Heart disease, diabetes and obesity have reached record levels in the West, and most people assume this is because our lifestyles are so different from our early ancestors, who don’t seem to have had any of these problems. Since our genes are prehistoric, maybe we should follow their example.
When it comes to avoiding process foods, this is undoubtedly true, but maybe NOT when it comes to exercise, because it turns out that our hunter-gatherer ancestors did not expend as much energy as we used to think they must have (and they certainly ate a healthier diet). A group of anthropologists came to this conclusion after studying one of the Hadza people who live a simple "prehistoric" style of life in East Africa. After living with them for awhile, they discovered that their daily calories expenditure was about the same as their modern Western counterparts.
In the August 26th edition of the New York Times, Herman Pontzer writes that this suggests that human bodies are "tuned," through millions of years of evolution, to "adapt to our daily routines and find ways to keep overall energy expenditure in check. This means that if we want to end obesity, we need to focus on our diet and reduce the number of calories we eat, particularly the sugars our primate brains have evolved to love. We’re getting fat because we eat too much, not because we’re sedentary."
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