The nutritional needs of humans (Homo sapiens) result from “natural selection” over millions of years. For most of that time our diets have been wild animals and wild plants. The diet of mankind for the past 10,000 years has been radically changed by agriculture and industry. The result is mal-adaptation, since there has been insufficient time to alter our genomes.
Today, our diets are rich in saturated fats, simple sugars, sodium and chloride. They are poor in fiber, magnesium, bicarbonate and potassium. The results are increased non-carbonic acids and “diseases of civilization,” such as atherosclerosis, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and some cancers. Our diets increase our serum acidity from sulfuric acid and organic acids. Persistent, mild acidosis causes bone lose, muscle wasting, kidney stone formation and kidney damage.
To prevent acidity, bicarbonate production must exceed that of sulfuric and organic acids. Meat is acid-producing. Nuts are acid-base neutral. Most plants are base-producing (bicarbonate.) (Sulfuric acid is produced by proteins which contain the amino acids methionine and cystine.)
Eaton and Konner compiled a list of foods commonly eaten by Paleolithic man up to 10,000 years ago. The diet was 35% of energy from lean, wild meats and 65% of energy from wild plants. A higher percentage of meat use would cause toxicity from nitrogen wastes. Cereal grains and legumes were added after agriculture developed.
Net endogenous acid production (NEAP) is the total acid load of a diet. The estimate of the NEAP of pre-agricultural diets is based on our extensive knowledge of our ancestor’s lifestyles and eating habits. The estimates have shown that the pre-agricultural diets were more basic than acid. The foods eaten included lean meats, roots, nuts, tubers, fruit, and leafy, green vegetables.
The diets of modern hunter-gather societies match the diets proposed by the authors as being net base-producing. These include the !Kade San and Western Desert Australian Aborigines, the Kitavans of the Trobriand Islands and the Yanomamo of the Amazon Forest. The diets of New Guinean hunter-gatherer people produce urine pH levels between 7.5 and 9.0, due to high intake of potassium bicarbonate and carbonate.
CONCLUSION: When humans left our hunter-gather diets and developed agriculture, we suffered a marked reduction in bicarbonate production, increased chronic acidosis and developed “diseases of civilization.” Partly, this came from a marked reduction in plant foods and the introduction of cereal grains. Removing cereal grains from our diets would not solve our acid problem, alone. Nutrient poor foods, such as fats, refined sugars and vegetable oils, should be replaced by more plant foods to make our bodies more basic.
NOTE: Read about the cardiovascular benefits of a hunter-gatherer diet.
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