Evolution is a intensely gradual process. Millions of years of selective breeding and natural selection decide our biological make-up, and affect our metabolism, digestion, and required diet. Such sluggish changes have been no match to the agricultural revolution that has taken place over the last few thousand years.
Our diet was never meant to consist of grains, dairy, or processed foods. Sugar and fruits were rare treats, lacking the abundance provided by technological advent. We have evolved to subsist largely on lean meats, fish, vegetables, and occasional fruits.
In stark contrast to this diet, modern day humans eat a cornucopia of foods that are simply not compatible to a healthy lifestyle as dictated by evolution.
If you are looking for evidence, look no farther than the zoo. Lions are fed red meat and pandas are fed bamboo. Animals are healthiest when they follow the diet that is most consistent with their natural environment.
The same goes for humans. John Durant, a leading paleolithic expert makes the argument that, “we are healthiest and happiest when we adhere to a diet that dates back to our paleolithic ancestors.” It is on such a diet that our genes express themselves in an ideal manner.
It is this belief that has spawned the paleolithic diet, dubbed caveman diet by many in the media. Such a diet restricts consumption of foods to ingredients that were available to a caveman. That means no added sugar, no processed foods, and no grains or carbohydrates.
Art DeVany, hailed by many as the grandfather of the caveman diet has followed the paleolithic diet and lifestyle for over thirty years. While over seventy years old, he has not been sick for years, and his body composition and appearance are that of someone much younger.
This diet has been embraced by thousands of people in recent years. Friends of mine who adhere to it speak of the increased energy, faster muscle growth and weight loss, and a host of other positive side-effects that followed their change in diet.
Critics will be quick to argue that many of these side-effects are either placebo effects, or reflective of other changes in lifestyle.
Skepticism is natural, and a healthy degree of it is a good thing to possess. However, apart from the sensationalist claims from satisfied paleo enthusiasts, there are many well-grounded scientific findings backed by empirical evidence that give credence to the paleolithic movement.
We have evolved as humans to exercise as little as possible and eat as much as possible. These irrefutable facts paired with an abundance of food and an ability to remain dormant result in our tendency to put on weight.
Even the exercise that many pre-historic cavemen took part in was worlds apart from modern day workouts with structured, rigid movements. Cavemen used to walk an average of 7-8 miles a day, climb, sprint, jump, crawl, and swim. None of them sat in a desk chair for eight hours a day staring at a computer screen. Much of their rigor could be characterized as play. And there was always a degree of high-intensity work that likely gave them much of the results we modern humans strive for.
The food they ate was rich in nutrients relative to fat, carbohydrates, and sugar, precisely the opposite of many modern foods.
We cannot fake a shortage of food or force a need for us to exercise more, but by eating the foods of our ancestors and moving and exerting ourselves in a similar fashion we are on a path to better overall health.