Forget the Paleos: What happened to our Native People?

 

When talking LCHF, a lot of attention is focused on the Paleolithic people and what they ate. This is in part due to the overwhelming attention that the Paleo diet and advocates have gotten over the last few years. It is true that people thousand and thousand of years ago ate a LCHF diet. It is also true that our physiology hasn't changed much at all since then. Problem is, most people can't relate to our caveman ancestors. What if we focus on more recent traditional people and their way of eating? What happens to those people with the very rapid introduction of a more "modern" diet and lifestyle? Can we relate to that? Do we care? We certainly should.

 

Our own Aboriginal people are a great example, and very close to home. Up until a couple hundred years ago, and in some cases even a lot less, the Canadian people ate a very TRADITIONAL diet (some still do). Guess what that diet was? Yeah, you guessed it: LCHF (Low Carb High Fat) diet. Yes, modern Paleos did not invent LCHF. LCHF really is a traditional way of eating, all over. So what happened to our Native population when they switched over to our now "healthy" way of eating, i.e. Low Fat High Carb (don't fool yourselves, that's exactly what our Dietary Guidelines recommend and is considered "healthy")? Among other issues, "Health messages promoting only low animal fat diets, ... may be perceived as incongruent with traditional Aboriginal diets" (2) , and they appear to be incongruent with their health as well.

 

What foods did Aboriginals actually eat in the past? "...traditional diets ... supply a healthier pattern of fats and a greater amount of vitamins and minerals than (...) current consumption patterns... rich in sources of omega-3 fatty acids ... important in ...cardiovascular and... mental health...In addition (...) traditional Aboriginal foods tend to be lower in carbohydrates, ... important in conditions such as obesity and diabetes.... also rich in micronutrients. " (2) . Traditional foods included, "salmon, halibut and shellfish... moose, deer and elk."  (3)  Now it is very common to see "modern foods" on their tables like "potato and pasta salads...cakes and cookies ...juices and pop...(and the) much loved bannock bread, something almost everyone regarded as a true traditional food." when the "actual traditional diet (before the introduction of bannock bread) did not have a significant source of starch or sugar... people ate berries (which is not a) significant source of carbohydrate calories and ... the vast majority of calories came in the form of protein and fat. There were also a number of seasonal wild plants ... akin to modern greens. The traditional diet was looking very much like a modern day low-carb diet in terms of its macronutrient content."(3)

 

Let's take a quick look at geography, history and statistics (don't change the channel people, it gets better). The provinces and territories with the highest proportion of Aboriginals are Nunavut (86.3%), the Northwest Territories (51.9%), Yukon (23.1%), Manitoba (16.7%) and Saskatchewan (15.6%) (1).

 

 

 

We also know that "dietary intake of Aboriginal peoples with diabetes does not differ significantly from the general diabetic population." and "children living on-reserve in Prince Edward Island (eat) similar to the school-aged population in this province, with traditional foods being consumed infrequently.2" (2) Basically, this is just saying that Native people in these provinces and territories now mostly eat the same thing as everyone else. 

 

There are very high rates of diabetes in the Canadian Aboriginal population "three to five times higher than those of the general population. There are also very high rates of obesity and metabolic syndrome, precursor conditions to type 2 diabetes...(and) huge costs for health care services." (3) All this led Dr. Jay Wortman, a Canadian doctor working in public health to conduct a "dietary trial in a coastal First Nations community". Mind you this was a COLOSSAL effort and initially rejected, refuted and he was even "openly attacked" by dietitians when he suggested trying to solve the issue by reverting people to a more traditional low carb high fat diet. That was his "first hint" that there "was a deeply ingrained institutional aversion to low-carb diets".  He found that even though "results of good studies were being reported suggesting this was a good way to lose weight and improve related conditions ... most authoritative sources denounced the diet as dangerous and not to be adhered to over any length of time." (even though natives had been eating like this for thousands of years before the white dudes came along). Anyway, he finally did it! A 2-year study funded by Health Canada and well-documented in the CBC documentary, "My Big Fat Diet", by Mary Bissell and Barb Cranmer, a 3-part series that I highly recommend you watch on YouTube. (7)

 

What foods did the people eat in "My Big Fat Diet"? They were told they could "Eat all the fat you want, and all the seafood and meat and starch-free vegetables. Dairy fats like cream and cheese were fine, but not milk. Everything else with carbs -- bread, pasta, chips -- were off limits." (6) 

 

What were the RESULTS? "By the end of 2007, some 1,200 pounds had been collectively shed by the 80 or so residents of the fishing village who officially joined the program." (6) I am sure you can guess what happened to their Diabetes and Cardiovascular disease markers, but I won't spoil the surprise, go watch it for yourselves.

 

References:

1. http://well-being.esdc.gc.ca/misme-iowb/.3ndic.1t.4r@-eng.jsp?iid=36

2. http://www.nccah-ccnsa.ca/docs/social%20determinates/1828_NCCAH_mini_diets_health_final.pdf

3. http://www.drjaywortman.com/blog/wordpress/about/

4. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/west-coast-aboriginal-community-tests-low-carb-diet-1.700710

5. http://www.mybigfatdiet.net/bios_drjaywortman.html

6. http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/news/story.html?id=5d3cf4aa-e3d7-4003-b4d2-f13dacccdb1e

7. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjTmdvFH3gQ&list=PL4D9B65D69295AAFC

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