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Should we revive ancestral dietary lifestyle for good health?

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Amid all the rush to find a balanced diet that can keep one healthy, prevent from early ageing and kiss lifestyle-induced diseases a goodbye, modern calorie-counters in India have discovered a new fad: adopting ancestral dietary habits.

The Paleolithic, caveman or Stone Age diet — until now a purely Western phenomenon — is fast catching up with the weight-loss crazy young Indians, say health experts, warning that since the time and space are so varied with our ancestors and their food habits, it is actually difficult to suggest a one-size-fits-all formula when it comes to emulating the palaeo diet for super health.

Simply put, the caveman diet consists of what our ancestors who, in order to survive the harsh, brutal forces of nature, ate whatever came their way — from meat to plant-rich food, fruits, nuts and vegetables in raw, boiled or barbecued form.

“No doubt that our ancestral diet was full of fibres and nutrients that definitely compliment super health and slow-ageing. The food consumed today is processed in nature, low on fibre and high on sodium. This is a reason behind the increasing ailments like diabetes, heart diseases, etc.,” says Dr Ritika Samaddar, head (nutrition and dietetics) at Max Super Specialty Hospital in the capital.

“However, we need to keep in mind that our ancestors had a very different lifestyle from us. They were far more physically active; hence the high-fiber content in their food got easily digested,” she told IANS.

But was a balanced diet ever there on our ancestors’ mind? One has to remember the fact that our tree-living ancestors like chimpanzees and orangutans — apart from partying on a rare meat supper once in a while — were largely vegetarians, eating all kinds of fruits, nuts and plant-rich diets.

So what is an ideal palaeo diet? One from 30,000 years ago when the Neanderthals disappeared from the Earth? From 100,000 years ago or 30 million years ago?

If we believe Rob Dunn, biologist at North Carolina State University and an authority on food and its ancestral journey, our ancestors were not at one with nature. “Nature tried to kill them and starve them out; they survived anyway, sometimes with more meat, sometimes with less, thanks in part to the ancient flexibility of our guts,” he wrote in a blog on the Scientific American website.

“As for me, I will choose to eat the fruits and nuts like my early ancestors, not because they are the perfect palaeo diet, but instead because I like these foods, and modern studies suggest that consuming them offers benefits,” he added.

According to Dr Samaddar, it is important to take a note of important elements that were part of our ancestral diet but do not try to ape them. “Include raw veggies and fruits for high-fiber and nutrients but in quantities that match our lifestyle. Have an active lifestyle and consume lots of water to ensure good digestion,” she advises.

Not just meat and fruits, researchers are now looking into the carbohydrate consumption in early humans. According to a team of researchers from the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain, eating meat may have kick-started the evolution of bigger brains, but carbohydrate consumption, particularly in the form of cooked starchy foods together with the evolution of genes that increased our ability to digest starch, made modern humans smarter.

“The human brain uses up to 25 percent of the body’s energy budget and up to 60 percent of blood glucose. While synthesis of glucose from other sources is possible, it is not the most efficient way and these high glucose demands are unlikely to have been met on a low carbohydrate diet,” noted the researchers in a paper published in the journal The Quarterly Review of Biology.

For Seema Singh, chief clinical nutritionist at Fortis Flt Lt Rajan Dhall Hospital, key takeaways from the ancestral diet are wholesome fruits and vegetables.

“Fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants that protect the body from the harmful effects of free radicals. Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and carotenoids help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Other naturally occurring antioxidants include flavonoids, phenols and lignans,” Singh told IANS.

The paleolithic diet excludes dairy or cereal products and processed food and alcohol or coffee. “This diet is said to improve health as paleolithic nutrition improves lipid profile in people with high cholesterol to a greater extent than traditional heart-healthy dietary recommendations,” explains Sunita Roy Chowdhary, chief dietitian at the BLK Super Specialty Hospital.

For Meera Roy, nutritionist and dietitian at tele-health venture Healthenablr, people are stressed out today and tend to have high-calorie foods which are not balanced.

“I agree with the fact that raw, boiled and barbequed are the best food. It keeps us healthy and slows down the ageing process as the quantity of fat is very less and the nutrients are almost intact,” Roy told IANS.

Dunn, meanwhile, supplements his diet chart with much coffee, maybe a glass of wine and some chocolate as “these supplements are not palaeo by any definition,” but he likes them anyway.

So, as researchers the world over try to dissect the best palaeo diet, in a nutshell, the key to good health is a lifestyle that includes balanced food, exercise and proper rest and not any diet per se, experts point out. (Nishant Arora, IANS)

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    health and skin information. They have positive ideas about taking care of your
    health and skin. This site is also useful for women out there about how to look
    young and fresh!

  • mae

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Next Story

China Excludes Taiwan from Participation in World Health Assembly

WHO estimates it needs $98 million to run its Ebola operation. It is facing a funding shortfall of some $63 million

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World health assembly
Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends the 72nd World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, May 20, 2019. VOA

Taiwan is protesting China’s decision to exclude the island from participation in the annual World Health Assembly, calling such action an unjustified political move that could harm global health.

The 72nd session of the World Health Organization’s World Health Assembly takes place May 20-28 in Geneva, Switzerland.

This move is particularly ironic this year, as the theme of the assembly is universal health coverage. Taiwan’s national health system is widely considered one of the best in the world.Taiwan’s minister of health and welfare, Chen Shih-chung, says the island is ready to share its experiences on how to achieve affordable, efficient universal health coverage with the global community.

world health assembly
FILE – Chen Shih-chung, Taiwan’s minister of Health and Welfare, is interviewed by Reuters ahead of the World Health Assembly of the World Health Organization in Geneva, May 20, 2017. VOA

“However, under pressure from the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan is currently excluded by WHO from the global health network,” Chen said. “Inviting Taiwan to participate in the WHA would be consistent with WHO’s espousal of health for all.”

The health minister notes Taiwan’s exclusion poses health risks to everyone. Chen says diseases do not stop at borders, and international cooperation is needed to combat epidemics that could spread to every corner of the world.

Chen tells VOA he has written several letters to WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to protest Taiwan’s exclusion from the World Health Assembly. Chen says he has received no response. He says WHO has even rejected Taiwan’s offer for help in combating the Ebola epidemic in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

world health assembly
WHO estimates it needs $98 million to run its Ebola operation. It is facing a funding shortfall of some $63 million. Wikimedia Commons

“Our president announced we would donate $1 million U.S. to combat Ebola; but this donation, even this donation was not accepted by the WHO. So, this is a pity in our situation. We want to do something, but WHO did not accept us to do something for the world,” Chen said.

ALSO READ: Washington Becomes First State to Approve Composting of Human Remains

WHO estimates it needs $98 million to run its Ebola operation. It is facing a funding shortfall of some $63 million.

Despite pressure from China, Taiwan’s officials say they have received support for their bid to join the WHO from a number of countries including the United States, Japan, Germany and Australia. (VOA)