Posts Tagged ‘bacteria’

PaleoDiet, Sugar, and the History of Carbohydrates

(cross-posted @ Good Tithings)

Dr. Lam has a post on the link between sugar and all the ills of humanity. While I’m certainly for a low sugar diet (and the proscriptions in the post are largely fine), he brings up some points that are patently false (and therefor irk me something fierce).

In particular, he quotes (favorably) Robert Crayhon, the dude who created the “Paleo Diet”, in his distinction between what Crayhon calls paleocarbs and neocarbs (no, neocarbs are not a description of Karl Rove and his cronies):

Paleocarbs are carbohydrates that have existed since the beginning of time. They include fruits, seeds, and vegetables that primarily grow above the ground. Generally speaking, these are “good” carbohydrates as they provide the body with needed antioxidants, fiber, nutrients, and calories in a slow-release fashion.

Neocarbs are carbohydrates introduced within the last 10,000 years when modern agriculture first started. These include grains, legumes and flour products. Some neocarbs like legumes are grown above the ground and are nutritious. Others are grown under the ground. These include potato, yam and carrots, which are high in sugar and therefore not optimum for heath.

Ridiculous! “… have existed since the beginning of time.” No they didn’t! The most paleo of carbs are BY FAR simple sugars. Glucose, a very simple sugar. The earliest life forms (that had any sort of complexity) on earth were most certainly bacteria, and they use simple sugars all the time for cellular respiration as well as other processes.

True ‘neocarbs’ are anything at all having to do with plants, like cellulose. These wonderful complex carbohydrates that we are all so fond of eating for our health (a good thing) didn’t pop onto the scene for quite some time. And the newest of them all are fruits and vegetables! They are, in fact, a ridiculously recent invention.

Fruits and veggies come from flowering plants. Up until the Cretaceous period, there were no such thing as flowering plants. That means that early herbivore dinosaurs (like the Brontosaurus) didn’t eat fruit, they probably ate pine needles and other hard to digest foods (partially explaining the VERY large gut needed to ferment, digest, the food). That’s fiber, baby!

Fruits and vegetables actually constitute a relatively simple sugar in comparison.

The next complaint is about the idea that his neocarbs are all recent inventions. Many of them are new varieties, but we have to be careful. Wheat existed previously in the wild. We didn’t engineer it in the lab. We just selected for the right versions for long enough that the domesticated variety is now far easier for us to harvest and process.

Simple sugars are not good for you (except during a workout). But the reason is NOT because they are “newer” inventions in the history of life. Simple sugars are the ‘oldest’ of all sugars (still misleading). That isn’t the point. The point is that your body doesn’t do well when inundated with that much sugar.

We humans are a new ‘invention’, and as such we require a NEW kind of diet. Leave the sugar to paleo-creatures like bacteria and yeast.