What we've learned over recent and distant years is that our bodies, as the Homo sapiens, are well-adapted to being able to survive a nomadic lifestyle, if you will. Our bodies are trained to handle life on the move. Climate fluctuations during the late Pliocene and early Pleistocene were the main driving forces for the adaptations that govern the ways our bodies currently function. To survive the climate changes, we were required to be on the constant move. And to survive being constantly on the move and exposed to constantly changing habitats, we needed to be able to survive conditions of low resource-availability concomitant to high energy expenditure.
So what was our body's solution? Adipogenesis was the answer. In layman's terms, our body needed to accumulate fat. Extra fat deposition gave us the energy storage we needed on these grueling adventures into known and unknown habitats, habitats where food was not guaranteed to be readily available. Over thousands of years, nature selected for certain functionalities that endowed the body with the capacity to turn available resources into long-term energy storage depots like adipose tissue. It became evident that the survivors of that time-frame were capable of using the resources we consumed (animal meat, fruits and vegetables) to produce fat.
So what were those functionalities that nature selected for during this time period of harsh climate fluctuations? Let's break it down by the types of foods we consumed during this time-period: fruits and animal meats. Let's start with fruits. Fruits contain fructose. Fructose in high enough quantities depletes ATP in the liver, causing a pooling of AMP (ATP is the energy currency of the cell; when it is utilized, it downgrades to AMP, which is the energy-deficient state of ATP). AMP pooling then triggers breakdown of the compound by enzymes designed to ultimately release Uric Acid. Uric acid then functions to induce insulin resistance and adipogenesis (fat cell production ~ fat gain).
And then we have animal meats. Meats are the highest sources of a fatty acid called Arachidonic Acid. You may have heard of this guy. It's potently inflammatory, and earned itself a bad reputation over the past few decades for this reason as the scientific community has sought to label inflammation as the enemy of our health. Arachidonic acid becomes metabolized the enzymes known as COX-1 and COX-2 to eicosanoids, one of which is delta-PGJ-2. This eicosanoid then triggers PPAR-gamma production. And what is PPAR-gamma? Well, it just so happens to be considered the master regulator of adipogenesis. Increased PPAR-gamma will trigger increased adipose tissue creation.
So we see that certain components of the foods we were exposed to during this time-period were utilized by our bodies to produce fat accumulation, which then gave our bodies the ability to weather periods of mobility with heightened food insecurity.
What makes this interesting is we often try to match what we ate back in our evolutionary past. Ironically, what we ate in our evolutionary past could contribute to a lot of the problems we see today, and that includes increased obesity. While I agree that an evolutionary diet is critical to maximal health maintenance (and most importantly, reduced cancer incidence), we should also understand that we subjected our bodies to completely different lifestyles than what we currently expose ourselves to. Adopting the diet of our past without increasing energy expenditure could be a recipe for disaster. But modified the diet hand in hand with our energy expenditure status is a recipe for success. That responsibility is left to the individual him/herself. With more knowledge comes a higher probability of making the right decisions for our health.
Stay tuned for more...
Let's get to understand the "Paleo" diet, and more generally, the bits and pieces of a diet most suited to our evolutionary history as Homo sapiens.
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