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A series of evolutionary events that took place since the dawn of Homo sapiens are responsible for our present genomic composition. The genetic modifications that led us to the human form presently inhabiting the planet have evolved in a specific evolutionary environment of adaptedness (EEA). So-called discordance hypothesis states that environmental change has been rapid and there is a disjunction between the past environment and the present one. This rapid change resulted in our inadequate genetic adaptation and consequently "diseases of civilization", that is chronic diseases which did not appear in our ancestors but are very common now.
The Paleolithic era is the time when humans began to domesticate animals and started to grow plants for consumption. It began two million years ago and continued till 10,000 years ago, after which the Mesolithic period started. Our ancestors have lived their lives as hunter-gatherers and their diet was based on wild animal sources and uncultivated plants. Many studies have examined a diet imitating the diet of our evolutionary ancestors (popularly known as Paleo diets) and examining if any health benefits can be gained through their use.
Health concerns In The Modern Era
Industrialization and a food revolution have significantly impacted the diet of the modern era. Today, our diet primarily consists of refined and processed food: cereals, grains and hydrogenated vegetable oil, food which provides instant and heavy energy but is often poor in nutrients and suffers from a lack of variety.
As mentioned earlier, the changes in our dietary patterns were more rapid and drastic than the genetic adaptation of our physiology and metabolism. This mismatch has impacted health to an extent that maladies like: heart diseases (ischemia, and coronary artery disease), glucose metabolic diseases (diabetes mellitus (type2)), intestinal diseases like diverticulosis and colon cancers, lung diseases such as obstructive pulmonary disease, dental problems, obesity and hypertension are common in humans at present but were rarely seen in our ancestors.
The modern Paleolithic diet is, of course, an invention of dietologists. In this day and age, we aren't able to consume the same type and quality of food as our prehistoric ancestors did. Nonetheless, we can closely model their diet to see if it brings any benefits to modern humans
The real diet of the Paleolithic period lacked refined and processed foods. It was primarily based on plant sources (nuts and fruits), some insects and meat of land and sea animals. Total fat intake was around 20 percent out of which six percent were saturated fats. The hunter-gatherer diet contained around 480 g/day intake of cholesterol, carbohydrate comprised 35 percent to 65 percent of the diet (nearly 70 g/day) but almost all carbs come from fruits and vegetables, and the total fiber was 150 g/day. The ratio of sodium to potassium was found to be very low, and sodium intake was around 770 mg/day.
If a food pyramid is created to describe the diet of our ancestors, it would look rather different from the present day situation. A Paleolithic food pyramid would have fruits and vegetables on the bottom, followed by lean meat, fish, dairy (low fat), whole grains and fats, and refined carbs would be placed at the top.