Health Controversies The Modern Scourge of Obesity, Dogs and Cats, Carbs and Fats, and the Evolution of the Human Race By Barry Groves, PhD
September 9, 2002 Why does obesity not afflict any other animal species? Why does obesity not affect primitive humans? As far as obesity is concerned, it is very noticeable that in their natural environment, animals may vary in size, but never in shape. The simple fact is that in their natural habitat, animals do not get fat: no rabbit gets fat by eating too much grass; no lion gets fat by eating too much antelope; no hawk gets fat by eating too many mice; no herring gets fat by eating too much plankton, and no wolf or wild dog gets fat from eating too many rabbits. Indeed, if we look around the animal kingdom, we find a striking absence of obesity in all species.
It is also noticeably absent in primitive cultures of mankind. In 'civilized' man and his domesticated animals, however, obesity is all too common. This is highly significant. As a direct descendant of the wolf, the modern domestic dog is a pure carnivore. In its natural environment, it would catch and eat rabbits and other small mammals. Even if it were starving, it would never dream of eating ears of wheat or digging up potatoes. Man, however, has largely turned the dog into a herbivore. Meat is relatively expensive, so the domestic dog now survives largely on wheat, in the form of dog biscuits, and bread. It is little wonder, therefore, that man's best friend suffers diseases that are totally unknown in its wild relatives but are found in civilized man: dental caries, cancers, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and, most noticeably, obesity. The cat too is a pure carnivore that lives with man. But the cat does not usually suffer the diseases of civilization as the dog does. This is because it still hunts and eats mice and birds - its natural diet.
Most prepared cat foods, unlike those for the dog, are also wholly meat- and fish-based. Thus, unlike the dog, a cat's life and diet are still relatively natural. Indeed, the only time a domestic cat gets fat, or suffers other diseases, is when it is fed cat biscuits or other farinaceous food. We can make similar comparisons between human cultures. A study by Drs. W. S. McClellan and E. F. Du Bois found that the Eskimos in Baffin Island and Greenland living on a diet composed almost entirely of meat and fish, and eating no starchy or sugary foods were almost completely free from disease.
This was not the case with the Labrador Eskimos. They had been 'civilized' and lived on preserved foods, dried potatoes, flour, canned foods and cereals. Among them the diseases of civilization were rife. A comparison between the Maasai tribes of East Africa, who live alongside the Kikuyu, shows a similar pattern. The Maasai, when wholly carnivorous, drinking only the blood and milk of their cattle, were tall, healthy, long-lived and slim. The Kikuyu, when wholly vegetarian, were stunted, diseased, short-lived and pot-bellied. Over the last few decades, the Kikuyu have started to eat meat - and their health has improved. Since 1960 the Maasai diet has also changed, but in the opposite direction. They are now eating less blood and milk, replacing them with maize and beans. Their health has deteriorated. The same is true of every primitive tribe that has had contact with civilization.
What may be a good modern example of this tendency is the difference in the fact that African-Americans have a unique metabolic tendency to become obese quickly in current America, as well as a greater tendency to become diabetic. While Caucasian Americans roots are largely in Eurasia, where tens of thousands of years of ice ages were followed by the farming of grain for some nine millennia, Americans whose roots are in Africa have an entirely different dietary evolution up to the time of the slave trade. It is not surprising therefore, that their response to unnatural foods are so different from that of their white peers.
Here is another example. Asian Indians are normally vegetarian or very close to it; they eat a more 'healthy' diet, according to mainstream medicine. With only one-fifth as much obesity, they are also slimmer and have lower cholesterol levels than Caucasians. Yet in the USA they have nearly eight times more diabetes than Caucasians! Remarkably, in some studies, the rate of type II diabetes in emigrant Asian Indians, amongst adult males, has topped 60%. In the UK, the rate of type II diabetes in Asian Indians is estimated at nearly 30%. The reason we (humans) alone suffer from obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancers, etc, is our increasingly "unnatural" lifestyle. This includes our increasingly unnatural diet - for whether we want to admit it or not - we are basically a carnivorous species. As such, our bodies recognize dietary fat and protein and will control the amount we eat. But with no evolutionary history of consumption of the concentrated carbohydrates we now eat, our bodies don't recognize these as food and can't adequately control our intake. In other words, contrary to the popular beliefs, all calories are NOT created equal.
Barry Groves, PhD, is an independent health researcher and expert on nutritional science. A member of The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics, he has written for several British publications and has also been published in several medical journals, including The Lancet and Science. He is the author of Eat Fat, Get Thin, a slimming diet book based on the low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet his family has lived on for 40 years. For more information, see his website Second Opinions