The “evolutionary discordance hypothesis” was proposed 25 years ago as the connection between diet and “diseases of civilization.” The title of the article was “Paleolithic Nutrition: A Consideration of Its Nature and Current Implications,” by the same authors.
The above theory says that diets have changed greatly since the days of our hunter-gatherer ancestors 10,000 years ago. Many studies have validated the value of this hypothesis. The hypothesis says that our genome was formed on the basis of conditions that don’t exist today. Our diets have changed so rapidly that our genome has been unable to change fast enough to adjust.
The discordance has caused many chronic diseases, including “cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung and colon cancers, essential hypertension, obesity, diverticulosis, and dental caries.” Hundreds of thousands of deaths occur yearly from inappropriate diets. Hunter-gatherers rarely had the chronic diseases that we have today.
The amount of animal flesh eaten by our ancestors is debated and may have been between 35 and 65% of the diet. It included large amounts of marine life and lean, wild meat.
Total fats may have been 20 to 35% of the diet for hunter-gatherers. Cholesterol intakes were similar to those of today. It is no longer believed that consumption of cholesterol is the cause of high serum cholesterol. Studies indicate that today’s serum cholesterol elevations are caused by consumption of cholesterol-raising saturated fatty acids and of refined carbohydrates.
The carbohydrate energy intake of hunter-gatherers came mostly from fruits and vegetables, rather than the grains that we eat today. Hunter-gatherers had much higher intakes of fiber.
The Na+/K+ (sodium/potassium) ratios were much lower in hunter-gatherer diets compared to diets today. Their high intakes of fruits and vegetables made their diets more alkaline than our acid forming, high grain diets of today. There is a clear connection in cardiovascular disease today and high sodium intake.
Many modern studies show that putting people with chronic inflammatory diseases on hunter-gatherer diets results in improvement in their inflammatory conditions.
CONCLUSION: Although the evolutionary discordance hypothesis is not proven, it is clear that the diet of our ancient hunter-gatherer ancestors is of benefit to people with chronic inflammatory diseases, today.
NOTE: Read more about the importance of lifestyle, exercise and inflammation on health.