Many people in the health field attribute a lot of the blame for chronic illnesses and the epidemic of obesity to our modern diet.
Critics of the modern diet contend that we eat too many refined foods, are exposed to far too many toxins and harmful chemicals, and that our excessive consumption of meat products, cereals and sugars are a primary cause of disease.
I read a very interesting book recently about an approach called the Paleo diet. The premise is that our bodies are most adapted to process the foods that people ate thousands of years ago.
The thinking goes that modern diets are a corruption of the food balance our genetic code is designed to digest. The modern diet has developed due to convenience, profit motives and satisfying the basest cravings of humans, rather than for positive health outcomes.
Realizing that people have changed more rapidly in social and behavioral terms during the past 100 years than the previous 5,000 years, the idea has merit. Although our culture has changed, our genetics haven’t.
A few years ago a remarkable anthropological find revealed interesting clues about man’s diet in the latter part of the Stone Age.
This was the discovery of a man that was found frozen completely intact in the Italian Alps several years ago.
This man is now referred to as Oetzi to reflect the locale of his discovery, the Oetz Valley. The body was completely intact, having been solidly frozen for the past 5,000 years.
Oetzi had apparently died from injuries of an attack. As he lay dead where he fell, the Alpine snows covered him so completely that he remained frozen until his discovery by hikers.
Because his body was so well preserved, researchers have been able to examine the contents of his digestive tract sufficiently to determine what he had eaten in the hours and days before his death.
It turns out that he had eaten deer as well as some meat of an animal called an ibex, a species of wild goat that live in the Alpine mountains. He had also recently eaten some cereal type grains that were likely a form of wheat called Einkorn.
Oetzi had in his possession a copper axe and was dressed in multiple layers, including goatskin leggings and a grass cape. He had a hat made of bearskin. Nearby was found a quiver full of arrows.
Researchers have guessed that because his hair analysis revealed high levels of copper and arsenic, he was involved in copper smelting. Based on the presence of the cereal grains found in and on his body, he is believed to have been part of a group or clan of an agricultural community.
This discovery of Oetzi has shed more light on the dietary habits of the people that lived in ancient times. Not only did people eat meat when available, some took advantage of agricultural practices such as growing, harvesting and storing grains.
Proponents of the Paleo diet focus on what is imagined as the likely diet of the hunter-gatherer. The nomadic lifestyle would have required people to gather edible plants and to eat fresh meat when it was available as a result of successful hunts.
Meat would have included small game, such as rabbits or squirrels, as well as larger animals such as deer. Exactly what animals may have been eaten is not definitely determined. It is possible that the meat of animals that we would not think of as food was included in the diet of a hungry Stone Age traveler as well.
Obviously from Oetzi’s example, some Stone Age people included regular consumption of unrefined grains in their diet.
Proponents of following the Paleo diet have described easy weight loss and improved energy levels as a result of revising their eating habits.
To learn more about the merits of the Paleo diet, you may want to check out a series of books by fitness author Mark Sissom. More can be found at his website, www.marksdailyapple.com.