Evolutionary Aspects Of Diet

The foods that were commonly available to preagricultural humans (lean meat, fish, green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, berries, and honey) were the foods that shaped modern humans' genetic nutritional requirements. Cereal grains as a staple food are a relatively recent addition to the human diet and represent a dramatic departure from those foods to which we are genetically programmed and adapted (Cordain, 1999; Simopoulos, 1995a; Simopoulos, 1999d). Cereals did not become a part of our food supply until very recently—10,000 yr ago—with the advent of the Agricultural Revolution. Prior to the Agricultural Revolution, humans ate an enormous variety of wild plants, whereas, today, about 17% of plant species provide 90% of the world's food supply, with the greatest percentage contributed by cereal grains (Cordain, 1999; Simopoulos, 1995a; Simopoulos, 1999d). Three cereals, wheat, maize, and rice, together account for 75% of the world's grain production. Human beings have become entirely dependent on cereal grains for the greater portion of their food supply. The nutritional implications of such a high grain consumption upon human health are enormous. And yet, for the 99.9% of mankind's presence on this planet, humans never or rarely consumed cereal grains. It is only since the last 10,000 yr that humans consume cereals. Up to that time, humans were non-cereal-eating hunter-gatherers since the emergence of Homo erectus 1.7 million years ago. There is no evolutionary precedent in our species for grass seed consumption (Eaton and Konner, 1985). Therefore, there has been little time (<500 generations) since the beginning of the Agricultural Revolution 10,000 years ago to adapt to a food type which now represents humanity's major source of both calories and protein. Cereal grains are high in carbohydrates and omega-6 fatty acids, but low in omega-3 fatty acids and in antioxidants, particularly in comparison to green leafy vegetables. Recent studies show that low-fat/high-carbohydrate diets increase insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia, conditions

Table 2

Late Paleolithic and Currently Recommended Nutrient Composition for Americans

Late Current

Paleolithic recommendations

Total dietary energy (%)

Table 2

Late Paleolithic and Currently Recommended Nutrient Composition for Americans

Late Current

Paleolithic recommendations

Total dietary energy (%)

Protein

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