Maybe our ancestors processed carbohydrate simply because they didn’t want a belly ache.

I’ve heard it said in some arguments that the activity of refining a carbohydrate in ancestral times e.g. wood pulp to make it edible (yes, that is a thing) or other plant-like crap was because when people are hungry that they are processing a said food for the sake of energy density or something like that. I’m probably remembering the exact explanation wrong.

To be fair there are some reasons why that might be true and there some reasons that perhaps raise more nuanced questions.

Nuanced questions can be exhausting depending on your disposition, how old you are, etc. Some folks settle on an idea, fully well knowing there is more to the story, but because the question is so exhausting to explore and there are so many interacting variables, the question is laid to rest and an assumption is made. And we are all guilty of that.

I largely find that behavior a symptom of aging or energy deficit. But some people will say well I don’t have time to think about such things, so I’m just going to continue on standing on that soapbox and promoting it as something good for the general public because it works for me. And I’m cool with that (the part where you do your own thing), except, then if you are going to be like that then you need to not be judgmental. Or if you are going to be judgmental which is your right, then STFU about it and tender some evidence.

Sometimes you see that in fanatical religious people, the world is changing around them, becoming more complicated, yet there is this disconnect and simple-minded resistance against recognizing that the world is changing around them and fossilizing their ideas. Which in the end means they are wrong and for those types is like hell-on-earth, but they’d probably admit that, which would lead to a conversation about heaven.

Now if I’m starving to death, I’m going to either be hunting for food or digging for food, then I’m going to light it on fire, cook it and eat it. Processing food can be very labor intensive. And in the case of processing wood pulp, can take 2-3 days before it’s finally edible. It also takes a group of people. A labor force of sorts. And so those folks are going to be expending a lot of energy and maybe they might need to eat more. So what would be the point of all that.

Maybe partly for security. Like job security except for food. Because maybe digging for der ders isn’t always a reliable source of food. You know how it is you go to your job you work, you might not like it that much or maybe you do, but you do it anyway because you know at the end of it, you’ll get your paycheck, and you’ll get your reliable source of food, your PS4, cable TV, and Internets. And according to some you’ll get obesity along with it. And that is a pretty sweet deal when you get to have this kind of guaranteed relaxation; even for diabetics. And because of that relaxation time some curious chap had the time to think about things and make some medicine that the diabetics could take to prolong their life for a while longer, even if in the end the medicine ends up killing them, it did allow them to prolong their habits for better or worse, got to die of something (lets not miss the overall point of that please).

Then you have these folks saying it is healthier and more evolutionary appropriate to go out sweat and look for food, expend energy, have irregular sleep patterns, maybe eat a poisonous root mistaken for a potato, or raped by a bear, etc., in a modern day context.

And maybe if that was the only thing you were doing you would be healthy and “happy” if you were lucky enough to avoid disaster. But that is like pulling the rat out of his cage that I mentioned in a previous post where you take a group who is in one context very healthy and drop them into another. Probably not going to have good results but who knows you might. There was a big experiment done called Paleo, and it’s still ongoing in various forms.

Because some people decided to promote this thing called Paleo. I’m talking about the low carbohydrate version which is probably on version 99 right now. And for some they say it worked and (in another post we are going to explore the term “worked” and what that entails) made their blood markers improve, made them loose weight, got them off medications, etc.

However, overall the general trend has moved back towards the argument of having carbohydrate despite those beneficial things (which tells me that at best restricting carbohydrate it is an effective intervention therapy for some that somewhat makes static, depending on how you look at it, or “reverses” in the sense of symptom relief, but not cures, a overall declining physiological state). First it was things like sweet der ders, der ders, rices, taro, etc., I think that started with Paul Jaminet and safe starches years back.

And now even though I don’t really pay attention anymore it seems like people have gravitated towards more of a whole foods type thing that seems pretty balanced. But the battle scars are there. I see a lot people who are now worse off. For example, a few months back someone posted a recent picture on Twitter where there were some notable Paleo folks sitting down around a table having steaks and salads. And the steaks I’ve got no problem with really, I have meat when I’m hungry for it. But they are were all balding to various degrees and they didn’t start that way. But hey, that way of eating is supposed to promote the image that fertile women are attracted to. Now they might talk about genetics and such and hey maybe people who are going to eventually be bald self-select for Paleo, but I don’t really buy into all that.

Just recently because I’ve been busy and under a rock I heard about this thing called Plant Paleo. I went into listening to the Podcast thinking this was going to be like a diet made mostly of starch and regular consumption of animal products just with the emphasis placed on carbohydrate. But it ended up being like not even a egg a day, low in animal protein, a lot of raw veggies, scheduled feasts, and a totally ridiculous bucket of horseshit. But it seemed to work for the guy, got him ripped and made him happy. That’s cool. I dig that. You are doing what works for you and gives the image for a male that is currently acceptable to our culture. I’m sorry but I prefer the softer looking appearance on males and females. If you are so ripped that I can see your internal organs it probably means you are useful for little else.

Like the first book I read close to a decade ago now was Weston Price’s, and for all it’s flaws the one thing I did not notice was the regular consumption of raw vegetables. But then there were other books I read like The Old Way and there too there was no impression that these folks were eating raw vegetables to maintain health.

And scheduled feasts, like that to me is just a reach around to again try to recreate some sort of fairy tale associated with good times and good health. I’m not into that and I feel it’s maladaptive and conducive to eating disorders.

I think the biggest lesson out of everything we learned about nutrition over the past decade is that industrial polyunsaturated fat should be avoided. Cholesterol is: who cares. And butter is good. And I say that being fully aware of some 90+ year olds and 100+ year olds had plenty of PUFA in their diet over their lifespan and where fine if we are ONLY considering longevity and not other factors that contribute to quality of life (such as sharpness of mind, mobility, etc.). And I have some interesting speculations as to why. And that same argument could be made against a lot of things to convince us that any risk when it comes to our diet is best avoided. But then that more often then not causes problems as well.

So the idea that carbohydrate was o.k. for our ancestors because they were looking for energy density and processed their carbohydrate for the sake of energy density makes little sense to me. Maybe they just wanted some pure ass, nutrient void carbohydrate, so that when they were out hunting the guy throwing the stone tip stick didn’t fall over because he got a cramp from all the fiber he ate and thus fail to bring home some food for his crew.

I often look at high level athletes for patterns and eating behaviors especially some of the differences between males and females, because I think performance, good performance dictates some important lessons (1) athletes often have some strange eating rituals, almost superstitious, instead of viewing this as some psychosomatic voodoo I’ve always taken the overall theme at face value and that athlete is eating what makes him feel well when he performs and when he is doing hard training which allows him to (a) perform, (b) recover and (c) wake up and do it again the next day because if (d) he can’t then he fails at whatever he is trying to accomplish. And I think we can extend some of those concepts to regular folks like you and me and apply them to life.

The whole paradigm of Paleo, or LCHF, started as a good thing not because it is the ultimate truth, but because it caused us to pause and reflect and look at things more carefully much the same way that for some Dr. Peat was and is an inspiration. But Dr. Peat went a step beyond and inspired some to go down a road that was less traveled and inspire meaningful thought and curiosity which in the end I believe is more health giving and enriching then rigid guidelines and inflexible eating frameworks and in reality just another case of herd mentality. Dr. Peat’s contributions are not about sugar and PUFA his main contribution in my opinion is having some balls. He demonstrates his ability to evolve with the ever changing scientific literature all while maintaining an overall consistency. That’s a beautiful thing. Having a big pair of balls i.e. the ability to think for yourself is increasingly important (not that it ever wasn’t). Being consistent does not mean you are biased. Being biased usually means you are inconsistent. 

Where Paleo and LCHF fails now in my opinion, and for a long time now, is that they are becoming exactly what they criticized rushing to conclusions too quickly. And then you have those bundles of sticks that are o.k. with sugar taxes, WTF. Like seriously, WTF. Why don’t you first figure how to make food affordable before you start imposing more taxes, that go to who exactly?, healthcare costs?, sounds like wishful thinking to me. What a bunch of tools. How such a “free thinking” and “critical” crowd can think more authoritarianism is conducive to better health because we are too stupid to know better is somehow the solution to ANY problem is beyond my simple mind. Why don’t we just allow people free access to published research show students how to access it preferably before college and teach them basic science and math and statistics so they can read it informed and let them and future generations draw their own conclusions.

I often get emails from people who are sick and they ask for advice. I usually respond with more questions or I engage the person in a way that offers support to their situation rather than answers. Because I don’t have the answers, I’m just a dude with a blog, anybody can do this, I just think in a way about things that sometimes makes people feel free to ask questions, there are lots of people out there like that. I’m not a Doctor, please stop sending me lists of symptoms and asking “What should I do?”. I think unless you are dying or have a GSW to the chest, that the helplessness and hopelessness that you feel is because you are looking for answers, stop looking for answers, look to ask the right questions and then SEEK the answer, that order is important.

Maybe our ancestors processed carbohydrate simply because they didn’t want a belly ache.

Maybe it’s a mixture of both energy density and not wanting a belly ache and security. But for sure it’s not simply energy density because I’m starving.

12 Comments Maybe our ancestors processed carbohydrate simply because they didn’t want a belly ache.

  1. Matt

    Yeah I’m gonna go with “Maybe they just wanted some pure ass, nutrient void carbohydrate, so that when they were out hunting the guy throwing the stone tip stick didn’t fall over because he got a cramp from all the fiber he ate and thus fail to bring home some food for his crew.”

    From “Out of Africa: What Dr. Price Dr. Burkitt Discovered in Their Studies of Sub-Saharan Tribes”

    “What Burkitt and Trowell failed to recognize is that Africans do not eat their grain foods as we do in the west, in the form of quick rise breads, cold cereals, energy bars and pasta, but as a sour or acid porridge. Throughout Africa, these porridges are prepared by the fermentation of maize, sorghum, millet or cassava. Preparation “at the homestead” begins with washing the grains, then steeping them in water for 24 to 72 hours. The grain is drained and the water discarded. Soaked grains are wet milled and passed through a sieve. The hulls or leavings in the sieve are discarded. In other words, the Africans throw away the bran. The smooth paste that passes through the sieve may undergo further fermentation. Soaking water that rises to the top is discarded and the slurry is boiled to make a sour porridge. Sometimes the slurry is allowed to drain and ferment further to form a gel-like substance that is wrapped in banana leaves, making a convenient and nutritious energy bar that can easily be carried into the fields and consumed without further preparation.7 Often sour porridges are consumed raw as “sorghum beer” a thin, slightly alcoholic slurry that provides lactic acid and many beneficial enzymes.”

  2. Mark

    What are you’re thoughts on running and it’s effect thyroid function and overall health? At first I reduced my running to 3 times a week after becoming interested in Ray Peat’s ideas and then after reading a post by haidut on Ray Peat forum I completely gave it up. He made the very bold statement that even 25 mins of running will double or triple your prolactin levels for two to three days. He also said that endurance athletes have 2 to 3 times higher serotonin levels then sedentary people. Unfortunately he didn’t sight any sources. Maybe (if these statements are actually true) the results would have been different if they were breathing through their noses versus mouths? I know Buteyeko was big on endurance excercise (but only with nose breathing) and Peat seems to have a lot of respect for him. I miss running! I’d love to know you’re thoughts on this since you seemed to be a hell of a runner at one point (judging from the video posted in thyroid function and saturated fat). But it seems like maybe you might have stopped running? Thanks

  3. Shane

    I’d wager that there’d be a pretty big difference in hormonal response post-running between running on a natural earth surface like grass without shoes on underneath daytime sunlight compared to running on a treadmill in a gym shoes-on underneath fluorescent/LED lighting. Context is everything.

  4. Edward

    Hi Mark, the short answer, is I don’t know.


    On rare occasions I will sometimes go out for a mile run simply because I feel the urge and it feels good. Outside of that the only other type of running I do is short sprints or hill sprints which for me is an adjunct to develop explosive power during squatting. I would never run like I used to a) because I enjoy weightlifting more, b) shoes are expensive, and c) I feel that weightlifting improved my health whereas running seemed to be neutral or make my health worse (in the long term it made my health worse). But for some people it really is a way of life and they seem to be fine whether it is a direct affect of running or an indirect affect by being apart of a larger community.

    I try not to over think these things because if you really do enjoy running you should, just stop before you feel miserable. LOL. I generally think movement is good and I think that feeling the desire to move is usually a sign of good or improving health and I feel that is correlated with wanting to explore the world or your own limits. The caveat is that you should do it because you enjoy it not because you think it is healthy. Children play and run around and I don’t think there is anything unhealthy about that and I doubt children run around and play solely for health benefits.

    I did most of my training on the trails as road running was boring as hell for me unless I was in the city and had things to look at and explore. I also ran and continued to do so at the time because running fast was fun and something I wanted to experience. I’m sure there is some contextual hormonal differences between running in a circle verses running on trails. I’m also sure that what Shane mentioned about running with minimal footwear also has some bearing on the issue but I don’t know how significant the effect would be.

    I will go a step further and say that people who discourage movement are in a big sense peddling a paradoxical baseless argument against their own theories for 3 reasons:

    1) Essentially it invalidates the idea that energy and structure are interdependent because it puts the function of structure in a vacuum that does not exist in reality (and also makes functional structure and form meaningless), and that stimulating structure cannot have a positive effect on the organism and cause adaptation and once again reduces evolution and adaption to random chance mutations and unwittingly overall supports this genetically programmed basis of life as the sole determiner of an outcome. The consequence of that argument is implication we cannot adapt to stress and that adaption to stress is maladaptive. What?

    2) In that they are inadvertently limiting individual adaptive potential and philosophically, freedom.

    3) Their mentality is utterly dependent on an underlying political system and/or charity that allows them to remain sedentary, stand on the sidelines, and shake their fingers at what we are all doing wrong.

    Sounds kind of authoritarian to me.

    Traditional people moved a lot more then we did and were largely healthier then we are and were able to adapt to new challenges both physically and mentally. The present day delicate genius syndrome is highly indicative of sick physiology and overall simply maladaptive in the long run.

    Can you over stress a system and inhibit further adaptation, hell yeah you can, the whole point of “training” physically and/or mentally (practicing and instrument, playing video games, doing puzzles, etc.) is to increase the capacity to further adapt, to do more, to increase proficiency or get better. It’s why Joe Blow off the street can’t walk up to a racked 160kg barbell and squat it ATG on the first day it’s why you can’t “will” yourself to “know” a language without studying it, it requires exposure, exposure to some type of stimulus and/or change in homeostasis. In weightlifting you start with the barbell or broomstick just like in language you start with the alphabet, numbers, and simple phrases and images. Sure some people progress in whatever it is faster than others but the point is that developing a skill or quality is a progression, a progression of enhancing capacity and building on it.

    Nonetheless below is food for thought.

  5. Mark

    Thanks a lot for the response. I love Ray Peat forum and I’ve learned so much from reading it but it’s so fucked up honestly. Oh it’s ok to dose the shit out of lisuride (one of the strongest dopamine agonists on the market which has been shown to induce severe DAWS which can last for months or even years) but run 3 times a week for 20 mins and you’re going to completely destroy your health. Everybody on there is so obsessed with avoiding stress. Stress is subjective and ultimately unavoidable. Unless you’re in a life threatening situation (which lots of people are in everyday) you should Strive to just manage the stress of day to day life, not avoid it. Most people would consider the intense research and study that Ray peat does to be “very stressful”. I don’t know…

  6. Matt

    My views on the safety of moderate to high levels of CHO change pretty frequently, but I tend to always come back to Rosedale. He started out studying diabetics, saw that diabetes was basically an accelerated model for aging, and so extrapolated from there that glucose and chronically elevated insuling are causative factors in aging and the diseases of aging. Of course, there are many people who can tolerate higher levels of CHO, but I think those people are healthy in spite of carbs, rather than because of them. I’ve never payed much attention to the toxic vs non toxic starch debate because those factors seem to be less relevant than the overall metabolic impact of the starch. The healthier you are and the more active you are, the less metabolic consequences there will be to eating a lot of glucose, but if we are talking about what is most optimal for human health, then eliminating glucose and the associated hormonal swings seems like a good idea. I basically became diabetic following Pete’s advice, eating lots of sugar, avoiding fat, etc, so I’m kind of a canary in the coal mine in terms of what foods do metabolic damage and what foods don’t at this point. I think PUFA is bad universally, the damage from carbs can be mitigated somewhat, and I think many of the problems associated with VLC diets often stem from the tendency to overconsume protein when you restrict carbs, which is as bad or worse than overconsuming glucose. Are VLC diets easy or fun? No. Do they cause restrictive eating patterns that are kind of stressful and annoying? Yes. There is a lot of fear mongering out there about the necessity of glucose for health, and problems associated with VLC diets long term, but the devil is in the details in terms of what is actually causing the problems. VLC, high fat, moderate protein is not an easy road to go down, but I can’t argue with the results or the logic behind it.

  7. Matt

    Another thing is I think there is a lot of “magical thinking” in the health world, lots of weird analogies, lots of comparison to older cultures and what they ate, etc, and this kind of thinking sort of blurs the lines of what is important and what is significantly less important to focus on. If you just like that kind of thing, whether you are talking about grounding, emf, wearing magnets on your wrists, or making herb tinctures, thats all well and good and have fun with it. But I think there needs to be more Occam’s razor thinking if we are really talking about getting as healthy as possible. What are the most important things to focus on, what things have the biggest impact, what makes the most sense, what translates to the fastest real world results, etc. What 20% of the information out there is going to yield 80% of the benefits, and what 80% is mostly fluff that doesn’t translate to much in the real world. I love Peat and I love his writing, but he doesn’t really give a logical, simple blueprint for people to follow to become healthy. He just sort of expounds on interesting stuff, people read it, and then proceed to destroy their health, and then use hormones to try to rebuild the health they destroyed, thinking the hormones were the problem the whole time. Same thing with Jack Kruse. Smart guy, but its like reading a fantasy novel. He could just say “circadian rhythm is important”, but instead he says stuff about watery muses, chugging cold water, the diving response, certain states in the US stealing more electrons than others, etc. Craziness.

    Anyways, anyone can be wrong, but someone has to be right, so I think finding what works and keeping it as simple as possible should be a priority. The other details are fun to talk about, but won’t translate much in the real world.

  8. Matt

    Hi Edward,

    So I just stumbled across your blog, and as someone that’s experimented with Paleo, and Ray Peat eating patterns, without much success, I find your writing very interesting. I’ve only read a few posts so far, but do you have a link to where you give a basic idea of the type of diet you prefer? Thanks.

  9. Matt

    Nevermind the above, since I found out what you eat deftly hidden in the blog post titled “What do I eat (2014)?”.

    A question regarding a diet high in saturated fat and atherosclerosis. Do you find it concerning that the Maasai apparently had a significant amount of atherosclerosis? They were asymptomatic until autopsies revealed what was going on, but most people aren’t going to be physically active enough to gain protection.

  10. Edward

    Hi Matt, diffuse intima thickening (DIT) or atherosclerosis that the Maasai had was probably physiological because as you mentioned it was “asymptomatic”. Pathological DIT which can be a consequence of pathological insulin resistance is the bad stuff. To quote Peter:

    “Arteriosclerosis begins as non pathological DIT which is a reinforcement system to maximise the correct development of the arterial tree to best withstand the loads to which it is subjected. It gives a tailor-made cardiovascular system for a given individual.”

  11. Edward

    Hi Matt, I have a post or two up around here about what I eat, but be warned, although my saturated fat intake is high my carbohydrate intake does vary depending on what I’m doing so the take home message should be saturated fat good PUFA bad, that’s about the only rule. Protein is pretty consistent and never really goes above 100g per day from meat.

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