Diet-related chronic diseases represent the single largest cause of death and sickness in the United States and most Western countries. Yet while these diseases are epidemic in contemporary Westernized populations and typically afflict two-thirds of the adult population, they are rare or nonexistent in hunter-gatherers and other less Westernized cultures.
Why? There is an increasing awareness that the profound environmental changes, such as diet and other lifestyle conditions that began with the introduction of agriculture and animal husbandry (the care and breeding of domestic animals), occurred too recently for the human genome to adapt to.
Thus, universal characteristics of preagricultural human diets are helpful in understanding how the recent Western diet may subject modern populations to chronic disease: Before the development of farming and the domestication of livestock practices, dietary choices would have been necessarily limited to minimally processed wild plant and animal foods.
It is important to understand that over 70 percent of the American diet now consists of foods that were unavailable to preagricultrual humans, such as:
Refined vegetable oils
Although these foods dominate the typical American diet, they would have contributed little or none of the energy in the typical preagricultural human diet. And while scientists and lay people alike typically target a single dietary element as the cause of chronic disease, evidence has indicated that virtually all so-called diseases of civilization have many contributing dietary elements, as well as other environmental agents and genetic susceptibility that underlie the cause of the disease.
Consequently, these foods negatively affect proximate nutritional factors, which collectively underlie or worsen virtually all chronic diseases of civilization, including: glycemic load, fatty acid consumption, macronutrient composition, micronutrient density, acid-base balance and sodium-potassium ratio. Yet the ultimate factor underlying diseases of civilization is the collision of our ancient genome with new conditions of life in prosperous nations.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 81, No. 2, 341-354, February 2005
Comment: We have been recommending a Paleolithic Diet for a long time, now this article in the prestigious medical journal agrees with our views. To read more about what an ideal diet looks like, check out our website: