I found my way out of the government- and industry-approved low-fat hysteria in the first place. But now that the fat phobia has been debunked, these two (and others) are losing relevance at a disturbing rate, because they are not being reasonable. They are simply advocating the opposite extreme, with (I’ll be kind) scant evidence to back it up.

    I understand how VLC advocates came to these conclusions. It basically amounts to sloppy science and a lack of patience. I know all too well, because I was guilty of the same indulgences. The typical VLC protocol requires the following adjustments (in no particular order):

    1. Eliminate or extremely reduce starches (typically whole grains, refined grains, and tubers)
    2. Eliminate processed oils (vegetable, seed, and certainly anything partially or fully hydrogenated)
    3. Eliminate or extremely reduce sucrose
    4. Eliminate HFCS
    5. Replace low- or medium-quality foods with high-quality versions (e.g. grass-fed butter replaces industry-standard butter; pasture-raised eggs replace industry-standard eggs; organic products replace conventional; etc)
    6. Supplement with certain micronutrients if they seem to be lacking in the diet (e.g. vitamin D, vitamin C, magnesium, iodine, &c)
    6. Fast intermittently if possible
    7. Incorporate strength training exercise at least once a week

    Can anyone say “confounding variables”? Don’t get me wrong: each of those steps appealed to my intuition at one point as well (explanations behind them and all). But they were still based on hypothesis. You can’t change a fuckload of variables, observe an improvement in health, and try to tell me that your experiment proves that each and every variable you changed was responsible for the results. This is exactly the criticism that VLC folks make of Dean Ornish…but then they are guilty of the same thing!

    I want Jimmy, Nora, and the others to remain relevant. I want them to continue delivering good information to people, as they did to me. But they cannot do that if they are going to bury their heads into the sand and explain away legitimate contrary evidence with half baked nonsense.

    Come back to us, guys. Nobody (who is worth a shit) will judge you for changing your minds, as long as you do so based on evidence. Hell, I did it. It’s a mark of strength, wisdom, and maturity to do so, not weakness. The weak are the ones who hide like cowards behind their own stubbornness and fear. It’s okay to have been wrong.

    • martin on September 23, 2014 at 01:55

      Perhaps worse than being wrong are those who believe they are right. Let the righteous RIP and let’s disband the church-like behaviour on all sides.



    • Richard Nikoley on September 22, 2014 at 20:19

      ” It’s okay to have been wrong.”

      It’s womderful to have been wrong, because it’s one less thing you’re ever going to be wrong about. It’s just a shame more folks don’t look at it like that.



    • Bret on September 22, 2014 at 20:30

      It’s also incredibly freeing. Before someone is proven wrong for the first time, 99.93% chance he is, to borrow from Richard’s enviable vocabulary, an arrogant fucktard.

      Having to face everyone, including and perhaps most pertinently yourself, and admit/atone for being wrong induces a liberating humility, the likes of which surpass my capacity for words.

      Then you get past it and realize it was not the end of the world, and you wonder in mild amusement how you could have possibly been such an arrogant, ignorant fucktard in the first place.



    • Richard Nikoley on September 22, 2014 at 20:34

      My way of expressing it used to be: when you realize you’re wrong, don’t apologize or atone. Just stop doing that shit.



    • Richard Nikoley on September 22, 2014 at 20:36

      Y’know, then there’s the ancient wisdom every good mother taught their kids: when you lie, you have to keep lying to protect it.



    • FrenchFry on September 23, 2014 at 03:08

      Bret,

      As I said elsewhere, as soon as you have written a book or are selling something based on your early protocol (VLC in this case), it becomes very hard to deny it. When you sold the message that this is to be a lifestyle, not a quick weight and metabolic fix (for that’s what it is when you come from the obese-glucose-intolerance part of the metabolic spectrum), you are stuck.

      What should we expect from Nora G. ? That she writes another book explaining that actually, once you are fixed up with VLC, it would be good to adopt a more PHD / fermentable fiber based diet as a lifestyle ? This won’t happen.

      The best for these people is to stop shouting VLC-as-a-lifestyle from the rooftops and stick the message as to what VLC does best: help obese glucose intolerant people to start with. Of course there are other ways to kickstart your path to health (see Denise Minger’s AHS14 presentation).

      And actually, isn’t it what their semi-god Atkins was saying ? 2 weeks VLC, then bring up the carbs slowly or something like that ?

      That is why I will never ever preach anything. I am learning all the time and changes of opinion should be expected. Once you’re selling a msg, rigidity sets in.



    • Bret on September 23, 2014 at 07:12

      “Perhaps worse than being wrong are those who believe they are right. Let the righteous RIP and let’s disband the church-like behaviour on all sides.”

      Agreed. Your comment reminds me of Richard’s past remarks on dialectics.

      Trying to figure out “who is right” leads nowhere. Nobody is universally right, and that kind of thinking results in cults, prophets, and religion in general. Instead, we should remember that everyone is an intelligent but fallible human with a perspective. That perspective is useful in some contexts and has limitations in others.

      When we catch others informing their perspective with shoddy junk logic, however, we owe it to them to call them out on it. If they can overcome their ego, then they’ll recognize and appreciate the effort as being for their own benefit, and others’, too. We would hope they would do the same for us when we inevitably stumble along our own journey.



    • Bret on September 23, 2014 at 08:01

      FrenchFry,

      I agree that such stubbornness in such a situation is the natural temptation, but being something vaguely resembling an optimist, I refuse to believe it is inevitable or universal.

      Once people see the bigger picture and realize that getting with the program is to their benefit — while remaining frozen in time is a road to early retirement — I think they can get over their psychological inertia. Plus, not everyone is motivated in the same way by economics. Some are subconsciously protecting their ego. Others are beset by different issues altogether.

      We really don’t know what psychological mechanisms or stimuli are at work beneath the surface of Nora, and it doesn’t matter anyway. Our role is to communicate to her what we can directly observe, which is simply that she is missing much of the evidence (we can do so in a verbose, elaborate manner, but we still need to stick to what we know). We should let her figure out the why. Same with Jimmy. Otherwise, we are just making speculative accusations, which is likelier to repel them than to convince them to give our perspective a try.

      “And actually, isn’t it what their semi-god Atkins was saying ? 2 weeks VLC, then bring up the carbs slowly or something like that ?”

      Pretty much. Although, I’m not altogether certain why he made such a recommendation, but if I were to speculate, I would imagine he had made the same observations of chronic ketosis in his clinic that we are rediscovering now, 40 years later, in the comment sections of blogs: i.e. that people just aren’t feeling well and aren’t doing well with it in perpetuity, and they felt better after adding some starch back in.

      “That is why I will never ever preach anything. I am learning all the time and changes of opinion should be expected. Once you’re selling a msg, rigidity sets in.”

      I made the mistake of proselytizing to my nears and dears back when I was a fresh VLC convert. I am lucky no one listened to me, or else I would have some ‘splainin’ to do, now that my opinions have changed significantly.

      I will continue to discuss things ad nauseum in forums like this, where people willingly show up to discuss such matters, but apart from that, no more unsolicited preaching for me. I know of no quicker route to certain humble pie.



    • Richard Nikoley on September 23, 2014 at 12:22

      Yep, you can only be sure that you are wrong, not that you are right.



  4. Carol Willis on September 22, 2014 at 08:48

    Request for future blog topics: Where are you on fermentable carbs if a person has SIBO? I’ve heard they’re to be avoided in SIBO so as to not-feed the bad bacteria. Any other helpful ideas and reflections on SIBO welcome, also a list of what specific probiotic strains do (plus caveats), if someone wanted to make a custom water kefir or other kefir.

    • Richard Nikoley on September 22, 2014 at 08:50

      My view on SIBO is to fast once per week for 30 hours, water only. I’m almost certain that will be way better for everyone than a million tests, a million cleanses, a million various supplements.

      Approved by nature.



    • Simas on September 22, 2014 at 13:19

      That may be good strategy for prevention (although I doubt it), but it will never ever solve the problem. Fasting for 2 weeks? Maybe.
      For prevention, the best dietary strategy is to leave 4-5h between meals to allow migrating motor complex.



    • Richard Nikoley on September 22, 2014 at 13:42

      Simas (BTW, just had to delete your comment subscribe b/c you typed sumas in your email address—no way to edit).

      I doubt it. A no-shit fast of 30-36 hours (a 24-hr fast is an 18-hr fast because you need to begin 6 hours after last meal) once per week will annihilate all of these pussy “eating window” strategies (designed so adherents don’t get a case of the vapors).

      I’ve done both, very extensively. Pilon and Berkhan. A total really big fast trumps, every fucking time. And, until you actually do it rather than sit on the toilet spouting diarrhea, you will not know.

      Hell, with this eating window muffy shit, I don’t even know I’m “fasting.”

      I have very zero doubt that fasting is a far more effective cure for GENERAL gut dysbiosis than anything else. Problem is, almost nobody wants to do it, and that’s why we have this eating window pussy bullshit touted as “fasting.”



    • Marty on September 22, 2014 at 15:07

      Excellent point. Seems bizarre to confuse “skipping a meal” with “fasting”. Intermittent fasting should mean fasting every once in a while, not passing up breakfast. Hard to argue that the effects of skipping a meal remotely equate to those of 24+hrs of fasting.



    • Simas on September 23, 2014 at 04:40

      Just to be clear, I wasn’t talking about “feeding window” stuff because I don’t believe that myself. I think fasting once a week is much better strategy for general health benefits. What I wanted to say is that for people with digestive issues it’s probably much better to go without any snacking between meals and allow 5h in between, so normal digestion can take place.



  5. rob on September 22, 2014 at 09:40

    In the time of the megafauna humans did not have to hunt and chase animals, the animals would willingly sacrifice themselves much like in the Restaurant At The End Of The Universe.

    The humans had only to whistle and the animals would come running.

    So subsisting on animal fat was actually EASIER than subsisting on tubers, as the tubers had to be dug out of the ground, which is damned hard work.

  6. Michael44 on September 22, 2014 at 21:45

    Thanks Duck.

    Terrific post.

  7. martin on September 23, 2014 at 12:10
    • martin on September 23, 2014 at 12:39

      ….continuing?!?

      Me a troll?



    • Duck Dodgers on September 23, 2014 at 12:34

      Yes, thank you for continuing to be a troll. We’ve already dealt with Stefansson, ad nasuem.



    • Richard Nikoley on September 23, 2014 at 12:48

      Well, even though Owsley was wrong, he was at least eccentric and entertaining.

      Plus, his chicken recipe, which I dubbed “LSD Chicken” is the bomb. Blast from 2008:

      https://freetheanimal.com/2008/12/lsd-chicken.html



  8. Daniel on September 23, 2014 at 04:10

    I think the whole low carb vs paleo thing is slightly redundant. I don’t think the two have to be mutually exclusive or mutually inclusive. I am absolutely positive that you are correct that there are humans that ate carbohydrates through the evolutionary ages. But there were many geographical regions and it is equally possible that humans did not eat much carbs in other regions. Temporal factors must also be considered. Maybe at times throughout the year there were less carbs and other times more. I believe we must have had some groups been low carb because we still have the biological machinery to become keto-adapted. This is a fairly complicated process and evolutoin doesn’t tend to keep biological adaptations around, especially complex ones, when they are no longer needed. Mutations would have long destroyed this pathway if it was unnecessary. Now the level of it’s importance is up for debate. And I am certainly not saying that all groups were low carb,and certainly not all the time. But enough that the DNA for maintaining this process had lasted throughout our evolution. However, I would say this may depend on whether this is quite an ancestral trait among mammals or even animals. A quick google search suggests that even fruit eating Orangutan’s produce ketones during the fruit-poor period. This is when they lost weight, and put it on again when the fruits were abundant. I find this interesting because it suggests that ketones, and perhaps keto-adaptation (although two different things) is quite an ancestral adapatation. It’s obviously important at specific times for different animals. But anyway. I have rambled enough and the box is too small so I can’t edi twhat I have said. i hope it is interesting and not full of mistakes.

    • Duck Dodgers on September 23, 2014 at 09:01

      Daniel,

      The scientific data suggests that even the most carbohydrate-poor regions were obtaining sufficient carbohydrates from the fresh raw meat they ate.

      The Masai have always consumed large quantities of raw milk and honey. Honey is extremely important to the Masai. In fact, this — as well as their weekly habit of trading their meats for carbohydrates with neighboring tribes — was well documented even in 1895.

      Secondly, the published scientific literature on the Inuit shows that they were obtaining sufficient carbohydrates from the glycogen in the raw meat they consumed (Heinbecker, 1928, Ho 1972),

      Heinbecker wrote: “…Average daily food partition is about 280 gm. of protein, 135 gm. of fat, and 54 gm. of carbohydrate of which the bulk is derived from the glycogen of the meat eaten.”

      Ho (1972) wrote: “Carbohydrate accounted for only 15% to 20% of their calories, largely in the form of glycogen.”

      Yiu H. Hui, Ph. D. (1985) wrote: “Eskimos actually consume more carbohydrates than most nutritionists have assumed. Because Eskimos frequently eat their meat raw and frozen, they take in more glycogen than a person purchasing meat with a lower glycogen content in a grocery store. The Eskimo practice of preserving a whole seal or bird carcass under an intact whole skin with a thick layer of blubber also permits some proteins to ferment into carbohydrates.” (Principles and issues in nutrition: Yiu H. Hui, Ph. D., p.91 (1985))

      The Inuit ate 8 to 10 pounds of raw meat per day (Sinclair 1953), and raw land-mammal muscle has relatively small amounts of glycogen (animal starch) in it. However, diving marine mammals have significant glycogen stores to assist them on their extended dives. And even if their meat only contained the conservatively low levels of glycogen found in Western beef, at 8-10 pounds of meat per day, they were consuming 48 to 60 grams of glycemic glycogen per day. Of course they also loved the glycogen-rich muktuk and livers too. High levels of glycogen in muktuk were discovered as far back as 1912 (JAMA: Volume 57, 1912).

      Interestingly, Heinbecker (1928) showed that the Inuit exhibited normal glucose tolerance when fed their traditional diet. But, when Stefansson and Anderson did their year of Western-style meats, Tolstoi (1929) found that they failed their glucose tolerance tests. This suggests that Stefansson and Anderson were unable to replicate the Inuit diet at Bellevue.

      I should also point out that the Masai also preferred their meat raw and fresh. They even drank blood raw and fresh from the leg of their cattle. My guess is that most Western VLCers do not eat this way.

      As the literature shows us, both the Masai and the Inuit consumed sufficient levels of carbohydrate and the Western VLC diet is nothing like what these cultures were doing.

      In terms of the evolutionary need for ketosis, humans are unique in our ability to easily enter ketosis. Most mammals appear to struggle to enter ketosis. This appears to be an adaptation to keep our brains working during starvation. Most people here are well aware of the benefits of intermittent fasting and the ketosis that comes with it. I don’t think anyone would argue against that being natural or well-evolved. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a good argument for chronic ketosis. And, honestly, there is little evidence to suggest that chronic ketosis is our naturally evolved state.



    • GTR on September 23, 2014 at 12:00

      Bodybuilders have it easier: carbs + proteins = good for bulk up, keto = good for slim down.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPn1fmCoDJA



    • Mike on September 23, 2014 at 16:46

      I have a friend who is Dinka and he tells me people in South Sudan will routinely eat days old carcassses. Doesn’t this degrade the available glucose in the meat? I realized they’re pastoralists, but I wonder if hunter-gatherers always ate their meat as freshly killed.



    • Duck Dodgers on September 23, 2014 at 17:46

      Yes, it would degrade the glycogen in the meat. The easy way to tell is if the meat has achieved rigor mortis. Once rigor mortis sets in, that’s the end of the glycogen degradation. I suppose pastoralists didn’t need to eat fresh meat if they had other ways to obtain their carbs. The Masai had their honey and traded their meats for carbs with neighboring tribes. The Dinka people appear to have access to maize, beans and other crops. So, maybe they just didn’t crave fresh raw meat as much.

      From what I’ve read, hunter-gatherers either ate their kills quickly, or preserved it (freezing, drying, fermenting/rotting). Usually a hunter would consume the fresh liver immediately after a kill, as it would have had a lot of sugar in it (the average human liver contains 100g of glycogen).



    • Daniel on September 24, 2014 at 02:20

      Well this is an interesting discussion. I think everyone needs to remind themselves that all these diet studies measure a small group, from a specific geographic region at a specific moment in time. I don’t think this provides the strongest evidence to make claims on what people ate……especially 2 million years ago. As a comparative biologist and having studied zoology for the last 15 yrs, after getting my PhD, I still find it difficult to ascertain the diet of living animals when we can measure their gut contents, and many of them at any geographic location and across seasons. Look at killer whales for example. They have hugely varied diets depending on time of year, geographic location. Killer whales in New Zealand specialize on sting rays while those in Canada on seals. Just like humans it is hard to take a few of these and say this is what all Killer Whales eat as it is so variable and dependent on environmental circumstances. This same pattern is found in many other species. To make predictions on diet is hard enough on extant species, on fossils it is really hard.

      As a comparative biologist I would then look at other animals and see where humans fall amongst those groups. In effect this is exactly what Richard has done when he talks about enzymes in saliva, and gut and teeth morphology. Because we are neither like true predators or herbivores it is hard to say we are either….we are omnivores. So on that note, occam’s razor suggests to me that because humans can both transition to and from glucose burning and ketone burning suggests that both metabolic pathways play an important role. It further suggests that at some point humans do undergo keto-adaptation. Since this can take up to six weeks to kick in it does suggest that ‘some’ humans have had to endure long periods without carbohydrates on enough of a regular basis to maintain that genetic predisposition in the population. Because of genetic drift it doesn’t take too many exchanges of DNA to maintain two seperate populations as the same species. So this in no way suggests all humans populations had to do this…..but enough or some to maintain that genetic flow between populations.

      This argument stems mainly from the fact that evolution tends to lose adaptive traits as they become no longer adaptive. Sometimes traits remain as a byproduct of another trait. But given that ketoadaptation is a rather major process (six weeks long, changes mitochondria and many enzymes etc) I really do believe that this is not a byproduct. For example, look at blind cave fish. One sub species lives in caves and has completely lost the use of vision, having no eyes, while their other members who do not live in dark caves have retained this feature. This is the same species! So mutations occur over millions of years and I just can’t see how ketoadaptation could have lasted this long amongst so many species if it wasn’t still important.

      One interesting article I just read was how ketones are especially important to babies. They hypothesised that using fat stores and ketones allowed the glucose to be used for it’s main purposes where it was actually required. Because ketones supply a constant fuel source muscles were not needed to be broken down to supply more glucose if the carbohydrates at any given moment were not available. In other words it seems the ketones spared the glucose to perform it’s important tasks. Then another study showed that low oxygen environments results in the release of ketones which enhances the efficiency of oxygen use while also protecting the cellular machinery from a low oxygen environment. I quote “Weight loss at altitude, and with it, the release of ketones and amino acids, may reflect an evolutionary adaptation that protected our ancestors’ bodies when tissue hypoxia arose during injury or illness. This may be relevant to critically ill patients today, who lose muscle mass rapidly and do not benefit from nutritional support that aims to maintain calorie intake,” . The same article I read about human brains suggested, as I mention above, that ketones provide a constant and readily available food source for the neonatal and developing brain, where a shortage in glucose could be hugely detrimental, yet is probably quite possible given the demands of a growing brain and the erratic supply of glucose in our blood from hour to hour.

      The above examples certainly indicate the protective nature of ketones and perhaps keto adaptation. And thus explains perhaps why this has remained in our population for so long. I know I have completely waffled here and I have enjoyed thinking about this topic. I just don’t think there is a clear winner here. I can see how humans would have needed to be keto-adapted during particular times but relied on glucose and carbohydrates for others. This is the ebb and flow of life. Most animals go through periods of starvation and well fed states, I’m sure humans did too.

      I know Richard mentions the abundance of tubers but if you look at prey and consumer/predator populations the consumer populations are always controlled by the supply or abundance of the prey. In this case tubers may have supplied a rich source of calories, but I would be fairly confident that if this was the case the local human population would have grown to reach a carrying capacity based on this supply, and as such, limited this resource. This almost always happens and has been well studied in ecology.



    • Richard Nikoley on September 24, 2014 at 08:11

      Hey Dan. Long time no see.

      “In this case tubers may have supplied a rich source of calories, but I would be fairly confident that if this was the case the local human population would have grown to reach a carrying capacity based on this supply, and as such, limited this resource. This almost always happens and has been well studied in ecology.”

      Yea, except that the tigernut is an invasive weed. A single tuber can produce like 2,000 plants and 7,000 tubers.

      https://freetheanimal.com/2014/09/incredible-edible-tigernut.html



    • Duck Dodgers on September 24, 2014 at 08:45

      Thanks for the input, Daniel.

      Early hominids were relatively low in numbers (estimated between 10,000 and 100,000 individuals at any given time) and lived upon an enormous continent with enormous savannas. A single sedge tuber will produce up to 7,000 tubers in a single growing season. It’s crazy invasive. A single tuber can overgrow an entire field in 3 years! But, more importantly, hominids were nomadic—constantly moving from site to site. So, it’s unlikely they would have run out of these tubers. These tubers were basically under every grassy plant in Africa (like this). So, I find it highly unlikely that the optimistic count of 100,000 hominids could devour every blade of grass in the African savannas. Furthermore, the tubers were hardy and winter-proof. And their high nutrient density meant that you only had to eat a few handfuls of these little tubers get 2,000 calories. It would have been extremely easy to survive on them. But, anthropologists believe that hominids also ate insects, termites and other vegetation and animals whenever they get them. The diet was obviously varied, but the sedge tubers are now considered to be a major contributor to early hominids transitioning off of C3 fruits.

      I agree that ketosis had to have evolved from somewhere. And for all we know, simply early neonatal growth alone could have played a significant role in forming the tools necessary for keto-adaptation. Periods of starvation were certainly a major contributor I’m sure. Periods of low carbohydrates were certainly a contributor too. No one really disputes that. But it doesn’t make it a “natural” state by any means.

      However, what we are getting at in this post is that there is a lot of research that has been getting anthropologists very excited over the past 5 years. If you click through those 8 bracketed reference links, in the article above, you’ll see that there is a major shift of δ13C intake—across a wide range of primate species, mind you—about 3.5 million years ago as hominids began to take advantage of the African savannas. And the shift shows a major increase in C4 intake at that time. The isotope data itself can’t distinguish between plant or animal sources. So, anthropologists need to look at other clues. I’ll quote from one of the studies in those bracketed links:

      Isotopic evidence for an early shift to C4 resources by Pliocene hominins in Chad

      The results indicate a predominance of C4 dietary resources (∼55–80% by linear interpolation). Carbon isotope data alone cannot distinguish whether carbon of C4 origin was from plant or animal sources, but in this case, the high proportions suggest that the primary C4 dietary resources were plant staples. Consumption of animals (e.g., termites, rodents, grazing herbivores) reliant on the abundant C4 vegetation cannot be excluded and they may have formed components of the diet, as inferred for the South African australopithecines (5, 7, 28). Very high proportions of animal food, however, are not plausible for hominins given that even recent humans such as the Kalahari San rely most heavily on plant foods (∼80%) and less on game (29). Moreover, hominins lack the appropriate dental morphology. Therefore, we focus on C4 plants in the discussion below.

      So, if you take the time to dig through all those studies, the isotope data gathered across a wide range of hominid and primate species, shows a significant shift from C3 fruits to C4 plants. They rule out the shift to C4 being largely animal-based because it’s considered to be implausible.

      The first rudimentary Oldowan tools that could have even slightly assisted in butchering wouldn’t exist for another million years and the more advanced Ascheulean stone tools wouldn’t have existed for another 2 million years. So, the timeline is what’s important here. Without those tools, the dental morphology is considered and it only shows more omnivory, not increased carnivory. Anthropologists would have expected more carnivorous features in hominids starting after 3.5 millions ago, if apes quickly transitioned from simple fruits to ripping apart C4-foraging carcasses with their mouths and hands—well before tools could have assisted in butchering. So, the rise in C4 consumption is therefore considered by anthropologists to mean an increase in starchy sedge consumption, based on the recent Oxford findings.

      Who knows, maybe they have it all wrong, but this is where anthropological data and scientific opinions are focussed these days. I’m just a spectator informing others that the older opinions of higher meat consumption are now considered to be obsolete given all the new data.

      But, when we look at the data on the Inuit, the data from all of the studies shows they consumed too much protein and didn’t consume enough fat (Heinbecker 1928, Sinclair 1953, Ho 1972), none of the Inuit studies ever found any evidence for ketosis—yet they found glucose tolerance on their native diet (Tolstoi 1929), and they appeared to crave the foods/parts that had the most carbohydrates in them. So, even the Inuit were not found to be in chronic ketosis.

      We agree that there must have been periods in our evolutionary history without food or carbs (perhaps after leaving the savannas), and it would certainly make sense to have adaptations to support life during those situations (those who couldn’t adapt, probably died). But, this does not necessarily make chronic ketosis our “natural” state, as some would have you believe.

      Cheers.



    • Daniel on September 24, 2014 at 13:54

      Hey Richard!! Well your a sharp man to figure that out so fast! haha.

      Right, so tigernut can be incredibly invasive, but so is grass and many species have adapted traits to make sure they get that grass first. Rabbits eat the grass quickly, it passes through their digestion system at a fast pace, where they only digest about 50% of the nutrients. They then go around and eat their shit and get the rest. This is clearly a trait to help them compete with other grass feeders and get that resource first. This wouldn’t occur if the resource was unlimited. It had to be a limited resource for it to create the competition between the species. So fast growing plants populations can still definitely be maintained by grazers.

      I totally agree with you that this was a food source, even a major food source, for human populations in the area. It would be very interesting to see if they protected that resource from other tribes or animals that may try to eat it? But one thing I know is if their is a food resource that can be consumed the consumers will almost always grow in size to the demand. Now if that didn’t happen I think the interesting question is why? Perhaps they needed other nutrients? Perhaps our estimates of populations were wrong. Or perhaps species at the time could eat the tubers. It’s definitely an interesting question. We are certainly not the only mammal that can dig and eat tubers. Can you think of any other reason why? I’m becoming interested in this topic on a very non-diet level:)

      Also, when you say invasive do you mean ‘non-native’ or just highly aggressive? Because in my research I look at invasive species but in the context that invasive means a non-native species that has invaded a novel geographical region. If it is invasive by this definition then that would suggest it wasn’t originally in that locale? I’m thinking you mean aggressive but thought I better clarify.



    • Daniel on September 24, 2014 at 14:24

      HI Duck,

      Firstly, I’m not disputing what you are saying. I am more interested from a ecological perspective. So I agree with all your statements. I’m just interested. I long ago let the idea that I am eating paleo out the door. I am on a ketogenic diet but I’m under no impressions that this is the norm in terms of paleo. I jut don’t want to be a fat fuck anymore and there seems to be some significant benefits to doing this:) I have only just started so too early for me to make any proper comments on if it is working. But I do want to be upfront. I am interested in paleo for paleo sake. So that is why I am bombarding you with questions, as I would any science theory. I just like to figure out the details etc. So please don’t think I am attacking your position because I am not ( not that you probably did think that).

      So back on topic. My main question is this. If I accept that these tubers were everywhere within the Savannah, which having not read the research I can’t argue with, AND they provide so much calories so quickly and easily then it does make me wonder why did humans remain as hunter gatherers. The fact that it took until 10000 years ago to start growing grains to supply big populations seems contrary to the idea that they had a more resource rich and better supply just sitting there. There had to be a reason why they did not just stop living a nomadic lifestyle and just sit down and gorge on the tubers? Maybe they required other nutrients? But if that was the case then grain crops wouldn’t have worked either because humans were certainly happy to go through a reduction in necessary nutrients in order to stay in one place and change their whole way of life? I just can’t figure out why they didn’t just stop and eat all these roots.

      The other red light for me is the fact that we are not the only animal that eats tubers in the savannah, here is one – http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/weirdest-naked-mole-rat
      Now granted these guys didn’t need much tubers to survive if this resource was so bountiful I just find it hard to believe that over 2 million years no other animal population adapted to it and started to consume them. It just doesn’t seem right? Either there is something I am missing or this just doesn’t make sense ecologically. There are far more bountiful food resources out there, In Antarctica Krill is a MUCH bigger food resource yet even whales and marine species reached a carrying capacity. I have never seen a food resource not become limited in some way by grazing populations. Overall, I guess there is still a piece of this puzzle that needs to be solved.

      As for ketosis been a natural state – I can’t argue that. In fact I probably would disagree with it. And I also agree that needing ketones as neonates would be enough to maintain the biochemical pathway I had drawn that conclusion myself. But the fact humans can do it so easily compared to other mammals does make me wonder what is the advantage of ketones for humans. It is likely not paleo, but still may be a healthy state to be in. Who knows.

      Also, I would wonder how they would have measured ketosis in Inuit back in the 1920’s though? It may not be a very reliable estimate. I’m not saying they were in ketosis but I don’t necessarily say they were not either. But I have always hated the Inuit argument anyway. They were one population of many. They are not the flagship paleo tribe.



    • martin on September 25, 2014 at 06:28

      Daniel said:

      “Given that they were willing to do that with wheat, and the evidence you have presented here on tubers (they seem to be more nutritious than wheat), then why did they settle down with wheat but not the tubers.”

      -and-

      “So I’m curious as to why they kept moving.”

      Two things come to mind here.

      Firstly, humans have since then at various points in time – and expressed by some individuals, not others – shown a desire to explore and not always out of economic/nutrition-based necessity, but also just to see what’s behind that hill or beyond that prairie. Curiousity might have killed the cat, but that’s not been enough to stop human animals from living our their curious desires.

      Secondly, why did they choose wheat? Well, did they? How do we know if they did? Did the wheat choose them? Did some bacteria in their guts strike up a powerful alliance with the compunds of the wheat? Colourful speculations aside, this problem of understanding has been addressed in a much later context by political economists.

      Michael Perelman writes about the strangeness that peasants would leave the commons, where they worked comparatively/significantly less time, in fits and starts, and in some places with up to 200 holidays a year, and go to work in factories where they worked all day long for very little? Perelman found the answer is Adam Smith’s own writings and his students lecture notes: they needed to be forced. Sheer power at play.

      As others have noted, these power relations in great part turn on the central storage of grains, which gives rise to the possibilities of a central/external, coercive authority, taxation, debt and so on. Grains are easy to store fror extended periods of time (are tigernut tubers?) and suitable for controlled release. Power relations in society and culture might have begun with cave paintings and associated rituals (cf. David Lewis-WIlliams et al.), but certainly kicked of with organised agriculture and grains. Later came money, but that’s just really virtual grain.

      So, to conclude, why did they choose wheat? They lost likely didn’t, it was chosen for them.



    • Duck Dodgers on September 24, 2014 at 19:52

      “why did humans remain as hunter gatherers…There had to be a reason why they did not just stop living a nomadic lifestyle and just sit down and gorge on the tubers? Maybe they required other nutrients? But if that was the case then grain crops wouldn’t have worked either because humans were certainly happy to go through a reduction in necessary nutrients in order to stay in one place and change their whole way of life? I just can’t figure out why they didn’t just stop and eat all these roots.”

      Well, they didn’t just eat tubers. It was just a staple for them. They needed B12, which the tubers don’t provide. The early hominids scavenged and ate termintes and criclets for B12. All primates actually eat meat (they are all omnivores after all). They had a craving for meat and fat (no one disputes that), and my understanding is that they were nomadic to follow migration patterns of the animals they craved. At some point they left the savannas to migrate out of Africa (believed to be between 130,000 and 60,000 years ago).

      Now, here’s where it gets interesting. Only a few people may have left Africa in the early migration.

      From:

      Some scientists believe that only a few people left Africa in a single migration that went on to populate the rest of the world, based in the fact that only descendents of L3 are found outside Africa…It has been estimated that from a population of 2,000 to 5,000 individuals in Africa, only a small group, possibly as few as 150 to 1,000 people, crossed the Red Sea. Of all the lineages present in Africa only the female descendants of one lineage, mtDNA haplogroup L3, are found outside Africa. Had there been several migrations one would expect descendants of more than one lineage to be found outside Africa.

      So, perhaps a few hundred people were nomadic and migrated off the savannas. No more tiger nuts for them. And so they had to take advantage of whatever was around them. No one really knows why they left. Maybe they just got lost? 🙂 I always presumed they were following a migration of their favorite animals.

      “I have never seen a food resource not become limited in some way by grazing populations. Overall, I guess there is still a piece of this puzzle that needs to be solved.”

      You are right of course. There were times when overgrazing happened on savannas, particularly due to animals. Fires on the savannas were common too. I suppose they were nomadic for a number of reasons. I wouldn’t however say that savannas were overgrazed into extinction. I would imagine it was also possible to find untapped savannas if you were nomadic enough and walked far enough.

      “But the fact humans can do [ketosis] so easily compared to other mammals does make me wonder what is the advantage of ketones for humans. It is likely not paleo, but still may be a healthy state to be in. Who knows.”

      Good point! All I know is I got quite sick from it 🙂 One of the reasons I researched this was to see if the more carnivorous populations were susceptible to the issues that are anecdotally reported by some ketogenic dieters. I was fairly annoyed to find that nobody had bothered to check to see if those populations were ketogenic in the first place! I sort of felt like I had been lied to when people justified these extreme low carb diets without really doing their homework on the published scientific studies.

      “Also, I would wonder how they would have measured ketosis in Inuit back in the 1920’s though? It may not be a very reliable estimate.”

      The tests weren’t as precise as we would expect today. They used urine in the 1920s. In 1972 they used blood on ketostix, which was not perfect, but considered ideal at the time. But, it was the other evidence that was more interesting. They exhibited glucose tolerance in their fed state, but lost it when fasting. The animals they were eating were full of glycogen or were too lean. They obtained carbs from various sources that went unnoticed by Stefannson. All the researchers noticed they were eating too much protein and not enough fat. When we look at all the clues, we can’t find any evidence that they were in (chronic) ketosis. I agree it shouldn’t matter much in terms of Western nutrition—particularly since we don’t eat anything like them. It’s a marginal population in a marginal habitat. None of this research is meant to discount the effectiveness of ketogenic diets, but rather to point out that these populations can’t easily be used as proof of its performance.

      Question for you… if you don’t mind.

      Give what we’ve learned here about gut health. Do you think your carb intolerance is related to a dybiosis that can be cured through modulation? Or do you think it may be genetic (low AMY1 copies, etc.)?



    • Duck Dodgers on September 24, 2014 at 19:54

      Accidentally left off the link in that quote. The quote was from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recent_African_origin_of_modern_humans



    • Daniel on September 24, 2014 at 21:11

      “Well, they didn’t just eat tubers. It was just a staple for them.”
      I guess I was been a bit obtuse when I asked this question. But my main point is that humans created settlements to grow wheat etc even though we have pretty good evidence that this was nutritionally inadequate. Given that they were willing to do that with wheat, and the evidence you have presented here on tubers (they seem to be more nutritious than wheat), then why did they settle down with wheat but not the tubers. If tubers grow so abundantly it seems like a perfect farming crop. So I’m curious as to why they kept moving. I think we both know that it was to do with nutrients. But then again the caveat is they were willing to sacrifise nutrients for calories with wheat which brings us back to the start again. That bit to me doesn’t make a lot of sense. I just can’t help but feel we are missing a piece of the puzzle. And of course not ALL hunter gatherers settled to farm but those that did were the ones who succeeded – probably due to the calories, and more reason to wonder why some groups didn’t settle down to farm tubers.
      “You are right of course. There were times when overgrazing happened on savannas, particularly due to animals. Fires on the savannas were common too. I suppose they were nomadic for a number of reasons. I wouldn’t however say that savannas were overgrazed into extinction. I would imagine it was also possible to find untapped savannas if you were nomadic enough and walked far enough.”
      I think I may have been confusing here. I never mean’t that anything would get overgrazed into extinction. I mean that the consumer populations will grow until a point where the resource becomes limiting – it is at this point that the population stabilises. This was once an age old debate in ecology but we now can be fairly certain that prey populations grow and are not controlled by predators, and predator populations (including grazers) grow in proportion to the primary food source. So given this why didn’t the human population grow on this abundant food source. Make sense? Again something doesn’t add up. Either they were been competed with or there wasn’t as much as we think. OR they definitely needed some essential nutrient from another food such as animals, which forced them to move (but that brings us back to that wheat argument again).
      These questions are more from my standpoint as an ecologist. I don’t necessarily disagree with the evidence, but highlighting that there are some fairly big gaps in the knowledge, at least in terms of ecology.
      . “I was fairly annoyed to find that nobody had bothered to check to see if those populations were ketogenic in the first place! I sort of felt like I had been lied to when people justified these extreme low carb diets without really doing their homework on the published scientific studies.”
      Yup that’s the problem with both paleo and low carbers. It attracts people who are both interested in the science but also the quacks and people who want to push their own diet beliefs rather than learn. I, like you with low carbs, feel a bit despondent with paleo. People kept telling me just eat paleo and you will lose weight. I didn’t. So I guess I come from your perspective but in reverse. We both feel lied too. But I think there is a clear difference in normal eaters and overweight people. I’m constantly telling my flatmate NOT to do low carb and to eat his carbs guilt free. He doesn’t have a screwed up metabolism and I don’t see the need for him to go to the extreme that I am (plus he loves his carbs). So I don’t think I am too biased, but probably slightly since I am on a keto-adapted diet. I have some investment there….
      “Also, I would wonder how they would have measured ketosis in Inuit back in the 1920’s though? It may not be a very reliable estimate.”
      “None of this research is meant to discount the effectiveness of ketogenic diets, but rather to point out that these populations can’t easily be used as proof of its performance.”
      I just can’t help but feel that using fossils or dated research to come to conclusions about diet makes the whole theory more muddled. I think Richard was right to use a bit of comparative biology. That is certainly what I and most biologists do when trying to find a species place in evolution. You can’t say they ‘evolved’ to do a specific thing but you can say that it is functional for them now. So in the same sense you couldn’t say that humans evolved on a keto-adapted diet, but that is different than saying whether it provides function now. I hesitate to use the word adaptive because unless you prove it was adapted through evolution you shouldn’t use that word. At least that is in my training Big no no in the science journals I publish in. You have to literally provide some solid evidence it was adapted for that reason. And this is the problem I have with us trying to attribute adaptation to diet – you can’t prove that. You would need molecular evolutionary techniques to look at the DNA for tuber digestion and see when it appeared based off molecular dating etc.
      “Give what we’ve learned here about gut health. Do you think your carb intolerance is related to a dybiosis that can be cured through modulation? Or do you think it may be genetic (low AMY1 copies, etc.)?”
      I’m not sure. I’ve always been a fat kid so I suspect there is a genetic component but then none of my other family members were fat. I have eaten paleo before, never low carb though, and I never really lost weight unless I limited the carbs. You would think if that was enough to change your gut microbes I would have gained the benefits. God I swore I wasn’t going to waffle again and now I see I have written two pages. Oops.



    • Duck Dodgers on September 25, 2014 at 08:16

      “why some groups didn’t settle down to farm tubers”

      They did! Tiger nuts (Cyperus esculentus) were one of the oldest crops that were cultivated in Egypt. They were found in the tombs of Ancient Egyptians—along with some of the oldest recorded recipes. But, it took a little bit of engineering. See, there are a few different varieties of Cyperus esculentus and the wild ones are too weedy to plant near other crops. In fact, Cyperus esculentus is illegal to plant in the United States, as it is considered an invasive weed. Only the Egyptians (and later the Spaniards) figured out how to farm it without it becoming invasive.

      Here, read this paper (free registration):

      Chufa (Cyperus esculentus, Cyperaceae): A Weedy Cultivar or a Cultivated Weed?

      As you can see, if you plant just a single wild/weedy tuber, they will overrun your farm in 3 years! It makes it impossible to farm anything else. According to the paper, it’s a wonderful crop, as long as you have the right sub-species (i.e. variety).

      Basically there are a few different kinds of Cyperus esculentus. All but one are a true weed, but one is actually a cultivar (variety: sativas). “Sativas” refers to “sown” or “cultivated”. The weedy ones have flowers and the cultivated ones rarely ever do. The “chufas” from Spain are of this cultivated variety. But, most farmers are terrified of all Cyperus esculentus due to all the weedy varieties and all of them are currently classified by the USDA as “invasive” despite this confusion. So, it’s illegal to plant or harvest anywhere but Spain, as far as I know.

      So, the Egyptians domesticated it so that the shoots would grow down, rather than out to the sides. The paper, above, calls for this variety to be made legal. However, I believe the paper mentions that the cultivated tiger nuts prefer a warm environment, and a specific kind of soil—which Valencia, Spain is famous for.

      Interesting, the Paleo Indians who ate C. esculentus were known to keep them away from their maize and sorghum. They harvested weedy ones from a nearby marsh and dared not mix them with their crops.

      I will also point out that they are a pain to deal with on an agricultural level. You need special equipment to dig them out of the ground as a tractor moves over them—whereas our ancestors loosened up each bunch by hand. They also need to be properly dried and turned if they aren’t going to be eaten fresh, to prevent molds from growing.

      Hope that helps.



    • Richard Nikoley on September 25, 2014 at 08:46

      Nice wide thinking, Martin.

      “Where there are laws, there will be criminals.” – Solzenhystin

      Extrapolating:

      “Where there are assets, there will be thieves.” – me



    • Daniel on September 25, 2014 at 13:51

      Gonna try to keep this short.

      Firstly, my specialty is invasive species. I would be hesitant to compare the growth patterns of an invasive species in non-native regions where the ecosystem hasn’t had time to adapt to the invader, and say this is how the species grows. This is not what is found. Exotic species never do as well in their native regions as places they invade. Given any tubers in Africa back in the day would have been native we have to take that into account. I find it unlikely they grew to extraordinary numbers in their home turf. At least based off the invasive species argument. Remember, Africa is a massive continent so specific regions where it grows well today could still be non-native.

      Ok so I have no doubt tubers were eaten. But I am basing the below arguments on the hypothesis that these tubers were incredibly abundant in savannah during the time humans evolved and could act to supply thousands of calories on any given day.

      1. If they did grow to these huge amounts of numbers then I still can’t see why we don’t see a subsequent increase in tuber eating animals or humans (yes humans are animals lol). If they were that abundant with a ready supply of calories for such little work, it would be a fair prediction to make that grazer populations on tubers would also increase. The fact that human populations remained low is contrary to this hypothesis if this was a major food source for humans.

      2. If they continued to roam because they needed other nutrients, from say meat, again this is contrary to what we find with wheat when human populations gave up necessary nutrients in order to get a major calorie supply. We know they showed drops in health so we know that this was the case. So why didn’t this happen in the tuber example. If tubers were so abundant and all over the place it sounds like storage issues and the need to cultivate may not have even been an issue. Again this is contrary to that hypothesis. I don’t really buy the ‘wanting to look around the next corner’ as a major driver in human population dynamics.

      To me it seems likely that tubers were eaten. This we know for a fact. From looking at the population patterns of humans at the time it doesn’t fit with a theory that tubers could have been a dominant food source. The fact that they showed behaviour that is contrary to it been a major food source just raises red flags for me. Having said that that doesn’t mean they were eating a keto-adapted diet either. I think it’s varied depending on locale and time of year.



    • Daniel on September 25, 2014 at 14:05

      Actually let me just specify. By major food source I mean how I outlined in the hypothesis. I can see the argument that tubers would have been sporadically spread around and humans would have been travelling around and regularly consuming them. So a significant part of the diet I can agree with, but not major food source as outlined above.



    • Duck Dodgers on September 25, 2014 at 15:55

      Daniel,

      First off, I should probably clarify that I wrote the article (not Richard). So I suppose it’s my responsibility to respond here. 🙂

      “this is contrary to what we find with wheat when human populations gave up necessary nutrients in order to get a major calorie supply”

      I’m confused by this statement. Agriculturists who farmed wheat also domesticated cattle and other crops for additional nutrients, no?

      “So a significant part of the diet I can agree with, but not major food source as outlined above”

      I think you may be confusing what was said. The statement was about early hominids (See NSF press release), not humans. And the conclusion for high tiger nut consumption was hypothesized by the Oxford researchers about Paranthropus boisei, which was a significant hominid with an extremely long and successful history.

      Humans are supposedly the last surviving C4 primates, so P. boisei just gives anthropologists a clue for where the noticeable shift to C4 3.5MYA came from.

      But, it’s important to realize that I never meant to say that humans ate enormous quantities of tiger nuts—just that we probably ate them regularly based on what earlier hominids were doing 3.5 MYA ago and the fact that they were one of the earliest crops. P. boisei had insanely high C13 level, which inferred 70% C4 foods. It clearly wasn’t a high meat eater, so it was the Oxford researchers that figured out the riddle of P. boisei eating tiger nuts to get that much C4. (You may want to take the time to flip through the eight bracketed links in the article above to get the full story).

      Although P. boisei was very successful, it was not a direct ancestor. And from there, we see that our direct ancestors ate starchy sedges as well as Neanderthals and early humans ate them too. But, I never said that humans sat around eating tiger nuts all day.

      Tiger nuts are still widely sold in Nigerian markets today. It remains a staple for the culture there.



    • Duck Dodgers on September 26, 2014 at 08:26

      Just realized that I linked to the wrong study in the comment above. The Oxford study link is this one, and it was accidentally omitted from the post (should be reference [9], but that was accidentally omitted too. I’ve asked Richard to fix it).

      Here is the correct link to the Oxford study:

      Baboon Feeding Ecology Informs the Dietary Niche of Paranthropus boisei

      The Oxford reference one of the most important references as it ties all the other references together with wear patterns on the enamel to conclude an 80% of calories came from tiger nuts, with only 3 hours of foraging, for P. boisei.

      Of course, P. boisei was also known as “Nutcracker Man” so he adapted to eating lots of tiger nuts. Humans ate less than he did (our C4 level wasn’t quite as high). But, the importance of the study is that it tells us where our shift to C4 foods likely came from. Again, it’s just a clue, and the other studies just show similar shifts to C4 foods in other early hominids 3.5 MYA while maintaining the omnivorous dental features. Sorry for the confusion.



  9. pzo on September 23, 2014 at 09:13

    Jimmy and friend sound just like the vegan mantra of failure, “You aren’t doing it right.” From the other side of the continuum, of course.

  10. ChocoTaco369 on September 23, 2014 at 09:49

    This is difficult to read. It’s like listening to a failing cult desperately try to cling onto their remaining members, and they’ll say or do anything necessary to keep them. At some point, you’d hope you’d have some shame and be tired of publicly making an ass out of yourself, but as American culture has been showing in the past few years, shame is becoming a thing of the past.

    • Richard Nikoley on September 23, 2014 at 12:29

      So is pride, Chaco.

      Case in point, and I’m not generally a Walsh fan, but he nailed it here:



    • ChocoTaco369 on September 24, 2014 at 09:32

      I take pride in the fact that I don’t have an overwhelming sense of pride. Does that make sense? I’m actually proud when I think I’m on the right path, admit fault, revise, resubmit and learn something even better. I guess when you’ve made a solitary viewpoint your entire livelihood, it looks bad to go back on it. Oh well, I’m going to finish enjoying this bowl of pork, pinto beans, apples and carrots.



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