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October 19, 2021

Paleolithic diet and cerebral evolution

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Mandy Nolan’s Soap Box article last week drew on a scientific review article to emphasise the role of carbs, and particularly starch, in Paleolithic human diets.

It is a breath of fresh air that science is finally demolishing the misguided notion that high protein diets were the Paleolithic norm.

In fact, Dr Samantha Solon-Biet, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Sydney Uni, has recently done experimental research that indicates that a high protein diet shortens life span and accelerates aging in omnivorous mammals by about 20 percent!

She has shown for the first time that an energy ratio of carbs: fats: proteins of about 60: 20: 20 is optimal.

With these ratios solidly established, and the obesity epidemic in mind, the question ‘Which kind of carbs?’ is crucially important for health.

Carbs fall into three main categories: free sugars, starches, and fruit. Free sugars swing your blood sugar level. Starch doesn’t taste very sweet, but explodes in your stomach into a sugary glucose bonanza. That raises your blood sugar and stores fat, if you don’t live a hyper-active Paleolithic lifestyle.

The postulated Paleolithic starch source is tubers and notably not grain based sources which are the primary source in our agricultural era.

Tubers have a lot more fibre than grain thus diluting the starch carbs. It makes sense that grain based foods are the primary source of starch overload and therefore obesity.

Finally fruit is a more delicious and nutritious source of carbs which in its whole unprocessed state does not destabilise blood sugar or cause obesity.

While the digging for and cooking of tubers may have been a significant driver of cerebral evolution, the complex and deadly competitive search for fruit would have pitted humanoids against each other and strongly driven cerebral evolution.

Nowadays premature incapacity and death from obesity is driving evolution, so consider cerebrally your choice of carbs.

Sapoty Brook, Main Arm


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