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October 1, 2016

Should we eat meat or plants

by Helene van den Berg

I, me and my fat, Part 8 and my fat, Part 5

We should eat what we evolved to eat!

The  longer a particular type of food has been part of the human diet, the better adapted we have become to that food and the more beneficial that food is. If some food is new to human diets or new in larger quantities, we haven’t had time to adapt to it and it would do us harm. Influential articles by Geoffrey Rose in the 1980’s stated that the only means to prevent chronic disease, is to “restore the conditions to which we are presumably genetically adapted”. Which are those conditions?. Our genes were shaped by 99.5% of human history – the Paleolithic era (Stone Age), which constitutes more than 100 000 generations of humanity, living as hunter-gatherers. Our genes were not shaped by the 0.5% of humanity, the Agricultural period – which constitutes 600 generations living as farmers and 10 generations who lived in the Industrial age. 

In the year 2000, researchers analyzed the diets of 229 modern-day hunter-gatherer populations and concluded:

  • Hunter-gatherers consumed 2/3 of their total calories from animal food (meat or fish) and 1/3 from plants. Not one of these populations was exclusively vegetarian. 
  • Their diets were very high in protein (19-35% of calories); very high in fat (28-58% of calories), compared to our modern diets of 15% protein, 33% fat and 50%+ carbohydrates. They preferred the fatty meat and organs, not the lean meat we buy in the supermarkets today.  
  • Their diets were low in carbohydrates –  they ate mostly nuts, seeds, roots, tubers, bulbs and fruits – carbohydrates with lots of fiber and a low glycemic index, which were slow to raise blood sugar and definitely not fattening!. The fattening carbohydrates are new additions to our diets – corn and potatoes, spread to Europe and then Asia only after Columbus; machine refined flour and sugar arrived only in the late 19th century. Just 200 years ago, we ate less than a 1/5 of the sugar today!.
  • They ate wild fruits, not the sweet, juicier kind we eat today that are far more fattening.

They concluded: 60% of all the calories in the typical Western diet (sugar, candy, cereals, grains, dairy products, beverages, vegetable oils and dressings), would have contributed 0% of the calories in the hunter-gatherers diet!

Therefore, for our genetic makeup, meat, fish and fowl for fat and protein, should be the staple food of a healthy diet. We didn’t evolve to eat the high quantities of fattening carbohydrates we eat today and we would certainly be healthier without them!.

Eat Western diets and get Western diseases – diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer!


When traditional societies take up Western diets and lifestyles , through trade or emigration, above diseases will appear shortly after. (Nutrition transition = disease transition) e.g.breast cancer and Alzheimer disease is far more common among Japanese Americans than Japanese living in Japan. 


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