Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

Today’s Diet, Yesterday’s Genes

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Today’s Diet, Yesterday’s Genes

According to S. Boyd Eaton, M.D., we are out of sync with our genes by eating less and less like our ancient ancestors.  Based on the free radical theory brought forth by Denham Harmon, M.D., PhD, free radicals are thought to have triggered the chemical reactions that lead to the first and simplest forms of life about 3.5 billion years ago.  In order to prevent damage from these reactive radicals, antioxidant defenses evolved soon after to continue the survival of the first life organisms.

No one is sure how life forms began.  Stanley L. Miller, Ph.D. has proposed that compounds oxidized by solar radiation in the primordial oceans may have helped to produce the building blocks of the organic compounds needed to form DNA and RNA, the building blocks of our genes. Subsequently, all life forms needed the same nutrients that were formed, amino acids, lipids, vitamins, and minerals in order to survive.  According to Eaton, 99 percent of our genetic heritage dates from before our biological ancestors became Homo sapiens about 40,000 years ago and 99.9% of our genes were formed before the development of agriculture about 10,000 years ago.

We have been hunter-gatherers for 100,000 generations and agrarians for only 500 generations since the Agricultural Revolution.  Furthermore, we have had only 10 generations living since the start of the Industrial Revolution.  The Agricultural Revolution changed our diets drastically by consuming large amounts of grain, milk, and domesticated meat.  The culture became more sedentary as well.  During the Industrial Revolution, the diet changed even more.  Beginning around 1900, we began to refine our whole grains and refined sugar became plentiful leading to a loss of vital nutrients.  Presently, our diets rely on vast amounts of processed foods – only two generations have lived with highly processed fast foods.  So, our diets have changed, but our genes have not. We are insulting our genetic heritage that possibly contributes to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and the so-called “diseases of civilization”.


One thought on “Today’s Diet, Yesterday’s Genes

  1. Pingback: 5 Diet Yesterday Sites

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