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.
Last edited by Darryl Shaw; 11-05-2010 at 04:33 AM.