Review Part 2: In Search of the Perfect Human Diet

In the April 15 SUNDAY PALEO, I reviewed the first half of a new documentary, In Search of the Perfect Human Diet, by CJ Hunt. We left off with Hunt visiting Dr. Cordain and learning about the evolution of the human diet over the past two million years while they both walked down the football field at CSU in Fort Collins, CO.

Continuing his search, Hunt then travels to New York to interview physical anthropologist Gary J. Sawyer of The American Museum of Natural History. From Sawyer, Hunt learns about our Paleolithic ancestors and how they lived. When comparing the modern diet to that of our ancestors, Sawyer observes:

We do not know how to eat properly. We feed ourselves, but we fail to give ourselves proper nutrition.

While in New York, Hunt also interviews Leslie Aiello, PhD, of the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. Dr. Aiello reminds us that our Paleolithic hunter-gatherer ancestors, in contrast to our limited palate today, ate “a huge diversity of foods.” The reduced diversity of our diet following the agricultural revolution led to nutritional deficiencies that caused a reduction in our stature: modern humans are much smaller than the Paleolithic ancestors.

Later in his travels, Hunt visits the Max Plank Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany to meet Professor Mike Richards, a specialist in prehistoric bone chemistry. This remarkable segment reveals what state-of-the-art techniques are telling us about the evolution of the human diet. We now have direct evidence of the components our ancestors' diet and the important role of meat, fish, and plants in human nutrition. Interestingly, no vegetarians have been identified in the bone analysis of thousands of human ancestors studied from all over the world.

According to Dr. Richards, our current age, the Neolithic, “is a new experiment,” one that we are not adapted to. Is the Paleolithic diet the “most optimum” for humans?

It has to be, it’s what evolutionary pressures got us towards and we were successful in that kind of diet. It’s got to be the best diet for humans.

The video ends with a section on the clinical application of this newly developing knowledge. In Wimberley, Texas, Hunt interviews Dr. Lane Sebring, a physician who is clearly knowledgeable on role of the ancestral diet in medicine. Dr. Seabring discusses how he advises his patients and then takes Hunt to a nearby grocery store to show how easily we are marketed “foods” that undermine our health.

In Search of the Perfect Human Diet is an excellent “crash course” on the ancestral diet. Available on DVD, I recommend it to anyone wanting to take control of his or her nutrition from the surrounding culture. The movie is enlightening for those new to this nutritional approach as well as for those with years of experience.

For health care providers, it provides a new approach to helping people suffering from many chronic disorders. As the CDC reminds us, ¾ of U.S. health care spending is directed at preventable modern diseases and these costs continue to increase. The ancestral diet may prove to be a powerful tool to reverse this trend.