Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Putting Things In Perspective

   The exact or approximate date of the big bang may not be the common ground in the cosmological circles, but the scientific community agrees that indeed an event took place about 15 billion years ago called "big bang". Well, this is the event that started everything. At time zero the entire mass of the universe was compacted into a very dense ball. This dense ball of mass exploded with a big bang, and as mass moved away from the source of the original explosion it cooled and formed stars and galaxies. Was it the hand of God or a pure accident?, debate for another time. Well, what is all this has to do with Paleo? I promise I will bring this discussion back to Paleo somehow...just wait. First let's do some math and create a new measuring scale setting big bang as a reference starting point and applying few important events that took place on our home planet earth. See tables below:

   The human history compared to the age of the Cosmos is very insignificant. The interesting fact is that around 9:30 P.M., which equates to about 15 million years ago the first hominids appeared. These hominids were very similar to the apes and chimpanzees. But around 10:30 P.M. which equates to about 2.5 million years ago, some of these primates began to evolve differently than the rest of the apes. The genetic difference between a modern human and a chimpanzee is about 2%, but humans are far different than the chimpanzees that we observe today. Chimpanzees have smaller brains but larger stomach and hairy bodies, whereas humans have smaller stomachs and larger brains. If humans and chimpanzees are almost genetically identical, then what caused this huge disparity? Why the humans took a different evolution course than the chimpanzees? The answer may lie in our diet. To be exact the Paleo Diet. About 2.5 million years ago, humans took a different evolution route than the other primates. The modern humans traded in their larger stomachs for larger brains by eating calorie dense foods, which are fats, animal meats, nuts, wild fruits, and vegetables. By eating energy dense foods, gradually the size of human stomach decreased and the size of the brain became large. Whereas, the chimpanzees continued on their way to consume large amounts of vegetation to satisfy their caloric needs. The vegetation, low in calories caused the chimpanzees to have larger stomachs and most of their body's energy was expended in digesting the large amount of vegetation they consumed. This caused most of the metabolic activity to take place around the stomach and hence, the chimpanzees developed large stomachs. On the other hand, humans began to eat animal fat and proteins from their hunts. Quantity of food consumed was less, but it was dense in calories. This less quantity caused the stomach to shrink, but caused the brain to enlarge. Simply put humans traded their large stomachs for large brains. The human brain is basically composed of fat, the complex parts of the brains that contain, speech, emotions, and higher thoughts along with human genetics were developed in the Paleolithic period of 2.5 million years. During the Paleolithic period the humans lived as hunter-gatherers. They did not develop permanent settlements and walked several miles per day to hunt and gather foods. The male members of the pack usually hunted,  while the female members of the pack gathered berries, nuts, wild fruits, and vegetables.

   This all changed about 20 seconds ago in the cosmic scale, when about 10,000 years ago agriculture was invented. The wild prairie grasses like wheat, oats, barley, and various other grains were domesticated and were incorporated into the human diet. The grains allowed the foods to be stored for a longer periods of time and this practice slowly replaced the hunter-gatherer societies. The humans traded their active hunter-gatherer life style with more sedentary life style. The chronic diseases began to appear as humanity moved away from a hunter-gatherer mode of life to more domesticated life style. About 130 years ago when the invention of flour mills and the industrial revolution came on the scene, the modern human health took a nose dive and has been on the decline since then. Milling the wheat produced the refined flour that broke down the complex starches and the proteins in the grains. The complex starches along with bad proteins like gluten and lectin became easy to digest in the form of refined flour. The commercial farming and mass production made these products readily available and ready to feed the masses. Some how the fats and proteins were demonized and became health public enemy number one, while carbohydrates from breads and pastas became the staple of modern diet. These days a box of Cheerios proudly displays a healthy heart on its sugar loaded refined flour box and is considered a healthy breakfast choice. Hundreds of low fat product manufacturers remove the fat and load it with sugars or simple carbs to make up the calories and market it as a healthy product. There are literally hundreds of products on the market geared towards every age group made from grains, corn syrup, and high fructose.

   Simply put human genetics is designed to thrive on fats and lean animal proteins. Human genetic blue print was developed in the Paleolithic age over a period of 2.5 million years. Refined flours were never part of the human diet equation, while our brains were becoming larger due to consumption of animal fats and proteins. Unfortunately, this all happened in the first second of the great cosmic scale. Now that's really putting things in perspective...

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