Thursday, 1 September 2011

Roaming ancestors standing still

Our ancient ancestors kept on the move. They hunted for animal protein and fish. Grains were gathered from wild grasses. Fruit, berries, leaves and roots supplemented the diet where available.

Disruptive innovation occurred when people stayed in one place, built permanent shelter and began to cultivate plants and grasses to crop for large parts of the year and store for winter. This enabled the development of settled communities, more sophisticated social structures and the eventual arrival of villages, towns and cities.

Welcome to civilisation.

Tall wheat was grown along with other grains and formed the basis for staples such as bread and pasta. Potatoes were a better option in places with poor weather and little sun to aid ripening. Domesticated grasses, like tall wheat, supplied fatter grains for a richer harvest.

Modern science and technology considered the challenge of poor yields, vulnerability to pests and diseases and loss of harvest from wind and rain damage. Plant breeding and genetic modification focussed on resistance to insect and bacterial/fungal infection. A major improvement to guarantee robust crops and easy harvesting was the development of modern short wheat.

This series of adaptive innovations in our staple food supply seemed sensible. An increasing population, less land for food cultivation, improvements in healthcare and increasing demand for food made this essential. Wheat was recognisably the same, it produced the same products and we focussed on other issues.

So what's the problem?

It seems that modern, short wheat is not the same. Bread and pasta produced from its grains are not the staff of life described in the bible.

Heart specialist, Dr William Davis, describes the role that wheat plays in triggering coronary arterial plaque and heart disease, in part by raising blood sugar levels higher than most other carbohydrates. When patients turn to him for help with heart problems, he recommends that they eliminate all wheat from their diet, with astounding beneficial results.

Further observation of patients and surveys of readers of his blog have shown that modern wheat is implicated in a wide range of health conditions from obesity, coeliac disease, arthritis, skin problems, accelerated ageing and brain damage. His latest book 'Wheat Belly' gives a detailed account of the issue.

'Diseases of civilisation' is a term widely used to refer to high fat, rich diets.

Wheat and sugar in its various forms seem to be the most ominous fruits of our ancestors' decision to stop and settle down.

If you visited this post from another site, you might like to browse other content on this topic by clicking on diet.

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