This blog is about the intersection between evolutionary biology and food. But also about practical applications, sustainable agriculture, and general tasty things.
Lately I've been reading Ancient Bodies, Modern Lives. The book is already dog-eared because there is so much interesting information in there. While some people have said that the paleo diet is "unwomanly" this book really makes it clear that women bear the brunt of the consequences of the inappropriate diets most humans eat these days. It also is a great reminder that diet isn't everything and aspects of human lifestyle that may seem trivial can have a huge impact.
A couple of months ago I read The Continuum Concept and I've been meaning to blog about it. This book was written the year I was BORN, but has some of the foundations of evolutionary medicine. Jean Liedloff believed that the human body expects certain things because of our evolutionary past and that there are consequences for subverting this. While living with indigenous people in the Amazon, she noticed how differently they treated their children compared to Western women. Unfortunately, she was not trained as a scientist or an anthropologist, so while she was able to understand that this was important and had huge consequences, much of her book is psychoanalytic speculation.
Ancient Bodies, Modern Lives is written by biological anthropologist Wenda Travathan. It's definitely an academic book, but it's very readable and clear that Wenda has been involved in a movement to allow women to give birth in a way more appropriate for our species. It's pretty much everything I wanted in The Continuum Concept and brings the evolutionary paradigm further by delving into biology.
The natural birth movement is often associated with unscientific sentiment, but after reading these two books it's clear that modern birthing and child rearing methods are a huge source of misery for women, men, and children. Some of the advice in these books is eminently practical and most of it shatters childbearing preconceptions I never even thought to question.
Obviously a baby in the paleolithic era was born vaginally. Lots of women think "thank god we live in the modern era, because I/my mom/many women would have died in other eras because they didn't have C-sections." But what if the C-sections aren't a boon of the modern era, but a consequence of modern life? Coincidentally I have a copy of The Vitamin D Solution and previewing it I turned to a page that said that "In 2008, Anne Merewood and D. Howard Bauchner and my team reported a landmark study indicating that women who had low 25-vitamin D levels were more likely to have a C-section....we concluded that a woman with low vitamin D levels is four times more likely to deliver by C-section..."
A baby in the paleolithic was also not placed in a crib to sleep alone. That might seem trivial, but an alone baby in the paleolithic was a dead baby. Wenda presents evidence that the Western ideal of having a baby sleep alone through the night is unrealistic and perhaps even harmful to both the baby and its parents.
A paleolithic baby was also breastfed. I think scientific research has made it obvious that any formula is inferior to the real thing, a testament to humanity's folly at playing god in issues of nutrition.
Then there is the obvious fact that women my age in the paleolithic were having babies, whereas I and most other women my age are actively trying to delay doing so. What are the consequences of delaying childbearing? Of hormonal birth control? These are important questions to consider.
And I will be considering them in the next posts.