Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Berardi and PN, Part 2

JB on Paleo:

While I like the style of eating, the name does bother me a little. Because it implies that we actually know how our Paleolithic ancestors ate. And it implies that they all ate one way.
Neither is true.  
That is of course true.  But we know some things that healthy, pre-agricultural populations didn't eat.  They likely ate the seed heads of grasses with seed heads large enough to harvest (read J. Diamond's "Guns Germs and Steel" for more on that), but they almost certainly didn't eat these foods in huge quantities, that is the sole realm of the agricultural (neolithic) age.

JB continues:
With this new research, some of the basic “Paleo” assumptions are falling into question. And this is just the beginning. As we develop new techniques, and find new civilizations, no one knows what we’ll discover about the way our ancestors ate.

On this point, I think JB's off target, albeit, the disagreement is a small, philosophical one.  The paleo assumption that matters is that the human genome is not evolved to tolerate living on an agricultural diet, of which 85% of the calories come from corn, wheat and grain.  It isn't evolved to tolerate hydrogenated oils, partially hydrogenated oils, and trans-fats, in quantities these are consumed today.  It isn't adapted to pasteurization, and it isn't adapted to the highly bred super wheats/corns we have access to.  How much you might tolerate any or all of these novel-to-the-genome foods is not anything I could guess, but if you are fat, sick and not thriving on the standard American diet (SAD), these are the likely causes.  What is NOT the cause is you being lazy or gluttonous - at least, if you are lazy and gluttonous, it's probably a natural result of eating the SAD.  The point isn't to try to "eat like a Paleo man".  The point is to use the paleolithic model as a basis for examining the science of nutrition.  The high carb, high grain, low fat fad diet of the last 30 years was never based in sound science and has been a predictable failure.  As Dr. Loren Cordain likes to point out, nothing in the science of biology makes sense outside of the context of evolution.  Why nutritional got so far off track was by pretending that human diet is not a matter of biology.

I think it is erroneous, though, to think you are eating like "Paleo man" if you are not animals "nose to toes."  And I'm certainly not there yet!  Which is why I supplement magnesium and zinc, for example.

When asked about the possible downside of Paleo eating, JB says:
...for certain individuals with specific goals, unprocessed grains and legumes are a huge help. You just have to keep the amount in check and consider timing.

And it all depends on your genes.  Indeed, new research is showing that while Paleo-type recommendations are a great baseline, further adjustments would need to be made based on someone’s genetic heritage.
I think this one's obvious, even the more puritanical Paleo folks - Robb Wolf and perhaps Whole 9 come to mind on this end of the spectrum - advocate a 30 day experiment with controlled reintroduction of possibly irritating foods as a way to determine what foods might be causing negative symptoms that you've lived with so long you no longer notice them.  This is a hard thing to do right, but it can be very helpful.  You might be able to do well on dairy for example, if you eliminate the gut damage that many experience from wheat.

Speaking of dairy, JB offers the following:
In the UK, for example, almost 100% of the population has lactase persistence. This means that dairy is well-tolerated in nearly 100% of the UK. The same is true in Scandinavian countries and Northwestern Africa. However, in Eastern Europe, Asia, and Southern Africa, lactase persistence is less than 10%. Meaning, that in these areas, almost no one can handle dairy.
With dairy, we also need to consider a host of other things, from hormones and antibiotics to homogenization and pasteurization.

Seems like good common sense thinking to me.

There’s a similar relationship between our genetic heritage and our ability to digest and process carbohydrates.  People from Northern Europe, the UK, and Southern Asia make more salivary amylase and other carbohydrate-digesting enzymes because they’ve traditionally eaten a more carbohydrate-rich diet. While people from Africa and Northern Asia make fewer carbohydrate-digesting enzymes because of their traditional diet that’s lower in carbohydrates.
And, just as with dairy, one's tolerance of ancient varieties of wheat and other grains, and one's tolerance of the super production drought and bug resistant wheat varieties available to most of us today, are likely two different matters.  You may have an Arab's super wheat tolerant gut and still not be able to handle much or any modern wheat, with its uniquely blood sugar spiking carbohydrates.

JB provides a nice summary:
... it’s to point out that nutrition plans should always be a starting point for further experimentation. Not rigid, immutable guidelines.
Of course, if you’re new to all this, you need some guidelines to work from. To put you on the right track. But after that, your best bet is to adopt the adventurous attitude of a physiological pioneer. To boldly experiment and tweak until you find what works for you.
That’s what my whole nutrition philosophy is about. And sometimes, a few unprocessed grains and chickpeas make for a great experiment.

That idea has been systematized well in Chris Kresser's "Personal Paleo Code".

No comments:

Post a Comment