What’s Happened to Human Health?
Back in the Paleolithic period – the 2.5 million years leading up to the advent of agriculture – homo sapiens was incredibly strong. It’s impossible to imagine the hardships of that period, yet our species not only survived, but thrived. For better or for worse, we made it to the top of the food chain and colonized the world. This occured largely because of selection pressure. Survival through to reproductive age was only an option for those who were physically in top form, who had a super strong immune system, who were able to endure long periods without food, and who were intelligent enough to avoid situations that would inevitably lead to death.
Archeological evidence shows that human beings at that time had strong teeth, robust bones, bigger brains than what we have now, and those who made it through early adulthood had a pretty good chance of living on to a decent age.
HEALTH AND THE ADVENT OF AGRICULTURE
That all changed during the Neolithic period. The cultivation of grains and the domestication of livestock instigated a chain-reaction of negative consequences. This new ‘fast food’, in comparison to the wide variety of animals and plants consumed by the hunter-gatherers, was nutritionally poor. From being tall and robust, the species shrunk in size and stature. Tooth decay set in, bones show deformities and settled life resulted in septic conditions and the spread of disease. At the same time, the supply of quick calories meant that even weak subjects survived long enough to reproduce, thus passing on their less than optimal genes to the next generation. So, as a consequence of the Neolithic period, selection pressure was stopped in it’s tracks. Life moved on, but our genetic code stopped evolving.
Settlement gave rise to a whole host of socio-political situations which we won’t go into here – enough to say that concepts of ownership and materialism, boundaries and nations, wars and economics all arose as consequences of the Neolithic Revolution.
HUMAN HEALTH AFTER THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
With regards to human health, there are two other moments in history which have sent us on a downward spiral. The Industrial Revolution of the late18th century took us away from our natural rhythms and away from the outdoors. And the industrialization of agriculture in the 1960’s gave rise to agribusiness and the food manufacturing industries which have created ‘food-like substances’ that are in the best case scenario unhealthy, and in the worst case, they’re poison.
Those of us born after 1960 are the great experiment of what happens to homo sapiens when they’re fed non-food. But food is only part of the problem. We’re increasingly divorced from the lifestyle factors which kept us healthy and strong.
We evolved to absorb Vitamin D from the sun, but now sun exposure is disapproved and we block it out with sunscreens.
We’re designed to rest frequently and concentrate in short bursts, but now we work frantically and even school children have full after-school agendas.
We’re social creatures, but we’re spending more time online and less time relaxing, playing and telling stories with our family and friends.
Our bodies are made to move frequently and at a slow pace throughout the day. Now, we enter a sedentary posture in the morning, maintain it for the whole day, then we compensate with an intense workout which does more damage than good.
Our sleep and wake hormones are disturbed by lights and devices which keep us up all night.
We’ve evolved to produce very little insulin and thrive during periods without food, but our carbohydrate abuse results in all manner of Lifestyle Disease.
Metabolic Syndrome once didn’t exist. Now, on a global level, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer are epidemic. Autoimmune disease is on the rise. Behavioural issues are now commonplace in schools. Everyone seems to be have an intolerance to one thing or another. Everyone has digestive issues. And the signs and symptoms of Chronic Systemic Inflammation are now so prevalent that, rather than recognising them as warning signals, we think they’re normal.
HUMAN HEALTH IS AT AN ALL TIME LOW
Homo sapiens, at this point in history, has never been so weak and so full of disease.
Contemporary life contributes very little to human health and wellness. From thriving, we’re now simply surviving – possibly into our 90’s or beyond, but many if not most of those years are lacking in quality of life.
Why? Well, it’s because our DNA, which hasn’t changed since the Paleolithic era and which by default determines us to be so incredibly slim, strong, healthy and switched on that we can survive an ice age, isn’t receiving the right stimulus. Instead, our current diet and our lifestyle are triggering chronic dis-ease.
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