The Agricultural Revolution was the beginning of the first time in history when energy sources (food) went from being seasonal and scarce to year-round and abundant. Without the Agricultural Revolution, our society would not have flourished the way that it has over the centuries. Without abundant food, population would be a fraction of what it is and our socioeconomic structure would look much differently. But with all the good things that the Agricultural Revolution did for our culture and economy, it created diseases and living situations which have wreaked havoc on our health and wellness over the years.
A mismatch disease is a disease that can be attributed to cultural habits and eating habits that have been adopted over the years which our bodies are not adapted for. Mismatch disease actually accounts for the majority of disease that plagues us today, and about 70% of them are preventable. This can really be a wide range of things, so let’s look at a couple specific examples to get an idea:
Type 2 Diabetes
There are a bunch of metabolic disorders that have take over our country as of late: obesity, hypo and hyperthyroidism, diabetes to name a few. Type 2 diabetes, or adult on-set diabetes, is typically (but not always) accompanied by obesity. This form of diabetes is defined by the inability of the pancreas to produce insulin in response to blood glucose. Simply put, when you each carbs your body releases insulin to store it until it is released too frequently to the point that the pancreas essentially becomes burnt out. Up until the Agricultural Revolution, type 2 diabetes was essentially non-existent. The reason being? Humans had to really work for their food at the time, hunting for meat and foraging for fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds. So less food was immediately available for consumption, making it nearly impossible to over-tax the pancreas from insulin release.
Your body has a great way of making sure that any bone that is damaged, is repaired, but not too repaired. You have cells in your body that help repair bone and break down bone. Osteoblasts are cells that repair bone, making sure that anything that has been broken or overstressed is repaired. Osteoclasts break down bone, regulating the osteoblasts work and also effecting anything that is not properly stressed. Here’s the thing….once you hit about age 20, if you don’t properly stress your bones, your osteoclasts will have a field day. When you overstress your bones, osteoblasts will add levels of support, helping to strengthen your bones to be able to sustain higher levels of stress. So when pre-Agricultural Revolution humans were hunting and foraging, they were constantly stressing their bones, never allowing osteoclasts to take over. Nowadays, we sit our desks for work, go home and sit on our couches and watch TV, sleep on our cushiony beds and wake up and sit at the table for breakfast. That’s a recipe for weak bones!
Here’s the great thing about these 2 mismatch examples I just gave you…..you don’t have to get them! As a matter of fact, it’s pretty easy! Simply by eating a healthy, nutritious diet and adequately stressing your bones through some form of exercise will prevent both of these from ever happening. Even better news? If you happen to have one of these mismatch diseases, there is a very good chance you can reverse your symptoms by doing the same. Studies show that high-intensity training can bring bone mineral density close to normal in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16138787). For type 2 diabetes, studies found that low carb nutrition lowered HbA1c levels (the form of hemoglobin that is measured to identify average plasma glucose concentration, which is predictor of type 2 diabetes) significantly (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24390522).
Of course, I’m not suggesting that you quit going to the grocery store and suddenly become Tarzan…..although that would be pretty cool! All it takes is a little TLC to keep yourself up and running for years to come!