How to maintain vibrant health and good looks as you age

Aging comes with a lot of stigma these days. The slogan “I’m getting too old for this” is uttered by everyone at some point. We think that getting tired, sick, weak and slow are all part of the process. We are programmed to think that getting old inevitably includes bags, sags, and wrinkles, joint pain, cancer, heart attack, and lots of naps. Adding extra weight around our mid-sections is another accepted part of the “normal” aging process. Don’t believe any of this for one more second!

Aging does not have to come with any of that baggage.

In fact, most of these things are completely in your control. All it takes is living an active life and keeping your body in shape, while following an ancestral type diet that includes healthy animal meats and organs, vegetables and fruit, and eliminates all processed food, grains, and sugar. By doing so you will eliminate systemic inflammation, which is the cause of most modern ills and diseases. You will also find that your skin and complextion are healthier too. Lean muscle mass will provide you with the proper organ reserve to maintin strength and health through old age, and also prevents injury.

Take a look at this succss story from a 71 year old man (who looks more like 50) who has followed this type of lifestyle. Here are a couple of people (Mark Sisson, and his wife) over 50 who also have found success in an ancestral lifestyle. Here’s a few more! Gerry age 64, Paula 51, Dave 54, 65 year old mother, Norman 53, George 54.

Here is an informative list of 10 rules for aging well.

The role of lean muscle mass and organ reserve in aging

How to control your gene expression. Don’t be a victim of your own genes!

How to get that natural glow and maintain healthy skin

Is it really that easy? Yes it is! Try it for 2 weeks and tell me you don’t see immediate changes in your health and energy levels!

Like this post? Want to find out more about how to get in shape fast? Check out these articles about getting in shape, feeling great, and controlling your genes!

Lower bodyfat setpoint.

Lose stubborn body fat. (Intermittent fasting)

Control your gene expression.

Heavy strength training is a required aspect of long term health. For everybody.

How to train your body to burn fat all day long. High intensity interval training (HIIT).

Why you should avoid too many polyunsaturated fats.

What is chronic inflammation. What to eat to avoid it.

The final word on grains and legumes: AVOID them.

The final word on Saturated fat and Cholesterol: EAT them

Smoking does make you fat and insulin resistant. Pesticides in America.

[Reblog from Animal Pharm]

Modern Big Tobacco-Agra/Monsatan Crops

Crops are generally coated with pesticides for the last 30-50 years. Are they toxic? Pesticides are upregulated into the food chain via consumption (corn, soy) by feedlot livestock and poultry. Let’s not forget tobacco (cigarettes, snuff, cigars, etc). ‘Tobacco is a pesticide-intensive crop. With nearly 27 million pounds of pesticides (including insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and suckercides) applied to the U.S.-grown crop from 1994 to 1998, it ranks SIXTH in terms of the amount of pesticides applied per acre. The tobacco industry regards pesticides as essential to tobacco production, stating that “the crop could not be produced economically without them”.’

Additionally pesticides are employed in municipalities (public schools, parks, government land) and personal home use (termites, ant control, weeds control, lawns, etc). Although pesticides do not taste, smell or look toxic, they are not benign and without metabolic dysregulation consequences.

New studies in PubMed are cropping (pun intended) up in number pointing directly to insulin resistance, obesogenic, neurologic and inflammatory damage secondary to this broad group of pervasive chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). They are difficult to avoid as once in the soil, air or bodies of water, fish, birds and animals, they typically fail to degrade and significantly impact the environment.

The researcher Alavanja states ‘Over 1 billion pounds of pesticides are used in the United State (US) each year and approximately 5.6 billion pounds are used worldwide (1). In many developing countries programs to control exposures are limited or non-existent. As a consequence; it has been estimated that as many as 25 million agricultural workers worldwide experience unintentional pesticide poisonings each year (4). In a large prospective study of pesticide users in the United States, the Agricultural Health Study, it was estimated that 16% of the cohort had at least one pesticide poisoning or an unusually high pesticide exposure episode in their lifetime (5).

Although attempts to reduce pesticide use through organic agricultural practices and the use of other technologies to control pests continue, exposure to pesticides occupationally, through home and garden use, through termite control or indirectly through spray drifts and through residues in household dust, and in food and water are common (6). The US Department of Agriculture has estimated that 50 million people in the United States obtain their drinking water from groundwater that is potentially contaminated by pesticides and other agricultural chemicals (7, 8). Children from 3-6 years old received most of their dermal and non-dietary oral doses from playing with toys and while playing on carpets which contributed the largest portion of their exposure (9-12).’

U.S.A. Obesity Trends With Pesticide Use

Guess what?

Pesticide use on crops grown in the South (tobacco) and Mid-West (corn, wheat, soy) trends well with U.S.A. obesity patterns [hat tip: LePine MD]. Above is the trend of obesity that starts mid-1980s then grows exponentially each few years. Maps are from Lim et al and BFRSS data.

Smart people in Korea (Lim et al) report that ‘There is an apparent overlap between areas in the USA where the herbicide, atrazine (ATZ), is heavily used and obesity-prevalence maps of people with a BMI over 30. Given that herbicides act on photosystem II of the thylakoid membrane of chloroplasts, which have a functional structure similar to mitochondria, we investigated whether chronic exposure to low concentrations of ATZ might cause obesity or insulin resistance by damaging mitochondrial function.’

Pesticides Kill Pests, Including Our Bug-like Mitochondria

It’s therefore not surprising to read about the toxic effects of pesticides on pests whose networked pathways overlap almost precisely with our own cells. Atrazine is a mitochondrial toxin, and our mitochondria are the sole energy generators and powerhouses whether the substrate is glycogen, glucose or fatty acids.

Mitochondrial Dysfunction Causes Fatness and Insulin Resistance (IR)

‘A close association between mitochondrial dysfunction and insulin resistance is well established [1]–[3]. In in vitro studies, we found that artificial induction of mitochondrial dysfunction induced insulin resistance [4], [5].’ This is discussed by Lim et al. He and his colleagues performed an experiment on rodents. They fed low levels of atrazine to rats then examined lab parameters for insulin resistance (IR). What happened? The higher the dose of atrazine, the higher the obesity and insulin resistance. Atrazine was associated with mitochondrial dysfunction, higher visceral (organ) fat deposition, higher blood glucoses and decreased energy metabolism.

Another group of researchers, Ruzzin et al, tested a similar hypothesis. They fed crude Atlantic salmon oil to rodents and examined IR parameters. They state ‘POPs accumulate in the lipid fraction of fish, and fish consumption represents a source of POP exposure to humans (Dougherty et al. 2000; Hites et al. 2004; Schafer and Kegley 2002). Therefore, certain European countries have dietary recommendations to limit the consumption of fatty fish per week (Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition 2004).’ They discovered similar insulin resistant results when they exposed fat cells in vitro to a POP mixture that mimicked the relative abundance of contaminants found in crude salmon oil. Insulin signalling was broken and impaired.

References

BRFSS, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System www.cdc.gov/brfss

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCNW-NgYZ2s [Obesity trend map and cdc slides]

http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/obesity/trend/maps/obesity_trends_2006.pdf [BRFSS raw data by state and year]

Pesticides Use and Exposure Extensive Worldwide. Michael C.R. AlavanjaRev Environ Health. 2009 Oct–Dec; 24(4): 303–309.

The Tobacco Industry and Pesticide Regulations: Case Studies from Tobacco Industry Archives. Patricia A. McDaniel, Gina Solomon, Ruth E. Malone. Environ Health Perspect. 2005 December; 113(12): 1659–1665.

Chronic Exposure to the Herbicide, Atrazine, Causes Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Insulin Resistance. Soo Lim, Sun Young Ahn, In Chan Song, Myung Hee Chung, Hak Chul Jang, Kyong Soo Park, Ki-Up Lee, Youngmi Kim Pak, Hong Kyu LeePLoS ONE. 2009; 4(4): e5186.

Persistent Organic Pollutant Exposure Leads to Insulin Resistance Syndrome. Jérôme Ruzzin, Rasmus Petersen, Emmanuelle Meugnier, Lise Madsen, Erik-Jan Lock, Haldis Lillefosse, Tao Ma, Sandra Pesenti, Si Brask Sonne, Troels Torben Marstrand, Marian Kjellevold Malde, Zhen-Yu Du, Carine Chavey, Lluis Fajas, Anne-Katrine Lundebye, Christian Lehn Brand, Hubert Vidal, Karsten Kristiansen, Livar FrøylandEnviron Health Perspect. 2010 April; 118(4): 465–471.

Effect of Endocrine Disruptor Pesticides: A ReviewWissem Mnif, Aziza Ibn Hadj Hassine, Aicha Bouaziz, Aghleb Bartegi, Olivier Thomas, Benoit RoigInt J Environ Res Public Health. 2011 June; 8(6): 2265–2303.

Paleo is the Key to smarts. Big brains require an explanation. Part IV.

Reblogged from Gnolls.org

In Part III, we established the following:

  • Bipedalism among human ancestors is associated with a dietary shift away from soft, sugar-rich fruit, and toward hard, fibrous, ground-based foods like nuts, root vegetables, insects, and mushrooms. (And perhaps some meat, though the evidence is inferential.)
  • Both bipedalism and this dietary shift occurred while our ancestors were still forest-dwellers—before we moved into savanna and grassland habitats.
  • Both bipedalism and this dietary shift precededthe massive increase in our ancestors’ brain size.
  • Therefore, neither fruit, nor potatoes, nor walking upright made us human.

Once again, I am giving what I believe to be the current consensus interpretation of the evidence…and where no consensus exists, I offer what I believe to be the most parsimonious interpretation.

(This is a multi-part series. Go back to Part I, Part II, Part III.)

A Quick Recap

4.4 million years ago, Ardipithecus ramidus still had a brain the size of a modern chimpanzee, but was a facultative biped partially adapted to a ground-based diet. By 4.1 MYA, Australopithecus anamensis had been selected for more complete dietary adaptation:

Science 2 October 2009: Vol. 326 no. 5949 pp. 69, 94-99
Paleobiological Implications of the Ardipithecus ramidus Dentition
Gen Suwa, Reiko T. Kono, Scott W. Simpson, Berhane Asfaw, C. Owen Lovejoy, Tim D. White

Ar. ramidus lacks the postcanine megadontia of Australopithecus. Its molars have thinner enamel and are functionally less durable than those of Australopithecus but lack the derived Pan pattern of thin occlusal enamel associated with ripe-fruit frugivory. The Ar. ramidus dental morphology and wear pattern are consistent with a partially terrestrial, omnivorous/frugivorous niche.”

And the Laetoli footprints show that hominins were fully bipedal by 3.7 MYA, though we have no evidence for brain size until…

Australopithecus afarensis: Upright Gait, Smaller Body, Bigger Brain

Australopithecus afarensis lived from approximately 3.9 to 2.9 MYA. (Once again, these are human-drawn distinctions between a continuum of hominin fossils.) It was slightly shorter than Ardipithecus (3’6″) and weighed much less: 65# versus 110#. The famous “Lucy” fossil is about 40% of an A. afarensis skeleton from 3.2 MYA.

One interpretation of LucyLucy might have looked like this.

Additionally, its back had a similar double curve to modern humans; its arms were shorter than Ardipithecus; its knees support an upright gait, and its feet had arches like ours—meaning that it was fully bipedal, and that A. afarensis is very likely the hominin which made the Laetoli footprints.

This is a recent finding: only last year did its discoverers announce that they had found a foot bone from A. afarensis which appears to settle this long-simmering question.

Science 11 February 2011: Vol. 331 no. 6018 pp. 750-753
Complete Fourth Metatarsal and Arches in the Foot of Australopithecus afarensis
Carol V. Ward, William H. Kimbel, and Donald C. Johanson

“A complete fourth metatarsal of A. afarensis was recently discovered at Hadar, Ethiopia. It exhibits torsion of the head relative to the base, a direct correlate of a transverse arch in humans. The orientation of the proximal and distal ends of the bone reflects a longitudinal arch. Further, the deep, flat base and tarsal facets imply that its midfoot had no ape-like midtarsal break. These features show that the A. afarensis foot was functionally like that of modern humans and support the hypothesis that this species was a committed terrestrial biped.

Most importantly, A. afarensis’ brain was much larger than Ardipithecus: 380-430cc versus 300-350cc. This means that selection pressure was favoring bigger brains as early as 4 million years ago, while allowing our ancestors’ bodies to shrink dramatically.

Now we’re getting to the meat of the problem. What could have caused this selection pressure?

“Is It Just Me, Lucy, Or Is It Getting Colder?”

During the Pliocene (5.3-2.6 MYA), the Earth’s climate—though far warmer than today’s—become cooler, drier, and more seasonal (see the temperature graphs and detailed explanation in Part I), a multi-million-year trend which began with the Middle Miocene Disruption around 14.5 MYA. Consequently, African forests were shrinking, and savannas and grasslands were growing in their place.

With less forest available to live in, some number of our ancestors faced a stark choice: adapt to living outside the forest, or die out. Those that stayed in the trees became what we know today as chimpanzees and bonobos. Those that eventually left became our ancestors—the hominins.

PNAS August 17, 2004 vol. 101 no. 33 12125-12129
High-resolution vegetation and climate change associated with Pliocene Australopithecus afarensis
R. Bonnefille, R. Potts, F. Chalié, D. Jolly, and O. Peyron

Through high-resolution pollen data from Hadar, Ethiopia, we show that the hominin Australopithecus afarensis accommodated to substantial environmental variability between 3.4 and 2.9 million years ago. A large biome shift, up to 5°C cooling, and a 200- to 300-mm/yr rainfall increase occurred just before 3.3 million years ago, which is consistent with a global marine δ18O isotopic shift.

Our results show that a diversity of biomes was available to A. afarensis. Recovery of hominin fossils through the entire stratigraphic range suggests no marked preference by A. afarensis for any single biome, including forest. Significant cooling and biome change had no obvious effect on the presence of this species through the sequence, a pattern of persistence shared by other Pliocene mammal taxa at Hadar and elsewhere (6, 27, 32). We hypothesize that A. afarensis was able to accommodate to periods of directional cooling, climate stability, and high variability.

As we found in Part I, and as we’ve seen by the chimp-sized brains of Ardipithecus, shrinking habitat does not explain increased brain size by itself—but it does provide an incentive to find ways to live in marginal habitat, or entirely different biomes. And it’s clear that bipedalism would be an advantage in forest margins and open forests, where direct travel from tree to tree wasn’t possible. In addition, more light reaching the ground would mean more food available on the ground, versus up in the tree canopy—so bipedal ground-dwelling would have been a good survival strategy in forest habitat that was marginal for a tree-dweller.

My interpretation of the evidence is that bipedalism did not cause brain expansion, but it was a necessary precondition. It allowed our ancestors to expand beyond the forest margin—and it freed up our ancestors’ hands for other tasks, such as…

How Bipedalism Enables Tool Use, Re-Use, and Manufacture

Facultative bipeds, which cannot walk on two legs for very long, can’t carry tools around with them: they must make a tool out of whatever materials exist near the point of use, and discard it soon after. Therefore, the tools they make must remain relatively simple, since they can’t spend too much time making single-use items—and it greatly constrains the raw materials they can use. (Yes, I’m ignoring any hypothesis that gives Ardipithecus ramidus the ability to construct backpacks.)

In contrast, full bipeds can carry around their tools in anticipation of needing them, and can keep them for future use. Therefore, they can spend the time and effort to make complex, reusable tools—and they can use any raw materials they have access to, not just those near the point of use.

We know that modern chimpanzees make spears, termite sticks, and other wooden tools—but is there evidence for tool use previous to the Oldowan industry, 2.6 MYA?

Recall that the Oldowan industry marks the beginning of the Paleolithic age, and happens to coincide with the beginning of the Pleistocene epoch. (If these terms are confusing you, I explain them in Part II.)

 

Rocks, Meat, and Marrow in the Pliocene

 

Nature 466, 857–860 (12 August 2010) — doi:10.1038/nature09248
Evidence for stone-tool-assisted consumption of animal tissues before 3.39 million years ago at Dikika, Ethiopia
Shannon P. McPherron, Zeresenay Alemseged, Curtis W. Marean, Jonathan G. Wynn, Denné Reed, Denis Geraads, René Bobe, Hamdallah A. Béarat

“On the basis of low-power microscopic and environmental scanning electron microscope observations, these bones show unambiguous stone-tool cut marks for flesh removal and percussion marks for marrow access. … Established 40Ar–39Ar dates on the tuffs that bracket this member constrain the finds to between 3.42 and 3.24 Myr ago, and stratigraphic scaling between these units and other geological evidence indicate that they are older than 3.39 Myr ago.”

It’s fair to say that no one knows what to do with this particular piece of evidence, so it tends to simply get ignored or dismissed. What we know is that the researchers found several ungulate and bovid bones, dated to 3.4 MYA, which were scraped and struck by rocks. The scrapes are not natural, nor are they from the teeth of predators, and they appear to date from the same time as the bones.

A bone at DikikaOne of the bones at Dikika. The reality of paleontology is far less exciting than the hypotheses it generates.

Unfortunately, no stone tools or fossil hominins were found there, so we can’t say for sure who made them. But the simplest interpretation is that a hominid used a rock to scrape meat off of the bones of large prey animals, and to break them open for marrow.

It is likely that the reason this evidence isn’t more well-accepted is because the researchers make one huge assumption: that the scrape marks were made by deliberately fashioned stone tools, 800,000 years before the first evidence we have of stone tool manufacture—even though no such tools were found.

I believe the most parsimonious interpretation is that the scrape marks were indeed made by Australopithecus afarensisusing one of the naturally-occurring volcanic rocks found in abundance in the area. Given the slow pace of technological change (millions of years passed between major changes in stone tool manufacture, and that’s for later hominins with much larger brains than A. afarensis), it would be extremely surprising if naturally-occurring sharp rocks hadn’t been used for millions of years before any hominin thought to deliberately make them sharper—

It’s Not Just The Discovery…It’s The Teaching And The Learning

—and, more importantly, before their children were able to learn the trick, understand why it was important, and pass it on to their own children.

Those of you who were able to watch the documentary “Ape Genius”, to which I linked in Part I, understand that intelligence isn’t enough to create culture. In order for culture to develop, the next generation must learn behavior from their parents and conspecifics, not by discovering it themselves—and they must pass it on to their own children. Chimpanzees can learn quite a few impressive skills…but they have little propensity to teach others, and young chimps apparently don’t understand the fundamental concept that “when I point my finger, I want you to pay attention to what I’m pointing at, not to me.”

So: the developmental plasticity to learn is at least as important as the intelligence to discover. Otherwise, each generation has to make all the same discoveries all over again. It is theorized that this plasticity is related to our less-aggressive nature compared to chimpanzees…but that’s a whole another topic for another time.

In conclusion, the Dikika evidence pushes meat-eating and stone tool-using (though not stone tool-making) back to at least 3.4 MYA, well into the Pliocene. And though we’re not sure whether that meat was obtained by hunting, scavenging, or both, we can add it to the other foods that we’re reasonably sure formed its diet to produce the following menu:

The Paleo Diet For Australopithecus afarensis

Eat all you can find of:

  • Nuts
  • Root vegetables
  • Insects
  • Mushrooms
  • Meat (particularly bone marrow)

Eat sparingly:

  • Fruit (your tooth enamel won’t withstand the acids)
  • Foliage (your teeth aren’t shaped correctly for leaf-chewing)

In other words, A. afarensis was most likely eating a diet within the existing range of modern ancestral diets—3.4 million years ago.

The only major addition to this diet previous to the appearance of anatomically modern humans is the gathering of shellfish, known from middens dated to 140 KYA at Blombos Cave.

Our Takeaway (so far)

  • Our ancestors’ dietary shift towards ground-based foods, and away from fruit, did not cause an increase in our ancestors’ brain size.
  • Bipedalism was necessary to allow an increase in our ancestors’ brain size, but did not cause the increase by itself.
  • Bipedalism allowed A. afarensis to spread beyond the forest, and freed its hands to carry tools. This coincided with a 20% increase in brain size from Ardipithecus, and a nearly 50% drop in body mass.
  • Therefore, the challenges of obtaining food in evolutionarily novel environments (outside the forest) most likely selected for intelligence, quickness, and tool use, and de-emphasized strength.
  • By 3.4 MYA, A. afarensis was most likely eating a paleo dietrecognizable, edible, and nutritious to modern humans.
  • The only new item was large animal meat (including bone marrow), which is more calorie- and nutrient-dense than any other food on the list—especially in the nutrients (e.g. animal fats, cholesterol) which make up the brain.
  • Therefore, the most parsimonious interpretation of the evidence is that the abilities to live outside the forest, and thereby to somehow procure meat from large animals, provided the selection pressure for larger brains during the middle and late Pliocene.

Live in freedom, live in beauty.

JS


Wheat, the drug. Are you an addict?

This is mostly theory, but I found it very interesting. Research is still young on the subject. Reblogged from Marks Daily Apple:

You’re addicted to wheat.

Wheat contains opioid peptides that may be able to activate opioid receptors in our bodies. You know what else activates opioid receptors? Opium, morphine, and heroin. (I’ve never tried any of them, but I hear they can inspire some real devotion from their users. See: Trainspotters, Requiem for a Dream.) I know that may sound glib, and I’ll be the first to admit that research into this is still very preliminary. You won’t find any ironclad evidence on PubMed that wheat is addictive. But the thinking goes that rather than hitting you like a ton of bricks and rendering you speechless from the sublime triggering of your opioid receptors, wheat addiction manifests as a stubborn lingering thing.

Evidence does exist, however limited. One older paper (PDF) that identifies multiple opioid peptides in wheat gluten, suggests that they are capable of binding to brain opioid receptors via a “plausible biomechanical mechanism,” and deems them of “physiological significance.” Dr. Emily Deans, of Evolutionary Psychiatry, has actually used naltrexone – a drug that blocks opiate receptors – to curb wheat cravings in celiac patients who are trying to kick the “habit.”

Wheat plays a huge role in the diets of industrialized nations. If you’re reading this, you probably grew up eating it. You may still be eating it from time to time – and that may be at least partly responsible for your urge to eat that slice of bread.

 

Paleo is the key to health, fitness, and looking good naked. And smarts!

I’m going to go ahead and just re-blog this link I used in last weeks Missing Link(s), because I think it’s vitally important to understand our evolution and how we became what we are today.

It’s also important to understand why I promote Paleo lifestyle so passionately: It leads to vibrant health that follows through to old age. It prevents disease and poor gene expression. It prevents sickness and injury. And it makes you look and feel like a million bucks! I believe pretty much everyone should at least try Paleo, all out, 100% for 30 days AT LEAST. See if you don’t agree with me. Because this is what got us here. It’s what makes us thrive!

Keep in mind, this is the first part to a series. More details to come. Anyway, enough with the introduction…

Big brains require an explanation. How did humans become smarter, not just more numerous?

How did we get from this:

Australopithecus afarensis reconstructionAustralopithecus afarensis (reconstruction)

 

To both this…

Hadzabe hunting Maribou storks on the shore of Lake Eyasi, Tanzania.Hadzabe hunting Marabou storks

And this?

Shibuya Crossing 163Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo

That’s more than a tripling of brain size—and an astounding increase in cultural complexity—in under 3 million years.

I’ve previously written about the currently accepted explanation, in this article: “Why Humans Crave Fat.” Here are a few bullet points:

  • Chimpanzees consume about one McDonalds hamburger worth of meat each day during the dry season—mostly from colobus monkeys, which they hunt with great excitement and relish.
  • Kleiber’s Law states that all animals of similar body mass have similar metabolic rates, and that this rate scales at only the 3/4 power of size. Therefore, in order for our brains to grow and use more energy, something else had to shrink and use less energy.
  • It takes a much larger gut, and much more energy, to digest plant matter than it does to digest meat and fat.This is why herbivores have large, complicated guts with extra chambers (e.g. the rumen and abomasum), and carnivores have smaller, shorter, less complicated guts.
  • The caloric and nutritional density of meat allowed our mostly-frugivorous guts to shrink so that our brains could expand—and our larger brains allowed us to become better at hunting, scavenging, and making tools to help us hunt and scavenge. This positive feedback loop allowed our brains to grow from perhaps 400cc (“Lucy”, Australopithecus afarensis) to over 1500cc (late Pleistocene hunters).
  • In support of this theory, the brains of modern humans, eating a grain-based agricultural diet, have shrunk by 10% or more as compared to late Pleistocene hunters and fishers.

(For a more detailed explanation, including links, references, and illustrations, read the original article.)

The Teleological Error

When discussing human evolution, it’s easy to fall into the error of teleology—the idea that evolution has a purpose, of which intelligence (specifically, self-conscious intelligence recognizable to our modern philosophical traditions, and producing something recognizable to us as ‘civilization’) is the inevitable expression and end result.

Geology and archaeology proves this is not so. For instance, 140 million years of saurian dominance (far more than the 65 million years mammals have so far enjoyed) apparently failed to produce any dinosaur civilizations: they simply became bigger, faster, and meaner until the K-T asteroid hit.

Thus endeth the reign of the dinosaurs.Thus endeth the reign of the dinosaurs.

 

Likewise, the increased availability of rich, fatty, nutrient- and calorie-dense meat (enabled in large part by the usage of stone tools to deflesh bones, first practiced by our ancestors at least 2.6 million year ago, or MYA) does not, by itself, explain the over threefold increase in human brain size which began with the Pleistocene era, 2.6 MYA. When a climate shift brings more rain and higher, lusher grass to the African savanna, we don’t get smarter wildebeest, or even larger wildebeest. We get more wildebeest. Neither does this increase in the prey population seem to produce smarter hyenas and lions…it produces more hyenas and lions.

Contrary to their reputation, spotted hyenas are excellent hunters, and kill more of their own prey than lions do. (Many “lion kills” were actually killed by hyenas during the night—whereupon the lions steal the kill, gorge themselves, and daybreak finds the hyenas “scavenging” the carcass they killed themselves.) One 140-pound hyena is quite capable of taking down a wildebeest by itself.

So: if the ability to deflesh bones with stone tools allowed australopithecines to obtain more food, why didn’t that simply result in an increase in the Australopithecus population? Why would our ancestors have become smarter, instead of just more numerous?

The answer, of course, lies in natural selection.

Natural Selection Requires Selection Pressure

I don’t like the phrase “survival of the fittest”, because it implies some sort of independent judging. (“Congratulations, you’re the fittest of your generation! Please accept this medal from the Darwinian Enforcement Society.”)

“Natural selection” is a more useful and accurate term, because it makes no explicit judgment of how the selection occurs, or what characteristics are selected for. Some animals live, some animals die…and of those that live, some produce more offspring than others. This is a simple description of reality: it doesn’t require anyone to provide direction or purpose, nor to judge what constitutes “fitness”.

“Natural selection” still implies some sort of active agency performing the selection (I picture a giant Mother Nature squashing the slow and stupid with her thumb)—but it’s very difficult to completely avoid intentional language when discussing natural phenomena, because otherwise we’re forced into into clumsy circumlocutions and continual use of the passive voice.

(And yes, natural selection operates on plants, bacteria, and Archaea as well as on animals…it’s just clumsy to enumerate all the categories each time.)

Finally, I’m roughly equating brain size with intelligence throughout this article. This is a meaningless comparison across species, and not very meaningful for comparing individuals at a single point in time…but as behavioral complexity seems to correlate well with brain size for our ancestors throughout the Pleistocene, we can infer a meaningful relationship.

Therefore, we can see that “The availability of calorie- and nutrient-rich meat allowed our ancestors’ brains to increase in size” is not the entire story. The additional calories and nutrients could just as well have allowed us to become faster, stronger, or more numerous. For our ancestors’ brain size to increase, there must have been positive selection pressure for big brains, because big brains are metabolically expensive.

While at rest, our brains use roughly 20% of the energy required by our entire body!

In other words, the hominids with smaller brains were more likely to die, or to not leave descendants, than the hominids with larger brains.

What could have caused this selection pressure?

Ratcheting Up Selection Pressure: Climate Change and Prey Extinction

Just as “natural selection” is simply a description of reality, “selection pressure” is also a description of reality. It’s the combination of constraints that cause natural selection—by which some animals live, some die, and some reproduce more often and more successfully than others.

The selection pressure applied by one’s own species to reproductive choices—usually mate choice by females—is often called “sexual selection.” Sexual selection is, strictly speaking, part of natural selection, but it’s frequently discussed on its own because it’s so interesting and complex.

In this essay, I’m speaking primarily of the non-sexual selection parts of natural selection, for two reasons. First, because this article would expand to an unreadable size, and second, because understanding the influence of sexual selection in the Pleistocene would require an observational knowledge of behavior. Lacking time machines, anything we write is necessarily speculation.

In order for selection pressure to change, the environment of a species must change. I believe there are two strong candidate forces that would have selected for intelligence during the Pleistocene: climate change and prey extinction.

The Incredible Oscillating Polar Ice Caps: Understanding Pleistocene Climate

I’ve discussed Pleistocene climate change at length before. (Note: the Pleistocene epoch began approximately 2.6 MYa.)

“Unlike the long and consistently warm eons of the Jurassic and Cretaceous (and the Paleocene/Eocene), the Pleistocene was defined by massive climactic fluctuations, with repeated cyclic “ice ages” that pushed glaciers all the way into southern Illinois and caused sea level to rise and fall by over 100 meters, exposing and hiding several important bridges between major land masses.” –“How Glaciers Might Have Made Us Human”

Here is a chart of the estimated average surface temperature of the Earth, starting 500 MYA and ending today. Note the logarithmic time scale!

Click image for larger version.

To appreciate the magnitude and severity of Pleistocene climactic oscillation, note the tiny dip in temperature towards the right labeled “Little Ice Age”. This minor shift froze over the Baltic Sea and the Thames River, caused Swiss villages to be destroyed by glaciers, wiped out the Greenland Norse colonies, and caused famines in Europe which killed from 10% to 33% of the population, depending on the country.

Furthermore, the climate was changing very quickly by geological standards. Let’s zoom in on the Quaternary period (2.6 MYA – present), of which the Pleistocene forms the overwhelming majority (up to 11,800 years ago):

5 million years of temperature estimates from ice cores.  Cool!Click image for larger version.

Note that massive 41,000 year climactic oscillations, each far greater than the Little Ice Age, began approximately 2.7 MYA—and the first known stone tools made by hominids (the Oldowan industry) are dated to 2.6 MYA.

Coincidence? Perhaps not.

Genetic Vs. Cultural Change

The behavior of most animals (and all plants) is primarily determined by genetic factors (“instinct”, “innate behavior”)—so in order to adapt to a changing environment, selection pressure must be exerted over many generations. For a short-lived species which reproduces a new generation ever year, or every few years, it might be possible to adapt to a 41,000 year climate cycle via natural selection.

However, for a long-lived species like humans, with generations measured in decades, genetic change is most likely too slow to fully adapt. We would have had to move in search of conditions that remained as we were adapted to…

…or we would have had to alter our behavior in cultural time, not genetic time.

Culture is the ability to transfer knowledge between generations, without waiting for natural selection to kill off those unable to adapt—and it requires both general-purpose intelligence and the ability to learn and teach. While space does not permit a full discussion of these issues, I recommend the PBS documentary “Ape Genius” for an entertaining look at the differences between modern human and modern chimpanzee intelligence and learning. (And I can’t resist noting that spotted hyenas outperform chimpanzees on intelligence tests that require cooperation: more information here and here, abstract of original paper here.)

You can watch the full video of “Ape Genius” here if you are a US resident. (If not, you’ll have to find a US-based proxy server.)

However, climate change is insufficient by itself to cause the required selection pressure. The overwhelming majority of known species survived these changes—including the glacial cycles of the past 740,000 years which scoured North America down to southern Illinois on eight separate occasions—because they could approximate their usual habitat by moving. Even plants can usually disperse their seeds over enough distance to keep ahead of glaciers.

Therefore, to fully explain the selection pressures that led to modern intelligence, we must look farther…to the consequences of intelligence itself.

Look for Part 2—in which we’ll explore the relevance of all this to modern diet, nutrition, and far more—next week.

Live in freedom, live in beauty.

JS

[Credit]


Paleo for one year: My results thus far & Understanding the Paleo concept.

It’s been exactly one full year since I stumbled across my first learnings of Paleo ideas and lifestyle. Many things have changed since then, all of them for the better.

First off, understand that paleo is not a “diet” or a “fad”, it’s more of a way of integrating our knowledge of human evolution and biology into a modern context, so that we can improve our quality of life. This integrates knowledge of biochemistry, human biology, fitness, evolutionary psychology and general health, in order to make us healthier, stronger, better looking, and longer-living.

My personal experience has given me the following benefits as I’ve progressed through the past year:

  • Decreased body fat
  • Increased mental clarity and focus
  • Increased muscle mass and recovery **(this is a huge one!)
  • cured chronic heartburn
  • cured ambiguous gastric issues
  • Less illness
  • cured eczema
  • cured bad acne
  • Better sleep
  • Boundless energy

And the list goes on. Needless to say, I feel as though I’ve found the fountain of youth. And I will continue to do this as long as I live, Paleo that is, because of what it has allowed me to accomplish over the course of just one year, especially the ability to put on muscle pretty much effortlessly!

Edit 2/9/12: One more thing I’d like to mention: my teeth and gum health have drastically improved. My dentist made a comment last visit that my gums look “much better than they did 6 months ago“. I used to have pretty inflamed painful, bleedy gums at the dentist, and sometimes when I brushed my teeth. Now my dentist will tell you my gums got better because “I started to brush and floss more”, but the truth is, I lied. I actually brush once a day, if I brush at all. And hardly floss. I don’t have bad breath anymore so it’s really not necessary. See? Emulating a hunter-gatherer diet lets your body take care of itself!

Now there’s a new buzzword floating around recently. It’s an idea that encompasses everything we do relating to Paleo, and combines it with modern ideas to improve ourselves beyond just “Paleolithic” nutrition and fitness, and surpass everything from the Neolithic environment that holds us back: Hyperlithic. Sounds cool right?

Here’s the post from Evolify:

Think Like a Geek.

Intelligence is sexy. It confers both survival and reproductive advantage, and was certainly selected for in our paleolithic ancestors. It’s woven throughout so many levels of our evolutionary past that it’s hard to reduce it to one thing. In this context, it carries the implication of the very word paleolithic itself — the reference to tools. Thinking like a geek helps us choose tools and develop tools.

Eat Like a Hunter.

The fuel we provide to our biological systems has effects that ripple through every aspect of our individual life. From mental acuity to mood to structure to disease, our choice of fuels is crucial. Thinking about food from the angle of a paleolithic hunter quickly provides answers to questions science is unable to efficiently adjudicate. This is not about pure carnivory, but a nod to optimal foraging theory. Once we understand something about the strategies of a paleolithic hunter we can begin to merge our ancient food system with our modern food system. If we lose either perspective, we will quickly go astray.

Train Like a Fighter.

This gets into a mess of words and concepts. Ignoring the “hunter-gatherers don’t train” bit for a moment… This is about training as a fighter fights, and not training to be a fighter per se. It is also about adopting modern tools with the intent of unlocking parts of our DNA that lay dormant within sedentary humans anesthetized by economically abstracted violence. Humans fought their own battles prior to the rise of agriculture. Being able to pay for violence to be conducted on our behalf appears to be a moral and physical benefit, but the signals and interaction between our genes and our environment are not easily faked and not easily replaced. Our physical and mental potential as individuals is not always aligned with those of industrial agricultural civilization.

Look Like a Model.

Because “look” embodies multiple tenses in the English language, this one is open to much ambiguity. My meaning is primarily in a passive sense. If you think like a geek, eat like a hunter, and train like a fighter, then you will [more or less] automatically “look like a model” in terms of phenotypic expression. It is also important to note that “model” means many things. There are many inputs for advertisers deciding on models, but I’m specifically not talking about three types of models. 1) Men as advertised in men’s magazines. 2) Women as advertised in women’s magazines. 3) Fashion models of either sex. Without going into too much detail today, it has been shown that men pictured in men’s magazines tend to be more muscular than the ideal women find attractive, and women in women’s magazines tend to be thinner than men find attractive. Advertisers manipulate us according to evolved heuristic biases.

I use “model” to imply something closer to an ideal attractiveness influenced by Darwinian sexual selection (inter-sexual). The intent is to get at things that are relatively generally attractive to the opposite sex. This is contrasted to the use by advertisers of intra-sexual selection… or… competition with others of the same sex. Our brains do not analyze these questions in a rational way, but in a way that tracks markers of health in the context of evolutionary time. “Look good naked” is a great goal. Unfortunately, our intuitive self-assessments of looking good are likely biased to the point of being counterproductive.

Common Threads

All of the above are related to the ecological context of us as individuals. The interaction between our genes and our environment is implied in each level. The association with gyms and training with the active physical components of health is similar to synthetic and isolated components being packaged and sold to us as “food”. Real food is not enough. We need real life as well.

The impact on our psychology is entwined in each of these concepts as well. We know that points of attractiveness shift depending on the ecological context of the beholder. Some use this as a refutation of attractiveness as an evolved psychological component. However, this represents a fundamental misunderstanding of human ethology. I am not interested in mimicking the optimal attractiveness ratings of people influenced by sub-optimal (resource depleted, etc.) environments. A better question is this: What is optimal for humans in an optimal environment? We need to answer other questions to say what environments are optimal, and they are not easy questions. They are also not so difficult that we should be flummoxed by those who descend into relativist or quasi-relativist arguments representative of myopia.

 

 

 

Like this post? Want to find out more about how to get in shape fast? Check out these articles about getting in shape, feeling great, and controlling your genes!

 

Lower bodyfat setpoint.

 

Lose stubborn body fat. (Intermittent fasting)

 

Control your gene expression.

 

Heavy strength training is a required aspect of long term health. For everybody.

 

How to train your body to burn fat all day long. High intensity interval training (HIIT).

 

Why you should avoid too many polyunsaturated fats.

 

What is chronic inflammation. What to eat to avoid it.

 

The final word on grains and legumes: AVOID them.

 

The final word on Saturated fat and Cholesterol: EAT them.

 

 

 

How To FAIL At The Gym (There Are No Shortcuts) II

This is Part II. Make sure you read Part I and Part III.

The sooner you understand this one simple concept, the sooner you can thank me.

I see this every time I go to the gym. The people that HALF-ASSEDLY do any “workout”, incomplete, poor form, partial range of movement. They don’t track their progress. They don’t follow a consistent routine. They don’t fucking lift anything heavy. Explain to me how that can POSSIBLY do you any good? How can you PROGRESS without pushing your limits? You have no idea where you are going or what you are tryng to do, picking up random weights and swinging things around as if you’re actually working your muscles properly.

It goes the other way too. Huge guys come in, who got huge by eating everything in sight. They may have made progress, but their body composition is in the shitter. Yah, sure you can bench 220 for few reps, but your fat ass still hangs out of your shorts. Then there’s another guy, with a 55 pund dumbbell in each hand, swinging his body back and forth violently, as he completes half-assed reps, barely working his full range of motion, and definitely NOT really lifting that 55 lbs. These guys might be big (looking), but its mostly fat on top of muscle, and I don’t see them losing it any time soon.

It might be easy to blame the rag-mags, or the media for the mis-information. The conventional wisdom promoted by the “professional”. You want the real culprit? YOU are at fault for your laziness. Yah, the truth hurts. Now do something about it! Educate yourself, get some biology in ya! I consider it my duty to my body to understand how it works, reacts, grows, heals, and thrives. Besides that, it should be COMMON SENSE that the only shortcut to better body composition is HARD WORK.

Hard work creates progress that you can see and feel. Hard work is the only shortcut.

Hard work means pushing your limits to make your body adapt. Hard work means following a consistent routine that causes measurable growth and fat loss (including diet). Hard work means good form, heavy weights, and pushing yourself to 100% failure.

Hard work does NOT mean doing endless reps with little weights. Your body is a reactionary mechanism. It adapts and heals as a reaction of the stressors you place on it. (Your immune system is a perfect example). Lifting light weight does not create functional strength, because you are not forcing an adaptation. Doing 100 bicep curls with a 5lb weight will do nothing more than reinforce your ability to lift……can you guess?………FIVE POUNDS! Holyfuckamoly Batman! What use is that in your everyday life? What use is that in an emergency situation? (It is really useful for wasting a lot of time at the gym, though).

Hard work does NOT mean lousy form. If you have to use swinging momentum to curl that 50 pounder, you aren’t doing work, YOU ARE CHEATING. Don’t be a wuss! Stop trying to show off. You’re not impressing anyone. (I’ll get into gym etiquette with another post). Find a weight that allows you to use proper form, and you’ll find out how strong you actually are. Push yourself to failure within the anabolic rep range. Eventually you WILL grow and be able to curl that 50 punder the right way!

Hard work allows you to minimize your time at the gym, so you have more time for the fun stuff; sex, playing music, fixing your car, or writing a blog….

Women AND men should focus on functional strength. Strength is sexy.

It’s attractive. Muscle ALWAYS looks better than fat. (Muscle forms the foundation of your outward appearance, and you can control which aspects you change. Muscle enhances your metabolic flexibility, immune system, endurance, and resistance to injury). Now, I’m not saying that I’m attracted to women who are jacked like bodybuilders. I’m talking about natural shape, aesthetically pleasing form, that can deadlift AT LEAST their own bodyweight, or perform a handfull of decent pull-ups. That’s not asking too much, is it?

Now ladies, don’t get all worried about “blowing up” or “looking like a dude”. Women naturally have less testosterone than men, so it’s naturally more difficult for them to build muscle and burn fat. That means women (for the most part) who train just as hard as men, given a similar amount of work, will see less results than men. Why would you want to fuck around wasting time at the gym, when you can do it faster and better with HARD WORK? Once you reach your desired body composition, you can maintain! Trust me, you won’t just wake up one morning looking like the Hulk. Progress takes time, but it takes less time when you follow the right method!

Ah, the perfect example. Stacie Tovar, CrossFit champ. She lifts heavy and pushes her limits. This shows her change after going CrossFit.

Take a look at Lauren Plumey. She’s a good lookin’ CrossFitter too.

Now leave some love! In the form of comments. I also accept other forms of love. heh.

This is Part II. Make sure you read Part I and Part III.

Like this post? Want to find out more about how to get in shape fast? Check out these articles about getting in shape, feeling great, and controlling your genes!

Lower bodyfat setpoint.

Lose stubborn body fat. (Intermittent fasting)

Control your gene expression.

Heavy strength training is a required aspect of long term health. For everybody.

How to train your body to burn fat all day long. High intensity interval training (HIIT).

Why you should avoid too many polyunsaturated fats.

What is chronic inflammation. What to eat to avoid it.

The final word on grains and legumes: AVOID them.

The final word on Saturated fat and Cholesterol: EAT them.

How To FAIL At The Gym. (Health Is Common Sense)

This is Part I. Make sure you read Part II and Part III

I have a complaint.

Is it the media, a lack of information, or just plain LAZINESS that makes people run on a treadmill for an hour and a half, every day, and STILL they can’t manage to change their body composition?

I see them every day, at the YMCA. They run with terrible form, heel slamming, joint killing form. They jump up and down on the elliptical (terrible machines), only doing about 50% of the work they THINK they are actually doing. They pedal carelessly on a bike, while their guts spill over into their laps and they read “Food and Wine” or “People” or some other God-awful publication that’s bound to be contributing to their utter useless lifestyle.

I’ve managed to motivate myself to change permanently for the better, with no other forces at work other than pure determination, and the knowledge that I will not spend, I REFUSE to spend the last 10 to 15 years of my life in decrepitude. The problem with society is that we’ve been programmed, BRAINWASHED into thinking this is normal. Apparently, even though we are still genetically identical to our wild ancestors, we have to accept the fact that we are different, that we can not live without disease and degenerative disorers that render us utterly useless to ourselves, left in the care of our offspring as we lose the ability to MOVE and ACT and have FUN.

BULLSHIT I say. You can change your falsely pre-determined future. Its so friggin easy people, all you have to do is realize that you are poisoning your body slowly over the entire course of your life by feeding yourself food toxins [1] [2], by being lazy, by hiding from the sun, and by listening to the government tell you what is healthy. These problems largely do not exist in the wild! Paloelithic human beings didn’t have to deal with cavities, heart attack, obesity, cancer, etc. Know why? They hunted, sprinted, lifted heavy things, ate animals, vegetables, and fruit. They didn’t sit around playing Halo on Xbox 360. They didnt eat 7-11 servings of birdseed (grains) every day! They didnt have soy. They didnt have veggie oils. They fasted. They didn’t eat every 2-3 hours trying to “keep blood glucose elevated” (fuckingstupid). They were lean, fit and HEALTHY throughout their lives. Don’t believe me? Modern anthropology continues to find evidence of this. GO TO A MUSEUM you fool.

Health is common sense. Most, if not at least 80% of body composition and total health, is determined by what you EAT. Movement only constitutes about 10%. The rest is lifestyle. If you don’t change what you eat to REAL FOOD (animals, vegetables, fruits), you will never know true health.

However, if you realize that there is no science behind the FAT-PHOBIA, CHOLESTEROL, FOOD PYRAMID, HEARTHEALTHY WHOLE GRAINS, you will live largely sickness and disease free, and you will change your body composition. You will lean out and gain more muscle. You will become more attractive naked. You will emit a positive attitude. To everyone around you, you will appear to be unstoppable, full of energy, immune to whatever virus is floating around the office.

Your brain will fucntion at optimum efficiency, soaking up all the information and beauty around you. You will feel ultimate clarity. It’s like a permanent high. Engergy on-tap, whenever it is needed. Power to have explosive workouts at the gym. Speed to spint to your car after work. Drive to make-your-bed-rock (ooooh yeaaaah). Recovery to do it all again. Your immune system will function at top efficiency because you will not have chronic inflammation, you will not get sick, you will recover from your brutal lifting sessions faster. You won’t waste time consuming fillers made of grain or soy, so there will be more room for amino-acids and fatty-acids to build and construct new tissues, bigger muslces. You will train your body to burn fat for energy by promoting mitochondial adaptaion. You will be a FUCKING SUPER HUMAN!!!11 YUP!

Did I mention I feel really really good today?

This is Part I. Make sure you read Part II and Part III

More Evidence Against Grains, Bad Gene Expression

I came across a great paper summary from one of my favorite blogs: That Paleo Guy.

It turns out grains may be much more damaging than you think.

From Bioacive antinutritional peptides derived from cereal grains:

Not only cereals grains have a poor nutritional value for healthy individuals, but some cereals may also induce widespread primary and secondary intolerances, thus becoming “non tolerated” or “toxic” under particular, although rather frequent, conditions. Peptides originating from digestion of wheat protein or of other “toxic” cereals in the human gastrointestinal tract are responsible for both primary and secondary intolerances

And From Antinutritive effects of wheat-germ agglutinin and other N-acetylglucosamine-specific lectins

…as the lectin appeared to be fully active and fairly stable against proteolytic breakdown, its potentially harmful effects on both metabolism and health need to be explored, particularly when diets containing WGA are fed for extended periods of time.

The consequences of the continuous stimulation of the pancreas, particularly in the long term, may be harmful for both of its vital exocrine and endocrine functions. Moreover, as one of the previously shown toxic effects of dietary PHA [kidney beans] is due to its interference with the functioning of the immune system, it is of special concern what effects the systemically-absorbed WGA may have on the gut and the body’s immune systems. The thymus atrophy observed in rats fed with diets containing WGA may be particularly damaging for the proper functioning of the immune system.

it is particularly worrying that detectable amounts of functionally- and immunochemically-intact WGA are transported across the intestinal wall and may reach the systemic circulation

And Paleo Guy summarizes:

So let’s summarise.  We know that grains are a poor source of nutrition and easily replaced by more nutrient-dense foods.  We know that they can contain immuno-reactive proteins, such as gluten.  We know that they can also contain lectins, and in the case of the lectin, wheat-germ agglutinin, we know that this go avoid digestion and end up in systemic circulation, where, possibly, we might see effects on the endocrine and exocrine function of organs such as the pancreas and on immune-regulating organs such as the thymus.  We also see that there is potential for these lectins to also have insulin-like activity.  All of these effects are seemingly independent of the carbohydrate content of the source foods they are found in.

All good reasons to avoid grains, IMHO. Another thought comes to mind. I know people tend to use the excuse “I just have bad genes”, or, “I was born into a family of people with bad [insert problem here]”. The truth is, these effects are gene expressions, things that you or I am naturally predisposed to expressing under certain conditions. Well, genes don’t necessarily need to be expressed all the time, it takes hormones to express those genes. And you are perfectly capable of changing most of those conditions!

Now ask yourself, what causes hormones to be expressed? hmmmm…..OH NO SHIT! The FOOD YOU EAT! And the things you do!

Diet and toxin exposure have been shown to influence gene expression 1, 2, 3

Exercise causes positive hormone reactions, and eating the right foods causes more positive hormone reactions! These hormones cause good genes to be expressed. This comes through in our health and outward appearance. Avoiding toxins and laziness stops the bad genes from being expressed.

Note this nice discussion from Mark’s Daily Apple on gene expression.

Our modern lifestyles, as we say in the Primal Blueprint, create a deep chasm between our genetic expression and that of our ancestors

Live and move like the predator you evolved to be! Gene expression is in your control.