Stone age diet, known as Paleo diet and genes.

Is eating a Paleo diet important?

New research shows that our genes are meant for grains and veggies

We were not designed to live on a paleo diet. The newest European research shows clearly that our genes changed in the period after we started to cultivate the land, and that this is the reason we also started to eat more grain and vegetable products.

It is thought that hunters and gatherers thousands of years ago primarily ate meat, fish, berries, and various indigenous nuts. That’s until about 6000 years ago, when we started to cultivate the land and when vegetables and grains began to dominate our diet.

Now, the newest research shows that these dietary changes resulted that our genes are changing as well, over the generations.

The Europeans of today have become better at processing grains and veggies

We know that because researchers have found genetic differences between Europeans of today and the people who lived in Europe 3000-5000 years ago. The changes appear primarily in two gene areas. The changed genes mean that today we are experts at sustaining ourselves with a diet dominated by grains and vegetables.

Although the diet we eat today provides significantly fewer long-chain fatty acids from food, our bodies have become better capable of forming these fatty acids itself compared to 3-5000 years ago. Therefore, we are in no immediate danger of lacking these fatty acids, which are essential for many of our bodily functions, for instance from muscles to brain cells.

The genes of the Greenlanders didn’t change

The indigenous people of Greenland, the Inuit, did not experience the same genetic evolution in the two specific genes. The genes of the Inuit are still specialised for getting maximum nutrition from a diet dominated by meat and fish with a relatively high-fat content. Researchers believe this can be explained by the fact that the Inuit never transitioned from being hunters to cultivating the land and becoming farmers. In other words, they had different selection factors.

Paleo diet is known as stone age diet

When man started to grow crops and thus eat quantities
of grains and vegetables, our genes slowly changed to better
utilise the new diet.

We were not designed to live on a paleo diet

The argument for a paleo diet being the optimal diet for us is that our genes have not changed significantly during the past thousands of years, whereas our food has changed completely.

But in fact, the new research shows that this is not accurate. Because the two genes, FADS1 and FADS2 changed over just a few thousand years through natural selection, and probably as a direct response to our changed diet and eating habits. Thus, research points in the direction of people of European origin no longer being designed to live the way we did back in the stone age when it comes to diet.

What is the Paleo (Stone Age) Diet?

Following paleo diet is primarily about getting back to basics. Back to a time when foods with a high content of fat and protein were the primary food source. Paleo or stone age diet, as it is also called, means from prehistoric times.
Paleo diet goes back to before the agricultural revolution that took place about 3000 – 5000 years ago, when people ate whatever foods were available, and where they also had to move to go after their food, which had to be hunted or gathered.

Paleo/stone age diet is based on seven very simple principles:

1. 50–60% of caloric intake should come from meat. This means all types of meat, both high and low in fat, as well as fish and shellfish.
2. 40–50% of caloric intake should come from plants. Fruits, nuts, vegetables and healthy oils.
3. Avoid any grain products, such as bread, pasta, rice, corn, etc.
4. Avoid any legumes, such as peas, beans, lentils, etc.
5. Avoid all dairy products.
6. No processed foods.
7. All liquid intake should be pure water.

The two genes that gave us smarter enzymes

The two genes known as FADS1 and FADS2 are responsible for coding the enzymes that can change short-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFEs) to long-chain PUFEs.

By way of these two enzymes, Europeans of today can produce more long-chain PUFEs.
Vegetables and grains contain primarily short-chain PUFEs, while meat contains long-chain PUFEs.

You can find your own variant of the FADS1 and FADS2 genes through one of the three DNA tests offered here.

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References on which this article is based:

Fan, S., Hansen, M. E. B., Lo, Y. & Tishkoff, S. A. Going global by adapting local: a review of recent human adaptation. Science 354, 54–59 (2016).
Kothapalli, K. S. et al. Positive selection on a regulatory insertion–deletion polymorphism in FADS2 influences apparent endogenous synthesis of arachidonic acid. Mol. Biol. Evol. 33, 1726–1739 (2016).
López-Costas, O., Müldner, G. & Martínez Cortizas, A. Diet and lifestyle in Bronze Age northwest Spain: the collective burial of Cova do Santo. J. Archaeol. Sci. 55, 209–218 (2015).
Field, Y. et al. Detection of human adaptation during the past 2000 years. Science 354, 760–764 (2016).
Fu, Q. et al. The genetic history of Ice Age Europe. Nature 534, 200–205 (2016).

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