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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

Women Hit Especially Hard In Congo’s Worst Ebola Outbreak

For the afflicted, the road to recovery is long and lonely.

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Ebola, WHO, UNICEF, congo, Uganda, women
Congolese health workers register people and take their temperatures before they are vaccinated against Ebola in the village of Mangina in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. VOA

The Democratic Republic of Congo is in the throes of its worst-ever Ebola outbreak, with more than 420 cases in the country’s volatile east, and a mortality rate of just under 60 percent. But this outbreak — the nation’s tenth known Ebola epidemic — is unusual because more than 60 percent of patients are women.

Among them is Baby Benedicte. Her short life has already been unimaginably difficult.

At one month old, she is underweight, at 2.9 kilograms. And she is alone. Her mother had Ebola, and died giving birth to her. She’s spent the last three weeks of her life in a plastic isolation cube, cut off from most human contact. She developed a fever at eight days old and was transferred to this hospital in Beni, a town of some half-million people in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

More than 400 people have been diagnosed with Ebola here since the beginning of August, and more than half of them have died in a nation the size of Western Europe that struggles with insecurity and a lack of the most basic infrastructure and services. That makes this the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history, after the hemorrhagic fever killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa between 2013 and 2016.

This is 10th outbreak to strike the vast country since 1976, when Ebola was first identified in Congo. And this particular outbreak is further complicated by a simmering civil conflict that has plagued this region for more than two decades.

Guido Cornale, UNICEF’s coordinator in the region, says the scope of this outbreak is clear.

“It has become the worst outbreak in Congo, this is not a mystery,” he said.

What is mysterious, however, is the demographics of this outbreak. This time, more than 60 percent of cases are women, says the government’s regional health coordinator, Ndjoloko Tambwe Bathe.

“All the analyses show that this epidemic is feminized. Figures like this are alarming. It’s true that the female cases are more numerous than the male cases,” he said.

Congo, Uganda, ebola, Women
Health workers walk with a boy suspected of having been infected with the Ebola virus, at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, near Congo’s border with Uganda. VOA

Bathe declined to predict when the outbreak might end, though international officials have said it may last another six months. Epidemiologists are still studying why this epidemic is so skewed toward women and children, Cornale said.

“So now we can only guess. And one of the guesses is that woman are the caretakers of sick people at home. So if a family member got sick, who is taking care of him or her? Normally, a woman,” he said.

Or a nurse. Many of those affected are health workers, who are on the front line of battling this epidemic. Nurse Guilaine Mulindwa Masika, spent 16 days in care after a patient transmitted the virus to her. She says it was the fight of her life.

“The pain was enormous, the pain was constant,” she said. “The headache, the diarrhea, the vomiting, and the weakness — it was very, very bad.”

Congo, Ebola, Women
Marie-Roseline Darnycka Belizaire, World Health Organization (WHO) Epidemiology Team Lead, talks to women as part of Ebola contact tracing, in Mangina, Democratic Republic of Congo. VOA

For the afflicted, the road to recovery is long and lonely. Masika and her cured colleagues face weeks of leave from work to ensure the risk of infection is gone. In the main hospital in the city of Beni, families who have recovered live together in a large white tent, kept four meters from human contact by a bright orange plastic cordon. They yell hello at their caretakers, who must don protective gear if they want to get any closer.

And for Baby Benedicte, who is tended to constantly by a nurse covered head to toe in protective gear, the future is uncertain. Medical workers aren’t entirely sure where her father is, or if he is going to come for her.

Also Read: Congo Start Trials For Drugs Against Ebola

She sleeps most of the day, the nurse says, untroubled by the goings-on around her. Meanwhile, the death toll rises. (VOA)