The healthy paleo diet of North American aboriginals

Lean native people of the not so distant past

This week some of my friends have been sharing pictures of Alaska natives on Facebook; these pictures depict people noticeably suffering from obesity. Indeed, diabetes rate among natives is twice that of the white population, yet it was a disease that was virtually non-existent before the inundation of White staples, flour and sugar.  Natives too are realizing that they were much healthier when their diet was more traditional and contained less processed foods (CBC):

“Long time ago my parents didn’t know anything about diabetes,” recalls Flossie Oakoak, a 62-year-old Inuk originally from Cambridge Bay who has Type 2 diabetes. “When there was no white man here, there was only caribou, char. Most of the people are getting bigger and bigger.”

Along with diabetes and obesity, tooth decay had arrived among the Yupik, as I noticed one summer working in Bethel with a young man whose front teeth were rotting, a problem I’ve also seen among Africans.  But the advent of sugar in the diet of the aboriginal people around the world has resulted in dental misery.  We can also thank the Coca Cola Company for their successful sales abroad–exporting White man’s misery to the hapless native.

The lean healthy people of the aboriginal past is a major plank in the argument for the paleo diet.  Gary Taubes presents a readable account of this tragedy in Why we get fat and what to do about.  He tells how the Pima of Arizona were very healthy people before the Gold Rush and how, after the invaders came and destroyed their habitat and their wholesome food supply, the Pima began to depend on US government handouts which consisted of sugar and flour.  Since then, the Pima have suffered terribly from malnutrition, obesity, and diabetes, along with all the diseases which stem from uncontrolled blood sugars.  This includes higher rates of depression and suicide.  People leading NGO and government efforts to help native communities overcome mental illness should consider the underlying contribution of bad diet consisting of processed foods high in sugar and grains.

For natives around the world, the paleo diet would consist of returning to a traditional diet high in fat and low in carbohydrate. Indeed, fat as the major source of nutrition in the diet would make a major contribution to health, if people would also cut the sugar and starch.  This I know from my own experience, and it breaks my heart to see that the bad, iatrogenic nutritional advice of today’s conventional wisdom continues to kill people by destroying their health and depriving them of their vigour. I would urge aboriginal people to eat the fat, e.g., the pemmican and muktuk, but skip the sugar and starch.