Researchers say eating more like prehistoric people did can lower your risk of heart condition and diabetes.
Scientists studied Turkana people that sleep in northwest Kenya. They found that those that have moved to the town have lower health scores than those that maintain their traditional lifestyle.
Experts say our bodies have adapted over time to human diets but haven’t changed to match today’s diet of processed foods and sugars.
In the us , almost 40 percentTrusted Source of adults have obesity.
More than 30 million adultsTrusted Source are diagnosed with heart condition , and about 1 in 10Trusted Source have diabetes.
However, rising rates of obesity, heart condition , and diabetes — largely driven by diet — aren’t solely an American phenomenon, but a worldwide issue on the increase for many years .
The World Health OrganizationTrusted Source estimates that in 2016, almost 2 billion adults worldwide were overweight or obese.
One theory behind why obesity rates have grown so significantly is that the “mismatch theory,” which argues that what humans eat has evolved over millennia to process a particular diet that not matches the diets that folks are eating over the past 50 years.
Testing that theory is that the aim of a replacement study within the journal Science Advances.
The research checked out the Turkana people, a population from northwest Kenya that has seen a split in its population from those that still follow a standard subsistence lifestyle and people moving to the town and adopting a more modern diet.
That gave scientists a singular insight into the direct effects of switching to a diet on the brink of what many human ancestors ate — a native diet, so to talk — and therefore the sorts of foods much of the planet eats today.
Looking at 1,226 adult Turkana in 44 locations, the researchers found that those Turkana still living their traditional pastoral lifestyles scored high on all 10 biomarkers for health, including cardiometabolic health.
Those living in cities, however, had poorer health biomarkers, including higher rates of obesity, heart condition , diabetes, and high vital sign .
The differences also showed a correlation between how long various Turkana had been living in cities and a rise in these lower health scores.
“Humans evolved during a very different environment than the one we’re currently living in,” Amanda Lea, a lead author of the study and a postdoctoral research fellow within the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton, said during a handout .
“No one diet is universally bad,” Lea continued. “It’s about the mismatch between your evolutionary history and what you’re currently eating.”
“Tragically, the fashionable diet exploits the body’s natural tendency to ‘plan for the longer term ,’” said Benjamin J. Bikman, PhD, a metabolic research scientist and professor of physiology and developmental biology at Young University in Utah.
“When following a standard sort of living, including the normal diet, food isn’t abundant. Thus, the body is made to store energy when it can to organize for a future time where food could also be scarce,” Bikman said. “In our modern environment, the abundance and consistent access to processed foods mean that our bodies are saving energy for a period of scarcity that never arrives.”
What we will learn
The Turkana’s original diet is simply one of many possible diets that ancestral people may need followed, so we shouldn’t extrapolate too widely from this one study, said Dr. Dexter Shurney, president of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine and chief medic at Foodsmart, a telenutrition and healthy eating company.
But there are pieces we will deduct to assist inform our understanding of what a less mismatched diet might appear as if .
“Most ancestral diets were likely more plant-based than the Turkana tribe. Asians have eaten diets where the stable has been rice for hundreds of years , the Incas potatoes, the Mayans and Aztecs corn, the traditional Egyptians wheat,” Shurney told Healthline. “The major difference is that the amount of processed foods we now consume.”
He noted a study from Northwestern University in 2019 that estimated that 71 percent of the U.S. diet was “ultra-processed.”
“Processed food is usually higher in salt, calories, fat, and has less fiber and other nutrients necessary for optimal health,” Shurney said. “Additionally, it tends to wreak havoc on our gut microbiome. Our ancestors certainly ate diets that were unprocessed.”
Sara Patton, RDN, a registered dietitian at the Deborah Heart and Lung Center in New Jersey, agreed.
“The evolutionary mismatch theory has some validity thereto . We as humans had evolved so quickly with developing technology to supply and save food beyond anything our ancestors could have done,” she told Healthline.
“This rapid change didn’t give our bodies time to adapt to the new eating style, or the various chemicals and additives that are now utilized in everyday food products,” she said. “If anything are often removed from the study in Turkana, it’s that the fashionable diet should be shifted closer back to the ‘ancestral’ diet.”
Ultimately, meaning following the recommendation that health professionals are making for an extended time, she said.
Consume more whole grains, organic fruits and vegetables, grass-fed wild animals, and healthy natural fats like vegetable oil and avocado oils.
Systemic problems, solutions
Eating more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats is already the bedrock of the many healthy diets that experts already recommend.
Among them are the low carb, whole-food diet, the Mediterranean diet, and therefore the Paleo diet, to call a couple of .
In other words, we all know what people should do as individuals, but that knowledge isn’t being translated to lowering global obesity, diabetes, and disorder rates.
Commentary within the study itself points to the present .
“Indigenous populations that have recently transitioned to market-based economies show higher rates of obesity and metabolic syndrome compared to subsistence-level groups,” the authors write. “Extreme mismatches between the recent evolutionary history of a population and lifestyle are needed to supply the chronic diseases now prevalent worldwide; within the Turkana, this example appears to manifest in urban, industrialized areas but not in rural areas with changing livelihoods but limited access to the free enterprise .”
“Our modern food environment isn’t conducive to health,” said Nicole Avena-Blanchard, PhD, an professor at Sinai school of medicine in ny and a professor of health psychology at Princeton University in New Jersey.
“Sure, we live longer than our ancestors did, but that’s partly thanks to the very fact that we’ve medicine to stay us alive once we develop diet-induced health conditions (like cholesterol medications, or diabetes medications),” she said.
“I think we are more happy championing for a systemic change in how we approach our diets generally ,” she told Healthline. “Part of the matter is that the health consequences of a processed food diet often take a short time to manifest, so people don’t always attribute their medical problems to their diet.”