Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Evolution and Diet: We now eat more; but less variety

In 2016, nearly 30-50 percent of the world is obese and the numbers are rising fast. In fact, nearly 20% of children in the USA are overweight and many even have type 2 diabetes. In Africa, a continent that has always faced famine and hunger, many countries are now fighting escalating rates of obesity. Obesity has taken over smoking as public enemy number one. Overall, the majority of humans are now overweight and the chief reason is because of our diet. We no longer know
what is a sensible way to eat or what to eat. Our tastes have changed over the centuries. Unfortunately no one knows which way humans have to turn to get bak on the right path. 

Thousands of self help books, foods therapists, psychoanalysts, physicians, dietitians, weight loss surgeons, quacks on social media and every tom dick and harry who has tried to lose weight have now joined the diet circus. Some say eat carbohydrates, others say do not eat fats, other say go vegan, some say go vegetarian, others say only drink water and yet others say take drugs or undergo surgery. And then there is the new breed of weight loss experts who say we should go back to the caveman diet, the Paleolithic diet, the prima diet, the caveman diet and so on. Anyone who has studied history will quickly know that our ancestors rarely lived beyond age 50 and had all types of nutritional deficiencies. The past is not a panacea to our current problem - the whole world of diet and weight is real messed up.

The one fact that cannot be denied is that we eat a very restricted diet today that consist chiefly of processed foods that includes saturated fats, meat, and sugary foods- in summary this means we eat tons of sugar, oil, flour, and a lot of coloring.  

What our ancestors ate is also up for debate. It is believed that initially they ate plants and nuts because they had no major tools to kill animals. The image promoted by some that our ancestors were great game hunters is only fairy tales. Most of the ancestors subsided on a poor plant diet. Plus, the early human was not prepared for meat consumption- our digestive tract was not suited for meat in the early days.

Consuming meat is more of a recent thing in human history. Whatever the case, our ancestors did not fare well with whatever they ate.

So what should we eat and reverse this obesity epidemic?

The one definite fact is that we absolutely need to cut down on our diet. As to what we should eat does not have a simple answer. However, most food experts agree that the diet should be more varied and consists of fruits, vegetables, nuts, low fat dairy, and whole grains. And the amount of calories should not be more than 2000 calories per day.

There is ample evidence now showing that such a diet has health benefits beyond just maintaining a healthy weight. Studies show that a long-term diet of fruits and vegetables can help lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, decrease high blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease.

Finally it must be noted that just change in diet or the types of food we eat is not the answer to our health problems. No matter what one diet is consumed, exercise has to become a part of our lifestyle. 

Today, we have become a nation of couch potatoes, too lazy to even get up to switch off the TV or walk to the corner grocery store. Unless we humans do not become active, nature will win the “battle of the bulge” and while we may not die young like our ancestors, we definitely will die a slow death with a poor quality of life because of blindness, weakness, paralysis and arthritis. So in the end the onus is on the public to maintain their own good health-do not relay on the government for good health because it has no clue- start eating less and walk more.