GREAT HEALTH: Your Ancestors’ Perfect Diet | Great Health Guide
GREAT HEALTH: Your Ancestors’ Perfect Diet

GREAT HEALTH: Your Ancestors’ Perfect Diet

‘Your Ancestors’ Perfect Diet’ written by Dr Warrick Bishop and published in Great Health Guide (November 2017). In the past what did our ancestors eat? Research has shown that they consumed primarily a high protein diet and very little complex carbohydrates. Could this be a precursor to people who have sensitivity to carbohydrates and thus find it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle? In this fantastic article, cardiologist Dr Warrick Bishop discusses how carbohydrates can affect digestive health and suggests how diet can be improved if an individual is sensitive to carbohydrates.  
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GREAT HEALTH: Your Ancestors’ Perfect Diet

written by Dr Warrick Bishop

Our ancestors were hunters and gatherers over 3.5 million years ago.  They ate animals, insects and they consumed a few greens. 10,000 years ago, agriculture gave us complex carbohydrates with grains, potato and yams. These complex carbohydrates are basically just a series of simple carbohydrates or building blocks joined together. 

For some people who have an inheritable sensitivity to carbohydrates, these simple and complex carbohydrates can turn on a storage response that leads to an accumulation of bodily fat and also to a build-up of hazardous fat around the stomach and potentially in the arteries.

Complex carbohydrates are broken down to simple carbohydrates in the digestive system. Simple carbohydrates can be disaccharides, such as SUGAR or monosaccharides, such as GLUCOSE. If you think about our ancestors 3.5 million years ago, there wasn’t much SUGAR in their diet.

Complex carbohydrates, fat and insulin.

1. Our ancestors had a hormonal response to make the best use of sugar, found in honey or sweet berries on the rare occasion that it made an appearance in their diet. That turned on a hormone called insulin, which is a storage hormone. Insulin changes the blood’s chemistry and it leads to storage of fat for a rainy day, particularly around the stomach, but also in the arteries. 

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2. So, for some people who have an inheritable sensitivity to carbohydrates that causes a brisk insulin response, restricting carbohydrates is sometimes beneficial to reduce the rate of fat storage in the stomach and to reduce fat storage in the arteries in particular. 

3. If your doctor has identified that you are producing too much insulin, they might recommend that you reduce simple carbohydrates by reducing complex carbohydrates. 

4. Modern food processing has made available a large variety of simple and complex carbohydrates for consumption. So, under the advice and supervision of a physician, things like bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, cereal and fruit are sometimes kept to a minimum to maintain a diet, that is better for that individual’s heart health. This advice will depend on the individual, their metabolic make-up, their energy expenditure and dietary objectives.

If your doctor has already suggested that you make dietary changes then:

  • You need to find the motivation that makes the change a priority. It might be that you’ve got a wedding to go to in six months’ time and you want to be five to ten kilos lighter. Or, it might be that in two years’ time you want to have a holiday at a beach resort and wear a one-piece. It could be that you want to lose five kilos so that can play with your grandkids. 

  • Whatever it is, your priority needs to be rock-solid for you. The more rock-solid that priority is, the easier it will be for you to follow through with your doctor’s dietary guidelines. You should document it for a while, but once you follow this guide for an extended period, you will not need to keep documenting it, because you will form the habit and you will keep going from there. 

  • You need to understand that the positive consequences of that change are not immediate. This is one of the biggest problems with making any lifestyle change and maintaining it. So, for those of you who are tech-savvy, there is a free app available for iPad, iPhone and Android, called MyFitnessPal, which gives you an easy and effective way to keep track of your daily dietary intake. 

If your doctor has not recommended that you make any changes to your diet, or you haven’t yet had this conversation, it’s a good idea to raise this question, so that your doctor can help you to identify a diet that works best for you.

Author of this article:
Dr Warrick Bishop is a cardiologist with special interest in cardiovascular disease prevention incorporating imaging, lipids and lifestyle. He is author of the book ‘Have You Planned Your Heart Attack?’, written for patients and doctors about how to live intentionally to reduce cardiovascular risk and save lives! Dr Bishop can be contacted via his website.

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