While the definitive diets sprout like mushrooms, there are more and more people who do not know what is the best they can put on the plate. That if carbohydrates are good and then bad, that if the tuna is the best this week and the devil the next, that if eating meat is fine, but only if it is short and medium crude... On the cacophony of nutritional advice that resonate in the civilized Western world emerges a desperate question: can we know what to eat?, say the troubled diners. Is it not possible to determine which is the perfect diet? They do not realize that the question would be meaningless if they lived as the human being has done for most of their history.
In the spirit of putting an end to this mess, a group of researchers from Duke University in the U.S. has decided to contribute some scientific originality and have studied the populations of hunter gatherers, notable for their excellent metabolic health and Cardiovascular disease. The idea seems eccentric, yes, but scientists think that the nutritional habits and physical activity of the savages could eventually be taken as models of public health. Delirious? No, the results of the investigation confirm that they are on the right track.
The most interesting conclusion that scholars have come up with is a relief: wondering if there is a perfect diet is not the best one can do, they say, because primitive societies manage to have an iron health with very different regimes. That is, there is no optimal diet for the human being. If you are one of those who cares about giving your body the best fuel, you can breathe quietly, away from the tyranny of perfect diets.
Obesity and hypertension, rarities in primitive tribes
The researchers came to this conclusion after reviewing recent work on health, activity, energy and diet among hunter-gatherers, as well as in other small-scale societies (e.g., subsistence farmers, horticulturists and Pastors). They also studied archaeological discoveries, with the aim of providing a fuller perspective on lifestyle and health in these populations. To complement the analyses, they incorporated new information about the Hazda, a group of hunter gatherers from northern Tanzania.
The results, published in the journal Obesity reviews, showed that the longevity of these populations is surprisingly similar to that of industrialized societies. But there is a big difference in the incidence of non-communicable diseases. Contrary to what we see in our family and friends, the metabolic and cardiovascular pathologies are very rare in these populations and the prevalence of obesity is less than 5%, which contrasts with the 18.1% of childhood obesity in Spain. The average percentage of body fat in these villages is moderate, between 24 and 28% in females and 9 to 18% in males.
The results of the research reinforce those of a study published just a month earlier in the journal JAMA Cardiology. The researchers interested in the primitive nutritional teachings compared the tension of the Yanomami, a tribe of hunter gatherers living in an almost total isolation in the rainforest of northern Brazil, with that of the neighboring tribe of the Yekwana. The members of the latter have more Western influences and have incorporated both salt and processed foods into their diet. The results showed that the average blood pressure of the most isolated tribe did not increase from birth to 60 years, while the Yekwana showed a tendency to rise at advanced ages.
The study of primitive tribes shows that you can have good health with a wide range of diets
"The idea that increased blood pressure is the result of aging is a generalized belief in cardiology, but our findings add to the evidence that the increase can be a consequence, avoidable, of diet and lifestyle Western instead of aging, " said the assistant professor of epidemiology at John Hopkins University in the U.S., Noel Mueller.
"Our bodies are still adapted to a hunting and gathering lifestyle, to diets and to the high levels of physical activity they carry," explains Herman Pontzer, principal author of the first mentioned study and adjunct professor of anthropology Evolutionary at Duke University,
In America. It seems that the problem with the diet is that the developed countries "we have designed our environment to differ enormously from our past Hunter collector," continues Pontzer.
The idea of a natural diet is ' ridiculous '
According to Pontzer, the great lesson of primitive societies that have studied scientists at John Hopkins University is that hunter-gatherers "have incredibly diverse diets." What's more, "This shows us that people can have excellent health within a wide range of food plans. There is no one real human diet, and I hope that our article will make people critically discuss diets like Paleo diet and others equally popular. The idea that there is a true, or natural, human diet is ridiculous. " There are many valid diets.
For example, Bolivian Tsimane get most of their calories from complex carbohydrates (tubers, cassava, rice...), while Tanzanian Hazda consume honey in large quantities (represents 15% of the average caloric intake), as well as berries, Tubers and small animals. The Yanomami Brazilians, for their part, eat 80% of foods rich in fiber, fruits, low in salt and the hunt only represents 10% of their daily intake.
That said, it is also true that there are general differences between the diets of hunter-gatherers and modern Westerners that are important. To begin with, that the diet of hunter-gatherer societies is less dense in energy: there are fewer calories per mouthful, they have much more fiber and "they are not designed in a laboratory to be irresistible," explains Pontzer. And he adds: "The more we limit ourselves to unelaborated foods (regular fruits, vegetables, meats, fish) and move away from modern foods, made with many calories, healthier."
And where is the path to ' primitive health '?
The Western peoples have long ceased to be hunter-gatherers but, as the Neolithic revolution is very recent from the evolutionary point of view, the experts consider that we have not had time to adapt to the whole new Living conditions.
Thus, explains the coordinator of the Zoology and Biological anthropology section of the University of Barcelona, Alejandro Pérez-Pérez: "It is not the same to consider that a traditional hunter-like lifestyle is healthy to say that the Paleolithic diet is Good. It depends on how we define it: Eating only meat is not healthy, " says in reference to the Paleo diet," a food plan that is based on foods similar to those that would have eaten in the Paleolithic, dating from approximately 2.5 million to 10,000 Years, "according to the definition of the Mayo clinic.
Social ties, physical exercise and economic security also contribute to good health
Returning to the ancestral lifestyle is difficult, obviously, if not impossible. Sanity is imposed. "The term ' return ' should be understood as reducing excesses that increase the incidence of cardiovascular pathologies, obesity, diabetes and cerebrovascular (stroke)," emphasizes the professor. Doctors have shown that reducing the consumption of animal and sugar fats, for example, significantly reduces mortality due to these diseases.
And we're not all the same. That is, changing our eating habits and physical exercise will improve our health, while other populations may have other priorities, such as increasing basic caloric intake. In any case, "it is not advisable to misconstrue this advice and adopt supposedly traditional diets, such as not mixing proteins and carbohydrates, just eating meat, only raw meat, only vegetables, no agricultural products, no Vegetables... ".
Finally, we should not forget that there are other aspects of the lifestyles of hunter-gatherer populations that could contribute to their excellent health. "Close friendships and family ties, low levels of social and economic inequality and the large amount of time spent outdoors" are some of them, explained Pontzer and his colleagues in the recent study.
It's not about lifting a shack near a river, No. But, while science continues to delve into the evolutionary roots of the Diseases of contemporary society, the best one can do is to be fair: to eat what best suits your needs, to avoid the ultraprocessed and not to criminalize any nutrients ... remember that carbohydrates are not the devil!
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