Last night something unusual happened in the Floyd-Barry household. Unusual for 2013, I should say. We watched a movie.
Now before you accuse Chef James of breaking his media fast, we agreed at the beginning of this year that he would make the very rare exception to watch a film that was specifically and directly related to our line of work. In Search of the Perfect Human Diet was one such exception.
A lot of movies explore the politics and economics of food, diet and health: SuperSize Me, Food Inc., and Forks over Knives being some of the more widely seen, not to leave out those such as King Corn, Farmageddon, and Food Matters.
What’s new about In Search of the Perfect Diet is its focus on anthropology and what we, as humans, have been eating for literally hundreds of thousands of years. It’s hard to argue with evolution.
The movie follows filmmaker CJ Hunt’s 10-year search for the “perfect human diet” after the raw vegan diet he adopted following a near-death experience failed to sustain him. Stepping outside politically- and emotionally-charged and highly confusing nutrition science, he goes to our ancestors – not just our grandparents and great-grandparents, but those from tens and hundreds of thousands of years ago.
Here are a few of the interesting points:
– Over 70% of the foods we eat today did not exist before the industrial revolution. From an evolutionary perspective, there is simply no way for our bodies to know what to do with these “foods” (which, as we all know, aren’t real food at all).
– Broken down by nutrient ratios, what we feed cattle to “fatten them up” is almost identical to the government-sanctioned food pyramid for a “healthy” diet. Is it any wonder we are in the middle of an obesity epidemic?
– It was only when we started eating animal foods that our brains doubled in size, allowing for the modern human and all our advances. Interesting irony that the very capacity for making an argument for a plant-based diet comes from our ancestors’ move away from a plant-based diet.
– An Australian study was done with a group of aborigine who had grown up in a traditional hunter gatherer environments, and then moved into urban environments where they adopted modern diets, lifestyles and (unsurprisingly) health concerns such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. They returned to the outback and their hunter gatherer ways for a seven week period.
In just seven weeks (!!), they lost weight and all their health markers (insulin resistance, blood pressure, cholesterol levels) normalized.
Interestingly, they were less active than in their urban environments, so exercise was NOT a factor.
– Very simply, as Prof. Mike Richards, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology says, “What we are adapted to [evolutionarily] is not what we are living [or eating] right now.”
I do wish the film spent a little more time diving into the issue of quality. Clearly our Paleolithic ancestors were eating exclusively wild game, and wild fruits and vegetables grown in nutrient-rich soil. There was no such thing as a feedlot or chemical pesticide.
Ultimately, what we choose to eat is a very personal decision. But what we are designed to eat is evolutionarily and genetically wired. I highly encourage you to take the time to watch this thought-provoking film.
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