Thesis #53 – Young people with significant agricultural ancestry can sustain their health with agricultural patterns of nutrition and activity, but not with an evolutionarily novel industrial lifestyle.
It is tempting to suppose that young people with agricultural ancestry are so well-adapted to novel foods that they can do well regardless of what we feed them, or how little exercise they receive. It may well be true that their high levels of function will probably enable them to cope to some extent with the pathological novelties of many of the foods that are advertised on television, particularly compared to older adults.
But it is virtually certain that such children would fare better with an “organic” agricultural diet free of refined sugars, trans-fats, high-fructose corn syrup, and the long list of chemical additives that are put into processed foods. And the same strictures would apply with even greater force to toxic residues of pesticides, the industrial chemicals that are used to coat cans and plastic bottles, and so on. To the extent to which an industrial compound has any biological activity, it constitutes a novel environmental factor to which no one is now adapted.
Refined sugars alone illustrate this point perfectly. Modern-day dental treatment of young people is necessary primarily because of the exposure of their teeth to high levels of dietary refined sugar. Among hunter-gatherer populations who do not consume Western foods, the cavities and other forms of oral decay that are so common in young people living in industrial societies, by contrast, are almost wholly absent. Even those who adopt a more “organic” agricultural diet are spared much of this dental deterioration. And later in life, massive sugar exposure fosters the onset of type II diabetes.
This is not an argument against novel environmental factors that have direct and unequivocal health benefits. Those who face acute viral, bacterial, fungal, protozoan, or helminth infections are well-advised to take the corresponding antiviral, antibiotic, antifungal, and anti-parasite chemical agents. These all can and do save lives. Nor is this an argument against vaccination, pasteurization, personal hygiene, or the sterilization of medical equipment. Well-researched and screened pharmaceuticals or medical procedures can afford great benefits to all of us.
It is also virtually certain that young people, like the rest of us, are not suited to the modern-day pattern of restricted physical activity, with long hours of enforced physical passivity as well as the addictive pursuit of athletically inert activities, like video-gaming or using social media. It is in the practical interest of many industrial institutions to keep all of us, and especially the young, as inert as possible. But such inactivity is directly inimical to our health at ages much above three years. The volume of medical and epidemiological data illustrating this evolutionarily basic point is vast, and hardly needs to be labored over here.