When Stone-Agers become like us

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D.

September 2009

Everyone is descended from a Stone Age human. Whether we are Hispanic, Black, Caucasian, Polynesian, Asian or Native American our ancestors sprang from a few individuals in Africa and we share all but a tiny fraction of our genes. What's more, each of these racial groups is about as closely related to Stone Age humans of 50,000 years ago as they are to each other.

The failure of the medical establishment to acknowledge and to act on that last fact is both a mystery and a tragedy. A mystery because the genetic closeness between us and Stone agers has been known for decades. A tragedy because physicians should be steering us to imitate the food choices and the activity patterns that evolved among humans over thousands of generations and to which, 10 or 20 thousand years ago, we had become almost perfectly adapted. In simple terms, our body chemistry is a couple of million years old and it is not suited to cheeseburgers, French fries, refined sugar and labor-saving devices.

There are still Stone Agers on the planet, humans that live today the way that they did before farming became a way of life. These hunger-gatherers, of which there are perhaps 80 groups scattered around the globe, are not exactly sickly and starving. If they were they would have vanished long ago. They wander in small bands in those lands that others don't yet covet.

They don't have many possessions, their shelters are temporary and where governments have not sought to protect them they often die of infections that might have been prevented by vaccines. Their life expectancy is low because so many die in infancy and childhood.

What becomes of the "lucky" ones that escape to civilization? Africans whose ancestors had normal blood pressure die of stroke and heart disease on a salty Western diet of processed food. Descendants of Japanese women who have low rates of hip fracture and breast cancer settle in the U.S., where they acquire both conditions. Eskimos who move to settlements become obese and diabetic. Native Americans have stayed put — sort of — but they eat like the rest of us and have become the most obese population in the world. Type 2 diabetes, a disease that did not exist among them before 1930, is now their second leading cause of death.

Civilization isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D. is the author of Health Secrets of the Stone Age, Better Life Publishers 2005. Contact him at drphil@stoneagedoc.com.