Recently by Mark Sisson: A Fitness Plan So Easy a Caveman DidIt
You are overweight. I’m sorry to be blunt, but it’s probably true: most adults living in Western countries are overweight. A large portion is obese.
Half of you are taking at least one prescription medication. Half of seniors are taking at least three. You may not be on anything, but you know someone who is.
Does that sound normal? I mean, are perpetual chronic illness and obesity the normal state of existence for us? Is our wiring so inherently faulty that we can’t keep ourselves alive without pills and doctors?
No. Absolutely not. It wasn’t always like this, you know.
The first big turn happened with the Agricultural Revolution. Right around 10,000 years ago, when former hunter-gatherers began growing grain seeds in neat, organized rows, something happened. Population exploded, because we now had a steady source of calories. Villages and cities sprang up, because we no longer had to follow our food. We could simply grow it where we lived.
Those sound like pretty good things, at first. More food and shelter sounds good, right?
Well, something else happened, too. Those early farmers were shorter than the hunter-gatherers they replaced. They didn’t live as long, and they had smaller brains. They got a lot more infectious diseases and more cavities. In short, they were not as healthy as the hunter-gatherers. Same genes, same homo sapiens, different environment, worse health.
But wait – whole grains are supposed to be healthy. Every government institution recommends making whole grains a big part of our diet. How could grain agriculture have caused all those health problems in our ancestors?
The thing about grains is that they don’t care about you. Think about it: a grain of wheat is a baby plant. A wheat egg, if you will. In order for that wheat to pass on its genes, its grain must make it into the ground, sprout, and grow up to repeat the process. Just as a hen keeps its egg warm and well-protected until it hatches, the grain needs ways to stay protected through this process and to keep other animals from eating it.
Unfortunately for the grain, it has no legs, teeth, wings, or claws. It can’t fight. It can’t run from predators. It looks downright defenseless, just sitting there on a puny stalk of wheat.
The grain is anything but defenseless, though. It has an array of chemical defenses, including various lectins, gluten, and phytic acid, that disrupt your digestion, cause inflammation, and prevent you from absorbing vital nutrients and minerals.
All grains contain some or all of these anti-nutrients, to varying degrees, so when our ancestors began making regular meals of them, their health suffered accordingly.
Okay – so we’ve got the fossil records to prove that grain agriculture brought illness and poorer health to human populations, but we don’t know if those early farmers were obese. They probably weren’t. Even if you look at photos of Americans from the 1930s through the 60s, just about everyone is thin. How’s that?