Art De Vany has up a summary and assessment of a soon-to-be released study on the [natural] benefits of an Evolutionary or Paleolithic Diet, primarily comparing it with the highly regarded Mediterranean Diet. The former substantially outperformed the latter in the study. More information at the website of Staffan Lindeberg; specifically, here and here.
Our primate ancestors have been consuming fruit, vegetables, nuts and
insects for 50 million years or more. Meat was successively added, with
a probable increase around 2 million years ago. Underground storage
organs (roots, tubers, bulbs, corms) possibly become staple foods 1-2
million years ago. The variability was large: single plant foods were
rarely available in excess, which reduced the risk of adverse reactions
to bioactive substances in plant foods.
It only makes sense. An Evolutionary Diet, simply speaking, is eating those sorts of things primarily available to our primate and hominid ancestors — in as wide a variety as possible — during their millions of years evolving the modern digestive tract and metabolism. We haven't changed much in that regard in about 200,000 years. And the agricultural revolution, only about 10,000 years old by comparison, is a wondrous man-made technological advance that made possible billions more human lives than otherwise could have been fed; or, as I like to think of it: man eventually solved God's miserable incompetence in sometimes allowing thousands to die of starvation.
But; jumping ahead of our genetic programming to provide cheap calories in massive quantities comes with the cost of providing such caloric intake without an
evolutionary macro-nutrient balance, or sufficient micro-nutrient and phyto-chemical content and variety. It's simply no longer debatable, in my view, that your predominately "Western diseases" of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes are a function of diet to the extent that most other factors can be disregarded.
Yep; it just may be that your bagel and granola munching anti-smoking activists aren't going to have the last laugh when they find themselves 50, fat (if not outwardly, viscerally), and resistant to insulin.
What's interesting to me from an evolutionary perspective is that studies such as Kitava that I linked to, above, demonstrate that you can't compare our life expectancy with theirs. It's really apples and oranges. They don't have the benefit of modern medicine to combat infectious disease, and they have an infant mortality rate you'd expect in that sort of environment, which is nature's way of weeding out those likely to be a burden and not a help to tribe survival in an evolutionary, hunting and gathering context. But it appears that those who survive that gauntlet live quite healthy and long, and free of dementia (which is just about the most important thing, for me).
Well, everyone ought to live just as they see fit, of course. For me, after a long time in pondering why it is we turn into what we turn into on the back end of our 40s, it just didn't make a lot of sense that "that's just the way it is." It seemed more plausible to me that our younger bodies simply gave us a pass on what were bad (i.e., non-evolutionary) habits we were developing. At the same time, it's very difficult to pass up some of the very appealing sorts of food derivatives humanity has come up with. That's a cost, I think, that has to be dealt with rationally. If you don't like eating fruits, vegetables, nuts, and lean meats in evolutionary proportions and you'd rather have a burger & fries or a pizza & ice cream any day, then apart from it simply being none of my business, it's simply an individual value choice. You have no guarantee that you're not dead tomorrow in some horrible accident, so some consideration must always be given to enjoying the life you have when you can.
I've been dabbling in evolutionary dieting. Because I've been working out with weights so intensely (but only 1/2 hour twice per week) and have generally doubled and tripled the amount of weight I'm moving in most sets (in the space of 10 weeks), I've not focussed much on diet. I wanted to get the foundation of muscle built which has pretty much taken place. One thing that's astounding about all this is to become aware of visceral fat. Until your muscles get pretty pumped and begin stretching against your skin, I don't think you realize how much fat you may have "inside," i.e., fat that's not usually visible. You could be quite thin in appearance and still have a dangerously high fat content as adipose tissue marbled throughout your lean tissue, surrounding organs, and as a layer between muscle and skin. It wasn't until recently I learned that all this fat isn't just inert. It secretes chemicals that raise blood pressure and builds insulin resistance.
The other thing is that an evolutionary diet seems to get more appealing to me as I practice some parts of it more consistently. There's no denying that I simply feel better, require less sleep (but sleep better and sounder when I do), and have a less volatile appetite of the sort that would have me just barreling for the fridge.
All in all it's worth it to feel good most of the time, and combining to that the added potential of living healthier and longer, with presence of mind.