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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Guns, Germs and Steel

Author Jared Diamond has suggested that the invention of agriculture might have been the worst mistake in human history.

A big influence on my initial interest in low-carb theory and practice came from his book Guns, Germs and Steel: The fates of human societies. I had read it a couple of years before I read Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution (DANDR) in October 2001.

Diamond describes in exquisite detail the adoption of starch foods by various human groups around the planet, and the vast effects of this on the human story. In fact, the book could have been titled "Guns, Germs, Grains and Steel."

When I read DANDR, I instantly recognized how our current predicaments fit perfectly into the story thread of GGS. I remember thinking, of course! Carbohydrate! The one macronutrient we humans couldn't have based our diets on before we developed agriculture. That there was no logically possible way that we evolved as grain eaters. That the optimal human diet couldn't possibly be one based around whole grains.

Grains have only been in the human diet in any quantity for maybe ten thousand years, and homo sapiens has been the species it is as we know it for over ten times longer than that. (And homo erectus didn't exactly plow fields of amber waves at any point in the past whatever million years, either.)

Whenever I hear or read anyone saying that we require whole grains for health, that we need carbohydrate, that we need to base our diets on grains, that it should be the one food we eat more servings of each day than any other, I find myself thinking: No way. No way. There is no historical way that could possibly be true.

At any rate, I highly recommend this fascinating book to anyone seeking a non-nutrition oriented companion to Good Calories, Bad Calories, or other low-carb related study. Also check out the 2005 PBS miniseries of the same title: Guns, Germs and Steel.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Intuitively and empirically* we know I.Q. is not distributed equally among geographically distinct populations in the world.

The question as to why Europeans (IQ: 100) ended up dominating the world and not, for example, the people from Equatorial Guinea (IQ: 66!) is obvious.

Jared Diamond's omission of the biological explanation is inexcusable and oddly curious.

* IQ & Welath of Nations