Hunter-gatherer Nutrition and Its Implications for Modern Societies
Human populations in modern, westernized societies exhibit patterns of diet and physical activity that are associated with increased incidence of chronic and degenerative diseases, such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers, among others. One means of identifying the factors that contribute to such diseases is to compare current lifestyles to those pursued by the human species for most of its existence, to which we are presumably still genetically adapted. Because little information regarding the nutritional practices and disease rates among prehistoric humans is available, data from recently characterized hunter-gatherer tribes can be used as a substitute, in that their ways of life do not differ substantially from the evolutionary standard. A brief examination of the practices of such groups reveals striking divergences from current, civilized behaviors, and in many cases, corresponding variations in the incidence of major diseases. These differences suggest new strategies for improving the health of patients in industrialized nations through nutritional and behavioral intervention, as well as corroborating certain accepted nutritional recommendations.