Welcome to the latest issue of The Qi of Self-Sovereignty. The newsletter exploring what it means to be free in an increasingly not-so-free world.
Whether you're looking to locate your authentic self or investigate sovereignty, you're in the right place! Each week, with just a few minutes of reading, I aim to expand your awareness through a quote and a piece of content that made me go hmm...
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"We can ignore reality, but we cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality." - Ayn Rand
I am sure I speak for most when I say, through friends, family and mainstream media, I am continually pushed towards new-age diets and plant-based foods.
The constant churn of new diets makes deciding what to eat almost impossible.
One diet glorifies [insert food here], while another exiles it.
With this in mind, I felt it was necessary to explore our ancestral past as this may give us some indication as to what our bodies are accustomed to eating and whether a plant-based diet is the best path to take.
We are who we are because of our past. And so, if our ancestors were healthy, we have a good framework for what to eat... whatever they ate.
Let's dive in...
From analyzing human remains, data suggests that health peaked just before the Neolithic revolution, a.k.a the agricultural revolution ~12,000 years ago.
We must therefore ask ourselves, what gave our pre-neolithic ancestors their robustness? And what may have contributed to the post-neolithic decline?
Let's answer these two questions independently, starting with what gave our pre-neolithic ancestors their robustness.
This brings me to...
Insightful content which made me go, hmm...
In modern society, there is immense pressure to go vegetarian, but as Paul Saladino points out in his incredibly eye-opening book, "Carnivore Code," in doing so, we would be going entirely against our ancestral lineage.
Let's have a look...
Our oldest primate ancestors date back ~60 million years. For the first 57.5 million years, our brains maintained a pretty similar size until roughly 2.5 million years ago. At this point, they started to grow exponentially.
This growth just so happened to coincide with our transition from scavengers to hunters.
What caused this transition, you may be wondering? We experienced three evolutionary developments that assisted us in becoming the apex predator.
First, we developed articulating shoulder joints. This made it possible for us to throw spears and rocks. Something no other species could do. Herbivores don't need this.
Second, we developed our hinged ankle joint and began to walk on two feet. This enabled us to cover long distances, track animals and hunt more efficiently.
Third, we developed the white portion in our eyes surrounding our iris. This is known as the sclera. The whites of our eyes allowed us to pass on information to other tribe members without speaking. We simply needed to show them where we were looking.
This was advantageous for hunting as we could now communicate in silence through eye movement. Something our primate cousins were unable to do.
Their sclera is much darker. Why? Primate colonies are incredibly competitive. This leads to regular feuding over food and potential mates. A dark sclera helps disguise the direction a primate is looking, allowing them to spot a potential mate or food source without others catching on.
Although our once darker sclera served a purpose, it inhibited our collaborative hunting ability.
Tying these three traits together.
Although, any one of these evolutionary traits was nothing special. Combined, they allowed us to cover considerable distances, throw projectiles and hunt in silence.
As a result, we had first pick at the food that was available and rose to the top of the food chain.
No longer did we need to scavenge for leftover remains or low-calorie plants. We could live alongside the lions and tigers, predominately eating an animal-based diet.
What made this diet so beneficial? Not only is there far greater bioavailability of nutrients in animal products, but there is also an abundance of fat— Something far harder to source on a plant-based diet.
"By weight, fat provides more than twice as many calories than do protein or carbohydrates. In addition, the human metabolism makes fat a uniquely valuable and necessary food." - Paul Saladino
It is most likely for this reason, we were as strong and as healthy as we were.
I should point out that Paul doesn't suggest that our ancestors never ate plant foods. They just favoured animal foods due to their high caloric and nutritional density. If we failed to reap the rewards from hunting, we would have most likely eaten plants. But.... they do not appear to have been a significant part of our ancestral diet.
You may be wondering, how do we know we ate predominantly meat?
While many indicators exist for the sake of briefness we are going to focus on two:
The lower an animal's stomach pH, the better it is at breaking down protein and absorbing essential nutrients from animal products. Therefore, the stomach pH gives us an indication as to what foods an animal's stomach has evolved to break down.
Our distant primate ancestors had a stomach pH of 4–5. This somewhat aligns with modern-day monkeys, which range from 3.4 - 5.9.
Where do humans sit? Humans average 1.5!
That is far lower than herbivores, lower than most omnivores, and in line, if not below, many carnivores.
But more importantly, it gives us an indication of the foods we are accustomed to consuming.
"Our stomach became much more acidic because 3–4 million years ago, our diets changed from predominantly plant foods to including many animal foods—and then 2 million years ago to mostly animal foods." - Paul Saladino
One method scientists use to explore our predecessors' diets is by testing levels of isotope δ15 nitrogen (δ15N) in their fossilized bones.
By examining δ15N levels in bones, we can infer where the animal resides on the food chain.
Herbivores usually have levels of 3–7% δ15N, carnivores around 6–12%, and omnivores in and around the overlap of these two.
When we analyze samples from Neanderthal and early modern humans, they demonstrated 12% and 13.5%, respectively. As Paul puts it, that is "higher than that of other known carnivorous animals like hyena and wolves."
With an understanding of our animal-based heritage, lets now move on to the second question:
What may have contributed to the post-neolithic decline?
With the advent of agriculture, we experienced a seismic shift in our diets.
No longer did we roam in hunter-gather clans and consume a predominate animal-based diet. Instead, we looked to the art of farming and relied on crops to feed us.
Noteworthy skeletal markers indicate that transitioning from a predominantly animal-based diet to a grain and plant-based diet has been a major contributing factor in our decline in health.
As expressed above, our ancestors were not accustomed to breaking down plant-based food, as shown by our stomach pH.
What's more, our genetics take around 25,000 years to adapt.
The agricultural revolution may have brought about increased crop yields with fewer workers. However, our genetics had yet to acclimate to this new plant-based way of eating.
And considering how long it takes for our genes to evolve and given our gut pH, it looks like we still can't.
It doesn't matter how nutrient-dense a plant-based diet is. Data demonstrates that our gut has not adapted to this way of eating, so the nutrients are not bioavailable.
As a result of the agricultural revolution, since our peak health 12,000 years ago, we have seen:
- Our average height has declined from 5'9" to 5'5"
- Porous cranial bone tissue indicating a lack of nutrients
- Increased cavities, tooth decay and enamel loss due to inadequate fat-soluble vitamins
- Spinal issues suggesting poor immune function due to low-nutrient diets
- Signs of poor wound healing and increased infections
- Shorter femurs from insubstantial nutrients
And lastly, we have seen a decrease in brain size by 10% over the last 10,000 years.
Many propose that this decline again points to the post-agricultural diet's lower nutrient and caloric density.
As sovereign individuals, if we want to maximize our health, the best place to start is what we consume.
If our ancestral lineage is as the data suggests, recognizing that animal products have been a significant part of our predecessor's diets is not something to be swept under the rug.
Or as Ayn Rand might say:
We can ignore reality by continuing to push plant-based diets, but we cannot ignore the effects of reality. The repercussions that plant-based diets may have on our health.
So, if you're unsure whether you should eat something, just ask yourself, did my pre-Neolithic hunter-gather ancestors eat it? If not, then maybe you should think twice.
Thanks for taking the time to read this issue of The Qi of Self-Sovereignty. I hope you found it insightful.
I always welcome feedback and thoughts. So, do not hesitate to respond to the newsletter email, comment on the article or reach out via Twitter.
The future is bright!