If you’re of European ancestry and above the age of 30, chances are you may have noticed that without severe attempts at intervention, you’re slowly becoming a human bean bag. A big ol floppy, bowling pin shaped, pile of humanity. I say this with all love people. I struggle and have my ups and downs as well. I think there’s an explanation besides just lack of will power.
Let’s go back to ancient, paleolithic Europe and look at how our ancestors lived. The hunter gatherers that we sprung from eked a living out of the forests on the edge of retreating glaciers. This consisted of hunting game animals and gathering nuts and fruit. When winter came around, many of the unfortunate ones starved or froze to death. If this happened before they begat children, their bloodlines ended there. So the children who made it through the crucible of post-Ice Age Europe, where the ones whose bodies were best able to survive (and thus became our ancestors).
At this point in time, I think it’s safe to say the world is divided into two schools of thought on human diet. The calorie-restriction side, and the glycemic load restriction. I’ve mention this to the calorie-restriction hold outs a few times: it’s hard to restrict calories and not also drop glycemic load as well, but I digress. So why would glycemic load affect weight?
Fat Used To Save Europeans
Fat, as much as it’s maligned today, keeps you warm and provides energy. It was the best thing before sliced bread (if you happened to live off a land that freezes over for a fourth of the year). In ancient Europe access to fruit and the resulting massive stores of fructose would have occurred in the fall, there would have been a few weeks before this food source became inedible, and immediately following there would be a months long famine. To survive the winter, our ancestors would’ve had to depend on nuts that they stored, whatever game animals didn’t hibernate and their own body mass.
What you expect out of organism exploiting this environment is a mechanism in which their bodies cued fat storage from a pre-famine indicator. We do have that. Our insulin spikes with the consumption of sugars and instructs our cells to store fat. This keeps our blood sugar low, allowing us to consume massive quantities without getting sick, and prepares its use during famine times. Also, you would expect that organism to A) favor sugar as a food source, B) be “tuned” to mass consumption of it, and C) that this tuning would drop off as that organism reached a mass where muscle could take over some of the warming and energy storage (in other words: children would love sugar more than adults).
If you bring this same system forward into the modern human world, we have year round access to fruit. We have food with sugar levels similar to, or more than, fruit. We also never have famine periods unless we artificially create them for ourselves (which is literally what a diet is). This is basically a recipe for chubby humans. There’s nothing wrong with your body. It’s doing what it’s designed to do in a world that no longer exists.
Is There Any Evidence Any Of This Is True?
If all this were true, we couldn’t go by BMI or weight because different ethnic groups tend to have different diets. We have to look at insulin sensitivity and compare groups whose ancestors had to store fat for winter and those who were exposed to year round growing seasons. Comparing Africans to Europeans we can see a clear distinction.
If you notice, East Asians get higher than Europeans. This may seem odd because we associate this relatively large area with tropical climates, but even they have the same pattern when broken down into geographical ethnic groups. The closer to the equator your ancestors were, the better equipped for Ben & Jerries you are.
Whether it’s the Mediterranean, the Paleo, the Atkins, or the Keto diet… there’s a growing consensus in the health community: these huge white butt cheeks we’re growing do have a common cause… and it’s not the calorie.