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Darryl Shaw
06-22-2009, 05:30 AM
Interesting study on the diet of the Tarahumara Indians, widely regarded as the worlds greatest ultra-endurance runners.*

The food and nutrient intakes of the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico.

MT Cerqueira, MM Fry and WE Connor.


A nutritional survey of 372 semiacculturated Tarahumara Indians in the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains of Mexico was carried out to determine the composition of their diet and its nutritional adequacy. Dietary histories from 174 adults and 198 children were obtained by interviews and field observations during 1973 and 1974. The histories for the children were calculated in part from the menus of six boarding church schools. Nutrient calculations of daily intake were based upon food composition tables and some actual analyses of Tarahumara foods. The protein intake was ample, at 87 g, and generously met the FAO/WHO recommendations for daily intake of essential amino acids. Fat contributed only 12% of total calories, its composition being 2% saturated and 5% polyunsaturated with a P/S ratio of 2. The mean dietary cholesterol intake was very low, less than 100 mg/day, and the plant sterol intake was high, over 400 mg/day. Carbohydrate comprised 75 to 80% of total calories, mostly from starch. Only 6% of total calories were derived from simple sugars. The crude fiber intake was high, 18 to 21 g/day. Salt consumption was moderately low, 5 to 8 g/day. The daily intakes of calcium, iron, vitamin A, ascorbic acid, thiamin niacin, riboflavin, and vitamin B6 exceeded or approximated the FAO/WHO recommendations. Thus, the simple diet of the Tarahumara Indians, composed primarily of beans and corn, provided a high intake of complex carbohydrate and was low in fat and cholesterol. Their diet was found to be generally of high nutritional quality and would, by all criteria, be considered antiatherogenic.

http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/reprint/32/4/905?ijkey=2101d5452dc5851b908adf81f163ec6c8ad501cb

*See Born To Run by Christopher McDougall.

Garrett Smith
06-22-2009, 07:12 AM
Is that right, 5-8 *grams* per day of sodium??? AFAIK, that's not low....

Darryl Shaw
06-23-2009, 06:26 AM
Is that right, 5-8 *grams* per day of sodium??? AFAIK, that's not low....

Their sodium chloride (salt) intake is 5-8g/d which would make their sodium intake 2-3.2g/d (see table 2 in the pdf). You're right though, that isn't low however it doesn't appear to cause them any problems.

The moderately low intake of sodium chloride in the diet of the Tarahumaras (5 to 8 g/day) correlated well with their previously reported low blood pressure levels (12). This level of salt intake is in contrast to the usual
American intake of 6 to 18 g/day (29). The low blood pressures of the Tarahumaras are in contrast to the high incidence of hypertension in the United States (48). The habitual low sodium chloride intakes of many primitive agricultural populations have been repeatedly noted to be associated with a relative absence of hypertension (49-5 1). Other factors in the Tarahumaras that may contribute to the low mean blood pressures are the lack of obesity and the high degree of physical fitness. Anderson et al. (52) noted the rarity of hypertension throughout Mexico in groups of peoples eating the basic bean-tortilla diet. Perhaps there is also an antihypertensive factor in this aboriginal Indian diet.

Darryl Shaw
08-22-2009, 05:27 AM
This was posted by Mike Romano here (http://www.board.crossfit.com/showpost.php?p=644822&postcount=25) a week or so back. I've only just managed to find time to read it properly and it's interesting stuff.

The plasma lipids, lipoproteins, and diet of the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico.

ABSTRACT

The Tarahumaras are unacculturated Indians of the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains renowned for their running in competitive races. Over a 4-year period at different locations, 523 healthy Tarahumaras (ages 5 to 70 years) were surveyed for plasma lipids and lipoproteins. We determined also the nutrient intakes of a subsample (174 adults). Mean plasma cholesterol was 125 ± 26 (SD) mg/dl and triglyceride 120 ± 52. Men and nonpregnant women had similar values. Pregnant women were higher. Children were similar, cholesterol of 116 ± 22 and triglyceride of 115 ± 50. For all ages, lipoprotein cholesterol was 87 mg/dl low density lipoproteins, 21 very low density lipoproteins, and 25 high density lipoproteins. Lipoprotein triglyceride was 40 mg/dl low density lipoproteins, 84 very low density lipoproteins, and 24 high and the low density lipoproteins and high density lipoproteins cholesterol. Plasma triglyceride, very low density lipoproteins triglyceride, and cholesterol of Tarahumaras were somewhat higher but not abnormal. The diet of the Tarahumaras (versus the diet of Iowans) was low in cholesterol (71 mg/day), in fat (12% of calories) and in saturated fat (2% of calories). Protein was adequate (13% of calories). The carbohydrate (75% of calories) and fiber (19 mg/day) were high. Corn and beans were the chief caloric sources. The total plasma cholesterol correlated positively with dietary cholesterol intake (r = 0.874), the first time in man such a correlation has been found. Particularly notable was the virtual absence of the hypertension, obesity, and the usual age rise of the serum cholesterol in adults. Thus, the customary diet of the Tarahumaras is adequate in all nutrients, is hypolipidemic, and is presumably antiatherogenic. Am. J. Clin. Nuir. 31: 1131-1 142, 1978.

http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/reprint/31/7/1131

Mike Romano
08-22-2009, 08:26 AM
here I am!

I think a couple things are interesting. 1, in most of the other studies I posted, the tarahumara appeared to have markers of malnutrition, such as decreased stature, several vitamin and mineral deficiencies, etc., dating all the way back to 1980. Incidently, many suffer from heart problems, supposedly from all of that running (in another study I posted).

Also, genetics may play a large role in the success that they have had on their diet. Like the study Darryl posted here, this is the first time that dietary cholesterol correlated with serum cholesterol. Genetic drift is a definite possibility here given the extremely limited outbreeding and population size. Lastly, if this is not the case, who is to say that serum cholesterol being that low is beneficial? I remember reading some studies that correlated excessively low cholesterol to high mortality/morbidity, I'll look for them.

Finally, another important thing is that their diet is HYPOcaloric. Diseases of overnutrition (such as obesity, heart disease, etc.) would clearly not have a place in their lives...however, undernutrition may.

Darryl Shaw
08-24-2009, 06:53 AM
The frustrating thing about this study is it raises more questions than it answers and with the Tarahumara increasingly adopting our crappy modern eating habits we'll probably never get the chance to see any further studies on how their traditional diet as it might have been 200+ years ago effects their health.

Anyway the first question that comes to mind is this; if there is a correlation between dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol as this study suggests then what from an evolutionary perspective is a normal/healthy cholesterol level?

Obviously I don't have any answers but these are my first thoughts -

- We know that we evolved from ripe fruit specialists like chimpanzees into the starch adapted primates we are today and that we have specific genes which enable us to thrive on a diet high in starchy carbohydrates.

- For most of our history, at least up until we started throwing pointy sticks at things ~20-30,000 years ago anyway, our diet was mostly plant based and what meat we did eat came from hunted small game, fresh water fish or carrion so our diet was a lot lower in saturated fat and cholesterol than it is today.

- Our protein requirments are quite small and can be met quite easily from almost any mixed diet even a totally plant based one as long as caloric needs are met.

- There is no physiological requirement for dietary fat apart from EFA's.

- The Tarahumara lifestyle is a throwback to the mesolithic era as they're cave dwelling semi-nomadic subsistance farmers who practice persistence hunting.

- The Masai who also have an essentially mesolithic lifestyle develop atherosclerosis at a rate comparable with modern Americans on their traditional diet which is high in saturated fat.

- Vegetarians and vegans, hippy idiots though they are, along with people who favour fish over meat generally have lower rates of cardiovascular disease than meat eaters.

So with all the caveats about their current problems with malnutrition is it possible that the Tarahumaras incredibly low-fat plant based diet and their low cholesterol levels are closer to the ideal for our species than we might previously have thought?


*Please note that I'm not trying to pick a fight over this one (for a change), I am genuinely interested in hearing everybodies thoughts.

Mike Romano
08-26-2009, 08:12 AM
Do you have any studies that support those claims?

Dunno, I have a hard time believing that vegetarianism is the way to go....anecdotally and evolutionarily. The very first day of my anthro 102 class we went over the decline of health that went along with the agricultural revolution in nearly every race, i.e. native americans, egyptians, etc. It's pretty standard stuff.....

also, evidence that we only started hunting large game 20k years ago? From what I have learned, it began during the acheulian tradition, about 1.2 million years ago....there is evidence that elephants were hunted around that time. That is to say nothing of saturated fat intake, but I am pretty sure intense hunting DID exist.

Darryl Shaw
08-28-2009, 06:33 AM
Do you have any studies that support those claims?

Evidence that humans are starch adapted primates -

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070909184006.htm

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090212150822.htm

http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=2377015

Dates re. the development of the modern hunter-gatherer lifestyle along with relevant info re. mesolithic and neolithic eras can be found in The Human Past: World Prehistory & the Development of Human Societies by Chris Scarre.

Info on the lack of any physiological requirement for dietary fat other than the EFA's along with info on protein requirments can be found in the Manual of Dietetic Practice (4th edition) by Briony Thomas and Jacki Bishop.

Dunno, I have a hard time believing that vegetarianism is the way to go....anecdotally and evolutionarily. The very first day of my anthro 102 class we went over the decline of health that went along with the agricultural revolution in nearly every race, i.e. native americans, egyptians, etc. It's pretty standard stuff.....

The Tarahumara aren't vegetarians they just eat very little meat. As for the health problems associated with the introduction of agriculture they can mostly be attributed to rapid population growth and the spread of infectious diseases along with all the other problems you get when there's too many people living too close together with too little food. When there's enough food to go around and there's proper health care all those problems disappear.

also, evidence that we only started hunting large game 20k years ago? From what I have learned, it began during the acheulian tradition, about 1.2 million years ago....there is evidence that elephants were hunted around that time. That is to say nothing of saturated fat intake, but I am pretty sure intense hunting DID exist.

According to The Human Past by Chris Scarre the shift from an opportunistic gatherer-scavenger lifestyle to what we now consider to be the hunter-gatherer lifestyle occurred ~27,000 years ago and the evidence of the first arrow dates back to ~10,500 years ago. (note: those dates could be bc rather than years ago, should have made notes last night but I was tired). S. Boyd Eaton suggests that there was a gradual shift starting ~40,000 years ago to a modern hunter-gatherer lifestyle and if memory serves he puts the earliest use of spears in hunting at ~20,000 years ago although I suspect the use of spears and the bow and arrow goes back further but we haven't found the evidence for it yet.

Anyway what's important is those dates relate to our recent history and as we're all happy to accept that 10,000 years of agriculture hasn't been long enough to fully adapt to a grain based diet (note: I'm not certain about that theory anymore) perhaps it's time we started questioning how relevant the modern hunter-gatherer diet is to our health and how from an evolutionary perspective it relates to our nutritional requirements. Maybe we need to look further back in time to find our ideal diet because hunting and the regular consumption of animal protein didn't really become a big part our diet until quite recently and for most of our history as a species our diet was almost entirely plant based much like other primates.

How does all that relate to the Tarahumara then? Again this is pure speculation on my part and with the caveat that corn and beans are obviously not paleolithic foods and there could be a degree of genetic drift involved in their good health the question is this; what if the Tarahumara's plant based diet with a limited intake of animal protein and fats is closer to our ideal evolutionary primate diet than that of modern-hunter gatherers and is therefore better for our health?

Obviously I don't have any answers but it's all food for thought. (pun intended :D )

Steven Low
08-28-2009, 09:36 AM
Do you have any studies that support those claims?

Dunno, I have a hard time believing that vegetarianism is the way to go....anecdotally and evolutionarily. The very first day of my anthro 102 class we went over the decline of health that went along with the agricultural revolution in nearly every race, i.e. native americans, egyptians, etc. It's pretty standard stuff.....

also, evidence that we only started hunting large game 20k years ago? From what I have learned, it began during the acheulian tradition, about 1.2 million years ago....there is evidence that elephants were hunted around that time. That is to say nothing of saturated fat intake, but I am pretty sure intense hunting DID exist.
There's lots of various evidence for a lot of positions on each topic.

Darryl's one of the high carbo enthusiasts here if you didn't know while most others here advocate a generally lower carb intake.

Take everything with a grain of salt, and figure out what works best for you. But if you want to debate history, go for it. :p

Mike Romano
08-30-2009, 07:43 AM
haha don't worry steven, already got my diet figured out...used to try and "cut" for bodybuilding purposes with the diet Darryl proposes, and I got skinny-fat. With Paleo, I have no such issues. Just like debating the theory, because it is so interesting that there are so many viewpoints.

Mike Romano
08-30-2009, 07:52 AM
And Darryl, those studies just support the fact that our ancestors consumed root veggies....not that they consumed grains or legumes or any non-paleo food, or that they limited their intake of meat.

Also, evidence that diseases of civilization are gone when there is enough food to go around? I cannot remember this being covered in a SINGLE anthro class. No, agriculture generally equated to health problems, regardless of the individual circumstances.

Finally, in the last paragraph or so, you mention that you don't really believe that humans cannot eat grain without health issues, and that 10,000 years might be enoug to evolve out of it....but then you say that we must disregard the diets of the hunter gatherers the 30000 years before that, because we have not evolved enough! While I do dispute the dates you listed, please clarify your reasoning here....

Darryl Shaw
09-04-2009, 06:54 AM
haha don't worry steven, already got my diet figured out...used to try and "cut" for bodybuilding purposes with the diet Darryl proposes, and I got skinny-fat. With Paleo, I have no such issues. Just like debating the theory, because it is so interesting that there are so many viewpoints.

Okay, first I should clarify that I'm not trying to propose any particular diet in this thread, I'm just thinking what if.......

Second you say that you eat "paleo" but could you clarify what you mean by that? The reason I ask is because when I say paleo diet I'm referring specifically to the foods and nutrition of paleolithic hominids in Africa 50,000+ years ago but many others, particulary on the Crossfit boards, seem to have a different ideas about what that means.

And Darryl, those studies just support the fact that our ancestors consumed root veggies....not that they consumed grains or legumes or any non-paleo food, or that they limited their intake of meat.

I didn't suggest that paleo man limited his meat intake however I would suggest that his environment restricted his meat intake along with the propensity for his intended meat intake to run away whenever possible and this placed a natural limit on meat consumption and of course animal fat intakes would be low because wild game on the African continent is extremely lean. If memory serves in Deadly Harvest by Geoff Bond the author states that the average daily meat intake of the !kung san is ~150g/day and total animal soure foods are ~225g/d, equivalent to one medium to large steak per day in other words, and this relatively small amount of animal source foods would more than meet daily protein requirements even without the protein provided by the considerable amount of mongongo nuts and other plant foods eaten daily.

Also, evidence that diseases of civilization are gone when there is enough food to go around? I cannot remember this being covered in a SINGLE anthro class. No, agriculture generally equated to health problems, regardless of the individual circumstances.

I disagree, there are many examples of thriving rural agriculture based societies throughout history on all continents that did fine as long as there was sufficient food to go around with Japan and Okinawa specifcally being a perfect examples. of this

Finally, in the last paragraph or so, you mention that you don't really believe that humans cannot eat grain without health issues, and that 10,000 years might be enoug to evolve out of it....but then you say that we must disregard the diets of the hunter gatherers the 30000 years before that, because we have not evolved enough! While I do dispute the dates you listed, please clarify your reasoning here....

The reason I'm starting to rethink the issue of grains in human health is because grains are merely one of the more recently introduced sources of starchy carbohydrates in our diet. Starch has played a central role in the diets of hominids for many hundreds of thousands of years, even Chimps dig up and eat root and tubers (link (http://www.scienceagogo.com/news/20071012175807data_trunc_sys.shtml)), so there's nothing uniquely human about this trait, it's a primate thing. What's unique about humans though is our ability to exploit and thrive on wide variety of starchy carbohydrates and it's this adaptability that's been central to our success as a species not our ability to hunt meat or find reliable sources of dietary fats.

How does this relate to the Tarahumara diet then? Well clearly theirs is a starch based diet that's low in fat and animal protein and although the type of starch consumed is different from that eaten by paleolithic hunter-gatherers in Africa 50,000+ years ago that may be irrelevant because they're simply following a dietary pattern that's been the norm for our species throughout most of our history ie. plant based, high in starchy carbohydrates with low but adequate amounts of animal protein and fats.

Mike Romano
09-06-2009, 12:16 PM
Yes.....but grains are farcry from the types of starches you mentioned. Many sources put daily carbohydrate estimates much lower than fat, and slightly higher than protein. Will work on finding these after I finish work.

Another study that shows big game was hunted earlier than you claim:
(w/fs) http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32462007/ns/technology_and_science-science/from/ET

Derek Weaver
09-06-2009, 08:32 PM
I'm enjoying this debate. carry on.

Darryl Shaw
09-08-2009, 06:54 AM
Yes.....but grains are farcry from the types of starches you mentioned.

It's a common misconception that the starchy roots and tubers that were staple foods for the majority of paleolithic hunter-gatherers could just be dug up roasted and eaten. Many of them contained high levels of toxins that required some very creative processing before they could be eaten safely. Cassava for example is a staple food for millions of people around the world today yet it can contain as much as 1g/kg of cyanide; process carefully and you've got lunch get it wrong and.......

So maybe the adoption of grains as a staple food wasn't that big a deal really as they provided a steady supply of calories with no obvious health risks. Also while it's undeniably true that grains are not a natural part of the human diet the same can be said for cassava so all we did really was trade one source of processed starchy carbohydrates for another. They both carried some health risks but thanks to our genes we're able to digest almost any starch and this change in our diet certainly caused us fewer health problems than would have been the case if we'd replaced starchy carbohydrates with fattier meats.

Anyway, to get back to the Tarahumara my hypothesis is simply that regardless of where their staple starchy carbs come from their low saturated fat intake is probably closer to what was the norm for our species before we became proficient hunters and that the increase in hunting and meat consumption that occurred in our recent history although neccessary for our survival causes us some degree of harm.

I should make it clear at this point in order to avoid any pointless arguments that I'm not advocating a vegetarian diet and I think that vegans are misguided idiots, all I'm suggesting is that the Tarahumara's low saturated fat and animal protein intake may be more appropriate for our species than the higher saturated fat and protein intakes that have become the norm in more recent times.

Many sources put daily carbohydrate estimates much lower than fat, and slightly higher than protein. Will work on finding these after I finish work.

I'd be interested in seeing your sources but in the meantime you may find this study interesting -

Relating Chimpanzee Diets to Potential Australopithecus Diets. (http://www.cast.uark.edu/local/icaes/conferences/wburg/posters/nconklin/conklin.html)

Another study that shows big game was hunted earlier than you claim:
(w/fs) http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32462007/ns/technology_and_science-science/from/ET

I don't dipute the fact that humans hunted for hundreds of thousands of years before adopting what we now consider to be the modern hunter-gatherer lifestyle ~30,000 years ago it's just that it was more an opportunistic part of a scavenging lifestyle than the organised hunts of later hominds. The fact that we engaged in hunting is hardly surprising though given that chimpanzees are incredibly efficient hunters and even our free-loving cousins the bonobos engage in cooperative hunting (link (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081013124416.htm)), so this type of hunting behaviour is just a Hominini (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hominini) thing.

One question about that report on evidence that meat was butchered though; did they find evidence that the meat was scavenged or hunted? The reason I ask is because it's quite common to find that tool marks on bones from around that time overlay the tooth marks of predators and this usually indicates that the meat was scavenged rather than hunted.

Cooperative hunting and meat sharing 400–200 kya at Qesem Cave, Israel. (http://www.pnas.org/content/106/32/13207.full.pdf)

Mike Romano
09-09-2009, 08:08 AM
from my understanding there are some theories that an agricultural lifestyle was originally adapted only because grains elicited an opiate-like response. Of course, they were forced to come up with ways to consume other starchy products, like fermenting soy and soaking said grains for several days....but that still doesn't change the fact that, as a whole, agriculture created societies that were incredibly sick compared to previous ones.

http://membres.lycos.fr/xbeluga/originsofagriculture.html w/fs

Article is about why humans adapted, and then stuck with agriculture. Hint: it is not because they were healthier for it.

Where does this inference come from that starches are healthier than fatty meats?

And back to the Tarahumara....from the studies that I posted, it is debatable that they are healthy. Heart murmurs from running, signs of malnourishment....are these really ideal states? How are we defining "healthy"? As the ability to run 100 miles at a clip? If that is the case........

btw, getting access to that article in a second from my school's server

Mike ODonnell
09-09-2009, 08:20 AM
I always liked this article on a mummy from ancient Egypt:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/27/world/middleeast/27mummy.html?_r=1

Further CT scans led physicians to conclude that the woman was about 50 when she died. She was overweight and had bad teeth. She probably had diabetes and died of bone cancer, which had spread through her body.

Considering the diet in Egypt was heavily grain based in bread/beer (being close to the Nile river to support such agriculture)....doesn't speak well for a "grain" based society and it's health.

Darryl Shaw
09-11-2009, 06:53 AM
from my understanding there are some theories that an agricultural lifestyle was originally adapted only because grains elicited an opiate-like response. Of course, they were forced to come up with ways to consume other starchy products, like fermenting soy and soaking said grains for several days....but that still doesn't change the fact that, as a whole, agriculture created societies that were incredibly sick compared to previous ones.

http://membres.lycos.fr/xbeluga/originsofagriculture.html w/fs

Article is about why humans adapted, and then stuck with agriculture. Hint: it is not because they were healthier for it.

Interesting stuff. I was familliar with the theory that grains might originally have been farmed to make beer but I hadn't heard they might have been grown because they contained opioid like substances before.

Anyway, I don't dispute the fact that human health suffered following the agricultural revolution but I believe that was the result of societal changes rather than the grains themselves. After all over billion asians eat grain based diets today and those who stick with their traditional diet rarely develop any of the "diseases of civilization".

Where does this inference come from that starches are healthier than fatty meats?

Atherosclerosis in the Masai, Inuits developing atherosclerosis and osteoporosis, the association between animal protein and saturated fat intakes and CVD, overweight/obesity, osteoporosis, diabetes and various cancers compared with the low incidence of these diseases in vegetarians, vegans and ethnic groups who traditionally eat a plant based diet high in starchy carbohydrates.

EDITORIAL: Plant-based diets: what should be on the plate? (http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/full/78/3/357)

Associations of whole-grain, refined-grain, and fruit and vegetable consumption with risks of all-cause mortality and incident coronary artery disease and ischemic stroke: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study. (http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/full/78/3/383)

The effects of a whole grain–enriched hypocaloric diet on cardiovascular disease risk factors in men and women with metabolic syndrome. (http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/full/87/1/79)

Our basic physiology and nutritional requirements were established long before we became proficient hunters and our bodies like those of all other primates are designed to perform optimally on a mostly plant based diet.

And back to the Tarahumara....from the studies that I posted, it is debatable that they are healthy. Heart murmurs from running, signs of malnourishment....are these really ideal states? How are we defining "healthy"? As the ability to run 100 miles at a clip? If that is the case........

According to the 1973-4 study the Tarahumara's tradtional diet was "generally of high nutritional quality" and they were found to be in good health. As for their cardiovascular health I refer you to this paper (link (http://www.performancemenu.com/forum/showpost.php?p=61371&postcount=1)) where it is reported that some Tarahumara runners had a diastolic pressure of zero during and immediately after a race. Now I have no idea if that's normal for ultra-endurance athletes but I've never heard of anyone having a diastolic pressure that low before in fact I thought you had to be dead before your diastolic pressure could get down to zero so maybe someone better qualified then me would like to comment on what this says about their cardiovascular health.


btw, getting access to that article in a second from my school's server

Cool. Did it say whether or not there were any tooth mark on those bones?

Mike Romano
09-12-2009, 02:35 PM
didn't have time to check out the first study, but the second study says that meat consumption was correlated with high consumption of refined grains. Of course, compared to a diet containing refined grains, the whole grains group, consuming unprocessessed foods, will be healthier, and in general lead a healthier style of life! The third study compares whole grains to refined grains....... Not sure that this says anything about meat intake.

Darryl Shaw
09-14-2009, 06:16 AM
didn't have time to check out the first study, but the second study says that meat consumption was correlated with high consumption of refined grains. Of course, compared to a diet containing refined grains, the whole grains group, consuming unprocessessed foods, will be healthier, and in general lead a healthier style of life! The third study compares whole grains to refined grains....... Not sure that this says anything about meat intake.

I included links to those studies in order to show that grains do not cause any significant health problems indeed they seem to be associated with good overall health. I believe this demonstrates that the health problems that came with the introduction of agriculture were largely due to societal changes rather than the change to a grain based diet.

Anyway we seem to have gone a little off topic here when what I've been trying to discuss is the fact that Tarahumara's dietary cholesterol is correlated with their serum cholesterol. My hypothesis being that regardless of their neolithic corn and beans diet their low saturated fat and animal protein intakes are similar to what would have been the norm for our species for millions of years before we became proficent hunters and this study seems to support my theory as it shows that the further back in our history you look the greater the cholesterol lowering effect of the diet.

EDIT: Sorry but there seems to be some problem with the link so I'm going to copy the full text in case it stops working again.

The Garden of Eden: Plant-Based Diets, The Genetic Drive to Store Fat and Conserve Cholesterol, and Implications for Epidemiology in the 21st Century


Jenkins, David J. A.; Kendall, Cyril W. C.

Author Information

From the *Clinical Nutrition & Risk Factor Modification Center; the †Department of Medicine, St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; and the ‡Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Correspondence: David J. A. Jenkins, Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Center, St. Michael's Hospital, 61 Queen St. East, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5C 2T2. E-mail: cyril.kendall@utoronto.ca.


For most of the evolution of the hominoids (apes and humans), it seems likely that we depended on plant-based (vegetarian) diets1-5-very high in fiber, low in saturated fats, lacking in cholesterol, with carbohydrate in dilute form, rich in micronutrients and phytochemicals, and with very low energy density. The gibbon split from our clade over 20 million years ago. The orangutan departed 15 million years ago. The final break occurred 5 to 7 million years ago with the shift in tectonic plates that created the Rift Valley and sent gorilla, chimpanzee, and human to follow their separate paths of development. The gibbon, orangutan, and gorilla, and to a large extent the chimpanzee, continue with their plant-based diets.

Humans are the odd men out. They left the jungle and colonized the savannah, they gathered plant materials for subsistence, and it has been suggested that they followed the big cats and other carnivores to compete with the jackal for the carrion.6,7 Approximately 2.5 million years ago, Homo habilis (handy man) developed stone tools from which the Acheulian hand ax developed (a flat pear-shaped cutting instrument). This all-purpose Swiss army knife allowed carrion skulls and long bones to be opened for brain and marrow-valuable sources of fat in a calorie-poor environment. With the further evolution of stone implements, most recently in the Paleolithic period, large-scale hunting became possible, and meat intake is hypothesized to have been high.8 However, the species reductions and extinctions that followed successful hunting brought on the Neolithic agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago; for the first time, starch became a major dietary staple9 and allowed our species numbers to multiply and enjoy a measure of security and affluence. With this advance came diabetes, described first by the ancient Egyptians. Since then, the industrial revolution and the industrialization of food production and distribution has fulfilled human needs for energy conservation (sloth) and abundance of food (gluttony). All these advances have taken place through increasingly rapid evolution of our tools, machines, and devices without corresponding evolution of the human genome.

We are therefore still programmed to store energy effectively. In an age of inactivity and abundance, we are increasingly obese. We are programmed to maintain our blood glucose levels even in starvation; thus, in affluence, we are increasingly diabetic. We are programmed to synthesize cholesterol for a low-calorie environment when there was an absence of saturated fat and dietary cholesterol. With our contemporary dietary pattern, half our middle-aged population have high blood cholesterol levels and could benefit from statins, currently the most efficacious class of drugs.
So overwhelming are these metabolic problems of 21st century civilization that we asked what effect a primitive diet might have on the biochemical indices of modern man.

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RECONSTRUCTED SIMIAN AND NEOLITHIC DIETS

We therefore decided to reconstruct diets representing earlier phases in human evolution, feed them to contemporary humans for 2-week periods, and determine their physiological effects.10 We selected to study 2 periods. One diet might have been eaten in the Miocene era, 4 to 7 million years ago. At that time, the range of foods eaten by our human ancestors was probably not very different from that of contemporary great apes, whose genetic makeup is possibly no more than 2% to 3% different from modern humans.11 This first diet consisted of large amounts of leafy vegetables, nuts (almonds and hazelnuts), and fruit, some tropical, but all purchased in local grocery stores. Theoretically, all these foods could be eaten raw but the majority of vegetables were eaten cooked. The diet was effectively devoid of any significant amount of starch. This diet was compared for effect on serum cholesterol with 2 current diets. First was a high-starch Neolithic-like diet, low in saturated fat and high in oats, barley, whole grain cereals, and dried legumes, with low-fat dairy as the source of animal protein. The second diet was a modern therapeutic diet (NCEP step 2 diet)-very low in saturated fat and dietary cholesterol and with a similar macronutrient profile to the Simian Miocene diet.

The major feature of the Simian diet was the large volume and the length of time spent eating. Considerable pressure had to be brought to bear on the subjects to ensure they ate all their food and did not lose weight. The foods were palatable, but the volume of 5.5 kg/d for a 70-kg man was excessive and the time taken to eat this volume (8 or more hours per day) was a further limitation. At the end of the 2-week diet periods of weight maintenance, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol was reduced on the Simian diet by 33%, on the Neolithic diet by 23%, and on the therapeutic diet by 7% (Fig. 1). Perhaps more importantly, the respective LDL:high-density lipoprotein cholesterol ratios were reduced by 24%, 12%, and 5%.

The cholesterol reductions on the Simian diet were similar to the reductions achieved with the first-generation statins. Bile acid losses reached 1 g/d in the men, a 4-fold increase over the therapeutic diet. Analysis of the diet for components that might alter cholesterol metabolism showed that the Simian diet provided approximately 1 g of plant sterols daily, 145 g of fiber, and 92 g of vegetable protein and on average over 70 g almonds or hazelnuts per day. The first 2 components would have reduced cholesterol and bile acid absorption and thus increased fecal steroid loss12-14; the vegetable proteins would have reduced hepatic cholesterol synthesis15 as evidenced by reduced urinary mevalonic acid output. The nuts would have provided monounsaturated fats, vegetable protein, and plant sterols, all of which would tend to lower serum cholesterol. These diets would be predicted to upregulate LDL receptors.16,17

This study suggested that serum cholesterol levels were likely to have been low throughout the course of human evolution and that reintroduction of foods containing cholesterol-lowering components might reduce the current apparent dependency on drugs for cholesterol control in the 21st century and beyond.
In relation to obesity, the volume of the food that had to be eaten on the Miocene/simian diet, was a clear indication that overconsumption would not be a problem and indicated the importance of food volume in appetite control. Furthermore, the time spent eating would pose a further major barrier to overconsumption.

The implications of these findings for current epidemiologic research are many. Food volume, eating time, and the percentage of calories derived from plant foods deserve to be documented carefully. Physical activity remains a key variable. In the long run, perhaps the most important issue in the epidemiologic debate will be how to both preserve human health and promote a healthy environment in which the fast-dwindling numbers of our great ape cousins can also share.

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ABOUT THE AUTHORS

DAVID JENKINS is a professor in the Departments of Medicine and Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, a staff physician in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, and the Director of the Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Center, St. Michael's Hospital. CYRIL KENDALL is a Research Associate in the Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto, and the Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Center, St. Michael's Hospital, and also an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Pharmacy at the University of Saskatchewan. They are currently running clinical studies on the effect of diet in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.

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REFERENCES

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© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

http://journals.lww.com/epidem/Fulltext/2006/03000/The_Garden_of_Eden__Plant_Based_Diets,_The_Genetic .3.aspx

Mike Romano
09-14-2009, 03:58 PM
interesting study design....they said that our meat intake was high as Homo sapiens until 10,000 years ago, and then designed the study based on diets of species from which we already diverged. Also, dietary information about chimps, our closest living relative, was omitted, probably because they consume A LOT of meat! Yes, cholesterol was probably low. However, is this a good thing?

http://www.canibaisereis.com/download/cholesterol-cardiovasc-men.gif (w/fs). can't find the original graph now, but w/e.

Darryl Shaw
09-15-2009, 06:11 AM
interesting study design....they said that our meat intake was high as Homo sapiens until 10,000 years ago, and then designed the study based on diets of species from which we already diverged. Also, dietary information about chimps, our closest living relative, was omitted, probably because they consume A LOT of meat!

Our meat intake was higher during our recent history as hunter-gatherers but it wasn't as high as people like to think and I agree that the study would have been slightly more relevant had they modeled the simian diet on that of chimpanzees but the results were pretty impressive considering it was only a two week long study. As for chimps consuming a lot of meat.......

Chimpanzee Predatory Behavior

After three decades of research on the hunting behavior of chimpanzees at Gombe, we already know a great deal about their predatory patterns. We know that although chimpanzees have been recorded to eat more than 35 types of vertebrate animals (Uehara 1997), the most important vertebrate prey species in their diet is the red colobus monkey. At Gombe, red colobus account for more than 80% of the prey items eaten. But Gombe chimpanzees do not select the colobus they will kill randomly; infant and juvenile colobus are caught in greater proportion than their availability (Stanford et al. 1994a, 1998a); 75% of all colobus killed are immature. Chimpanzees are largely fruit eaters, and meat composes only about 3% of the time they spent eating overall, less than in nearly all human societies. Adult and adolescent males do most of the hunting, making about 90% of the kills recorded at Gombe over the past decade. Females also hunt, though more often they receive a share of meat from the male who either captured the meat or stole it from the captor. Although lone chimpanzees, both male and female, sometimes hunt by themselves, most hunts are social. In other species of hunting animals, cooperation among hunters may lead to greater success rates, thus promoting the evolution of cooperative behavior. Such cooperation has also been posited as important in our own evolution (Washburn and Lancaster 1968). In both Gombe and in the Tai forest in the Ivory Coast, there is a strong positive relationship between the number of hunters and the odds of a successful hunt (Boesch and Boesch 1989; Stanford et al. 1994b). At Tai, Christophe Boesch has documented highly cooperative hunting behavior by the chimpanzees there, and meat-sharing behavior after a kill that rewards those chimps who participated in the hunt.

One of the main recent findings about hunting by chimpanzees was its seasonality (Stanford et al. 1994a). At Gombe, nearly 40 % of the kills of colobus monkeys occur in the dry season months of August and September. This is apparently a time of food shortage in the forest, since the chimpanzees' body weights do decline (Wrangham 1975). This is actually less strongly seasonal than in the Mahale Mountains, where 60% of kills occur in a 2 month period in the early wet season. Why would chimpanzees hunt more often in some months than in others ? This is an important question, because studies of early hominid diets have shown that meat-eating occurred most often in the dry season, at the same time that meat-eating peaks among Gombe chimpanzees (Speth 1989). And the amount of meat eaten, even though it composed a small percentage of the chimpanzee diet, is substantial. I estimate that in some years, the 45 chimpanzees of the main study community at Gombe kill and consume more than 1500 pounds of prey animals of all species. This is far more than most previous estimates of the weight of live animals eaten by chimpanzees. A large proportion of this amount is eaten in the dry season months of August and September. In fact, during the peak dry season months, the estimated per capita meat intake is about 65 grams of meat per day for each adult chimpanzee. This approaches the meat intake by the members of some human foraging societies in the lean months of the year. Chimpanzee dietary strategies may thus approximate those of human hunter-gatherers to a greater degree than we had imagined.

http://www-rcf.usc.edu/~stanford/chimphunt.html

So with an adult male chimp being up to 5'6 tall and weighing as much as 70kg (154 lb) (source: wikipedia) and assuming that the meat would have been very lean so maybe 30% protein by weight that 65grams of meat per day would work out at about 19.5g of protein per day or 0.35g/kg/d* for an adult chimp which isn't a lot really.

*Would somebody please check if thats right because I really suck at math. Thank you. :D

Yes, cholesterol was probably low. However, is this a good thing?

http://www.canibaisereis.com/download/cholesterol-cardiovasc-men.gif (w/fs). can't find the original graph now, but w/e.

Depends why it's low I guess. I mean poverty and malnutrtion generally correlate with cardiovascular disease but the Tarahumara's traditional diet back in '73-4 was described as being "generally of high nutritional quality" so I don't think that's relevant.

Mike Romano
09-21-2009, 05:59 AM
For chimps, it depends largely on their environment. Chimps that consume large amounts of meat tend to be much larger than chimps who don't, indicating that they rely on meat for protein... I guess the figure is just large compared to other primates, who rarely eat any meat aside from the occasional insect.

For humans, a minimal of 50% plus of our daily calories were made up of meat during our hunter-gathering days...good article on marksdailyapple went through that and had a couple of nice studies. Guess that isn't a lot compared to what some people consume nowadays, but a lot of tribes were really successful with a diet that had a much higher concentration of meat (think Inuit). I know that there is only one successful indigenous tribe that consumes less than 60% of their diet from flesh now adays....forget the name of the tribe but will look into it.

As for the nutrient-dense diet of the tarahumara....don't really buy that. Land sucks down there for growing, and growing corn and beans does nothing but destroy topsoil, sucking the nutrients out of it. I guess it depends on who's calling it "nutrient-rich", and what their definition is. Last, I would probably agree that the cause of cholesterol is more important than the cholesterol level itself. However, the correlation is interesting and would be a good starting point for a study.