A Little Knowledge…

John Durant is a meat eater.  The New York Times has an article on his return to a caveman diet.  My understanding is that the New York Times will soon require money to access content, so I will quote:

The one thing that Mr. Durant worries might spook a female guest is his most recent purchase: a three-foot-tall refrigerated meat locker that sits in a corner of his living room. That is where he keeps his organ meat and deer ribs.

Mr. Durant, 26,…is part of a small New York subculture whose members seek good health through a selective return to the habits of their Paleolithic ancestors.

Or as he and some of his friends describe themselves, they are cavemen.

The caveman lifestyle, in Mr. Durant’s interpretation, involves eating large quantities of meat and then fasting between meals to approximate the lean times that his distant ancestors faced between hunts. Vegetables and fruit are fine, but he avoids foods like bread that were unavailable before the invention of agriculture. Mr. Durant believes the human body evolved for a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, and his goal is to wean himself off what he sees as many millenniums of bad habits.

These urban cavemen also choose exercise routines focused on sprinting and jumping, to replicate how a prehistoric person might have fled from a mastodon.

This diet is based on our cave dwelling ancestry.  Fair enough.  But it ignores evolution.  One of the first things I notice here is that a given organism is successful if his or her genes are passed on.   Among cavemen, this would require a lifespan of thirty years maybe?  Also it is my understanding that there is a pretty good body of evidence that red meat is really not good for us (but I’ve not researched this, so don’t take my word for it).

As soon as I saw the article I remembered reading something about evolution and human’s diet.  It was at John Hawk’s Weblog; a post entitled You are what your ancestors ate, part 1.   In this post, Professor Hawk briefly discusses “reporting on an interdisciplinary conference on recent human diet evolution”.  He quotes from an article in Science*.  I give you the same quote:

The agricultural revolution favored people lucky enough to have gene variants that helped them digest milk, alcohol, and starch. Those mutations therefore spread among farmers. But other populations remained more carnivorous, such as the Saami of frigid northern Norway, whose ancestors herded reindeer. Among Saami ancestors, genes to digest meat and fat efficiently were apparently favored. One gene variant, for example, makes living Saami less likely to get uric acid kidney stones—common in people who eat high-protein diets—than are people whose ancestors were vegetarian Hindus and lack this gene variant, says geneticist Mark Thomas of University College London (UCL).

In other words, there has been more than enough time for humans to adapt to an agrarian civilization.

I guess it’s possible that Mr. Durant is descended from the Saami of northern Norway.

Finally, credit where credit is due, I found the New York Times article from the discussion about it at Althouse.

* The article is by Ann Gibbons.  It is unavailable without paying.