My understanding is that, in general, our grandparents were healthy people. They certainly ate grains. So, what's wrong with grains?
Having been the chapter head of WAPF in Santa Fe for a number of years, and pretty Paleo now, I do understand that traditional ways of cooking (e.g. long slow fermentation of dough for bread) plus non-diet factors -- less stress, stronger family and community ties, hard work, being more in tune with the seasons, less poison in the air and in our food, and other factors -- contributed to their health.
Why do we make guesses about what paleolithic people ate when diet and health data from 100 years ago is much easier to get and doesn't make a case for eliminating properly prepared grains. What's changed in the last century that targets grains?
Eating whole grain sourdough bread is preferable to eating Cheetos, but that doesn't make the former optimal. Our grandparents may have been healthier than we are today, but they were not free from degenerative illness and for all we know may have improved by eating less grain and more animal products, fruit, tubers, etc.
I'll echo what others are saying, our grandparents aren't/weren't necessarily healthy. But at least they didn't live through the perfect shitstorm of crappy nutrition and problematic chemical exposure we're living through now.
Cardiovascular disease was already a leading cause of death back in 1935: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db88.htm#heart - which is my great-grandparent's generation.Rates of stroke haven't changed much; the only thing going up is cancer. But that might just be because life expectancy has increased. The discovery of penicillin, better treatment for TB, better treatment for injuries, ability to get to hospitals faster etc meant that many more people lived to an age where they could have developed cancer. Also, like other people point out, cancer was perhaps not always diagnosed with accuracy in days of yore.
I don't know about that. My grandpa died in his late 70's several years ago from bone and prostate cancer. Granny is still kicking, but she lost all of her teeth years ago and all of her sunbathing over the decades has really added years to her.
We might need to go even further back, to great or great-great-grandparents. Even then, who knows if they had chronic illnesses which they kept hidden out of shame/misdiagnosis/social stigma? Back then, illnesses were treated by doctors at home, and remedies were often ineffective if not outright dangerous (bloodletting, anyone?). Also, diagnostic technology was primitive, and these people could have been riddled with tumors or other degenerative diseases and no one would have known about it.
My parents are healthier than my grandparents were, despite both generations eating a lot of grain products. Longevity has increased substantially over the past 10 generations for a number of reasons unrelated to grains. Modern humans have been eating grains and grain products as staple foods for at least 500 generations. We thrive on them and it's silly to argue that we don't.
I don't think digestibility or longevity have much to do with the current problem with grains. I think that we have lost the ability to eat them rationally. They're cheap - much cheaper than protein of any kind - and in our stupidity we overeat them. I stupidly overate cheap dry wheat breakfast cereal (free actually, they were giving away cases of it at work) until I was obese and diabetic. It tasted great and I stuffed myself with it. My adipose fat cells showed their gratitude by expanding and filling up my abdominal cavity.
My grandparents had problems similar to mine. My parents are smarter and control their eating of sugary and starchy foods. So far they've outlived their parents by 10 years. Would they do better on a paleo diet? Maybe, but they're doing pretty well as it is.
I don't know if your premise is true --especially for city-raised people, or for those born in poverty. All my relatives were urbanites and poor working-class folk.
My Maternal Grandmother died of diabetes-related complications at 88.
(Maternal Grandfather is unknown.)
My Paternal Grandfather died of a stroke at 82.
My Paternal Grandmother died of a heart attack at 84.
So I have a relatively long-lived family, but they have all died of degenerative diseases. I'm 49.
There is a lot of mouse research that suggests that the "problems" with diet are cumulative over generations. Pottenger's cats ended up sterile after 4 generations (which, granted, was probably about lack of an amino acid necessary for cats, but still.).
Our grandparents had very little access to restaurant food, additives, trans fats, genetically altered food, and all the other crap that we have ready access to now. The types of damages that we are seeing now are cumulative, and getting worse.
I would think a lot of it has to do with the intensive agriculture that we have today. We have lost so many varieties of grains by breeding only what was the best producer, etc. The biggest problem is when you continually breed something for a good dominant trait you end up with a abundance of bad recessive traits as well, you see it a lot in livestock breeding and we don't think about it as much on plants but when you decrease the size of the gene pool you have problems and we are then putting those problems in our bodies, well that and the amount of processing of foods.
My grandparents were afflicted with the following disorders: cancer, possible diabetes, suspected alzheimer's, and stroke. They grew up and died in various places, none in the US. It is a fallacy that our grandparents are healthy but I don't think it's correct to point out that they weren't healthier than we will be. Within 20 years, one out of two Americans is expect to have type 2 diabetes. That alone substantially increases risks for lots of other diseases. There's no way that degenerative diseases won't increase in prevalence. Some if it will certainly be better ability to detect it but I don't think that can fully or even mostly account for the increase. My great grandparents all died in war so I can't comment on them but I know one was diabetic.
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