Diet: 100 years that changed our diet and our metabolism

Human beings evolved in close relationship with the nature that surrounded them and this evolution had important repercussions on their metabolism. For about 2.5 million years, the first individuals of the human genus gradually evolved, gradually acquiring greater and greater intelligence, culminating, around 100,000 years ago, in the birth of our current species, Homo. know.

During all this long period, the eating habits of these first humans practically did not change, that is to say that their diet was essentially based on the products of hunting as well as on the gathering of a multitude of plants. , whether roots, vegetables and wild fruits or various kinds of nuts.

The development of agriculture 10,000 years ago had a decisive influence on human nutrition. Indeed, it allowed individuals to free themselves more and more from the constraints of hunting as the main means of survival, and to use this respite to take even greater advantage of the immense plant resources that surrounded them. As a result, the diet was enriched with several new species of plants – cereals, fruits or vegetables – which could now be grown on a larger scale and thus meet the food needs of a growing population. .

We have therefore evolved in close relation to a type of balanced diet, made up of generally lean meats and a very wide variety of plant products (fruits, vegetables and cereals) which provide the body with the substances essential to a good health.

These foods that did not exist 100 years ago

Barely 100 years ago, the industrialization of food began, causing major upheavals in human eating habits. It is estimated that 90% of the foods we eat in our time simply did not exist during the period when our metabolism developed! It goes without saying that we have not had time to adapt to such drastic changes and that it is likely that some of the diseases that affect us today have their origins in these profound dietary changes. A few differences are particularly glaring:

– Fruits and vegetables. Before the industrial era, humans had a much higher intake of fruits, vegetables and nuts than they do today. As a result, the amount of cancer-fighting compounds, minerals and essential vitamins from their diet was on average 2-8 times higher than it is today.

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– Salt. Modern humans are the only animal on Earth that consumes more sodium than potassium, and this change certainly plays a role in the development of hypertension. Since 75% of the sodium consumed each day is added to food, this intake can be reduced by avoiding very salty already prepared products and by cooking yourself as often as possible.

– Sugar. The consumption of what are called “simple sugars”, that is to say sugars which cause a large release of insulin in the blood, is currently much higher (27 kg per person per year) than before the industrial era.

When it is overworked by the continual presence of these simple sugars, the pancreas gets tired and reduces its insulin production: we then have the appearance of type 2 diabetes, a disease currently on the rise, even in young people. children.

– Fats. Our ancestors also had a balanced intake between omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (1 to 1), unlike our time when this ratio is more like 20 to 1. This imbalance promotes the development of several pathologies such as inflammation, cardiac arrhythmia and certain cancers.

– Energy balance. Unlike a time not so long ago when all the calories consumed were used to carry out demanding physical work, Europeans absorb on average around 3,800 calories each day, whereas 2,200 calories would be enough to meet their energy needs. It goes without saying that this surplus strongly contributes to the obesity epidemic that we are currently observing!

We can therefore take inspiration from the significant differences between the current diet and the one for which our body was designed, to correct certain excesses or shortcomings. In this sense, restoring the balance by increasing our consumption of fruits and vegetables, reducing that of saturated fat, sugar and salt certainly represents one of the most promising approaches to reducing the frequency of several chronic diseases linked to metabolic upheaval. that we have suffered for 100 years.

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* The information and services available on in no way replace the consultation of competent health professionals. []

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