What Did Indigenous People Inhabiting the Coldest Places on Earth Really Eat?
Low carb for sure. High fat and most importantly, high protein too, and it’s my mission in this, primarily, to make understood that’s why LC worked for them long term. But, also: they prized an enormous diversity of plants, when available.
What follows is some comments in a couple of different posts who have used Google to discover new things, to find conflicting narrative that doesn’t come in a book designed to pitch one single narrative, etc. I’ve edited things somewhat for clarity, as well as to tone disputes down.
There’s this claim that glycogen only degrades to lactic acid. In fact, glycogen degrades postmortem through glycolysis and ATP. And the first step of the glycolysis pathway is the degradation of glycogen into, wait for it… glucose!
From: Muscle and Meat Biochemistry edited by A.M. Pearson, Dec 2012 The major role of glycogen in postmortem muscle is release of glucose, which can be used to replenish the high-energy phosphate compounds. Thus, glycogen is largely degraded and is mainly responsible for the formation of lactic acid in muscle, which accounts for the pH decline that occurs in postmortem muscle. Therefore, glycogen is ultimately responsible for the changes in the properties of muscle that accompany the drop in pH as glycolysis proceeds. These changes are reviewed later in this chapter.
In case you think that this is some kind of fluke explanation, I assure you it’s not. You can read more about it here and here and here. Sorry, but glycogen does not degrade directly to lactic acid. There’s a pathway. And a fair amount of glucose is created through glycolysis on the way to lactic acid. And in fact we see this in beef industry time tables. If you click on that link, you’ll see that glycogen takes days to fully degrade into lactic acid in beef—particularly at colder temperatures. And one of those byproducts is glucose rising in the process before it too is degraded into lactic acid.
Let’s look at a process known as rigor mortis. It’s common knowledge that rigor mortis is not something that starts immediately. In fact, rigor mortis takes time to set in and glycogen is depleted during this pre-rigor state.
Secondly, while glycogen depletion can be halted with liquid nitrogen, that it must be is not supported by any scientific evidence. If that were true, than the term cold shortening would not exist in the meat industry. Factory farms use electrical stimulation on beef carcasses to speed up this pre-rigor time period, because muscle that simply hangs in a slaughterhouse does not degrade its glycogen quickly enough for their chill rooms. The process of glycogen degradation is too slow for them. The truth is that glycogen depletion stops completely at -18ºC, which is hardly difficult to obtain in the arctic. Moreover, low temperatures in general slow the process over many days.
And while Stefansson was calculated to have eaten 10g/day of meat glycogen in the Bellevue Experiment eating land mammals, land-based mammals are not the same thing as diving marine mammals. Diving marine mammals have significant carbohydrate stores in their blubber, skin, organs, and to a lesser extent, their meat. Yep, most of the glycogen in diving marine mammals isn’t even found in their meat. It turns out that whales are particularly unique when it comes to their pre-rigor state and ability to preserve their glycogen:
From: Lawrie’s Meat Science by R. A. Lawrie, David Ledward, p 92, (23 Jan 2014) A much delayed onset of rigor mortis has been observed in the muscle of the whale (Marsh, 1952b). The ATP level and the pH may remain at their high in vivo values for as much as 24h at 37ºC. No adequate explanation of this phenomenon has yet been given; but the low basal metabolic rate of whale muscle (Benedict, 1958), in combination with the high content of oxymyoglobin in vivo (cf 4.3.1), may permit aerobic metabolism to continue slowly for some time after the death of the animal, whereby ATP levels can be maintained sufficiently to delay the union of actin and myosin in rigor mortis.
So glycogen isn’t even tapped for postmortem glycolysis for as much as a day postmortem, because aerobic metabolism can be maintained for as much as a day! In other words, that enormous difference between land-based mammals and diving marine mammals—that allow these divers to spend hours deep under the surface of the ocean—appears to be responsible for preserving the glycogen perfectly in whale meat for extremely long times. The facts speak for themselves.
The Inuit were hunting a very unique class of carbohydrate-rich mammals in a very unique environment, and eating those mammals in a very unique way (raw and fresh or frozen). It seems to me that the soundness of around-the-clock ketogenic diets requires some substantiation basis far beyond the practices of the Inuit.
Gisli Pálsson’s, [easyazon_link asin=”0887551793″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”fretheani-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]Travelling Passions : The Hidden Life of Vilhjalmur Stefansson[/easyazon_link] ads a bit more typically human sorts of things to the mix. Not meant to smear, just perhaps remind you that he’s not a deity.
Stefansson was a shameless self-promoter who was clearly an engaging and dynamic speaker and a wonderfully clear and lucid writer. Such self-promotion was born of the necessity to make a living out of his work, but in the process the quality and credibility of his work suffered. His “scientific” anthropological output is slim: one report for the American Museum of Natural History which was never finished and had to be completed for him by the museum director (he was away on another expedition at the time) and the rather peculiar ethnography, My Life with the Eskimo (1913), which reads more like a travelogue than an ethnographic report…
Pálsson establishes that while he was engaged to Cecil Smith, Stefansson had an intimate relationship with an Inuvialuit woman, Pannigabluk; intimate enough that the couple had a son, Alex. While Stefansson’s relationship was well known in the North both to Inuvialuit (their cultural mores provide no reason to deny it) and northern administrators (Alex always used Stefansson as his last name), Stefansson himself consistently denied any such relationship. Pannigabluk is virtually erased from Stefansson’s published accounts, and while she appears frequently in his diaries, no mention is made of any relationship between the two. A critical entry that may provide insight into the relationship is crossed out in such a way that even Vatican palaeography experts cannot decipher it (p. 109)! Stefansson is listed as Alex’s father in the Anglican baptismal records of the time. Pálsson goes into careful detail to explore whether, at any time or to any person, Stefansson may have actually admitted the existence of his son in the North. The evidence is largely negative. This is despite the fact that he might have continued to support both Pannigabluk and Alex through a Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) account, although there are no HBC records to support this.
Why should we care about the sexual adventures of an anthropologist one hundred years ago? It is precisely because it is now clear that Pannigabluk acted as Stefansson’s primary cultural and linguistic interpreter, and that much of the data in Stefansson’s ethnography comes from Pannigabluk and her (evidently very strong) opinions. This means that the information that has been constituted as the baseline data on the Mackenzie Inuit is limited in scope, and raises the critical question of who was Pannigabluk and what was her position in Inuvialuit society? This is a much more difficult question to answer, but it now challenges researchers in the field to take into account this bias and re-read Stefansson’s work with new lenses.
The New York Times obituary writers didn’t mention any of this.
Most of the Inuit research suggests that they ate a lot of meat. One of the more comprehensive reviews of all the available literature at the time was from a paper by H.M. Sinclair in 1952.
The Diet of Canadian Indians and Eskimos By H. M. SINCLAIR Laboratory of Human Nutrition, University of Oxford (Page 76) The Eskimo is apparently able to digest and absorb very large amounts of protein and fat at a single meal. In times of plenty, 4 kg [(8.8 lbs)] of meat daily is a common amount and much is taken at a single meal : they do not usually take food in the morning. Consumption of larger amounts such as 15 kg [(33 lbs)] has been observed on occasion, and Ross (1835) considered that an Eskimo ‘ perhaps eats twenty pounds of flesh and oil daily’, which I suppose is possibly 46,000 Cal. Parry (1824) thought he would test the capacity of an adolescent Eskimo ; the food was weighed and, apart from fluids, he ate in 20 h 8.5 lb. meat and 1.75lb. bread (about 15,700 Cal.) and ‘ did not consider the quantity extraordinary ‘. But this is trivial compared with the feats of the Siberian Yakuti who eat 25-30 lb. meat daily, and there is no record approaching the 35lb. of beef and 18lb. of butter (providing about 112,000 Cal. and occupying a volume of the order of 54 gal.) alleged to have been eaten in less than 3 h by each of two Yakuti (Simpson, 1847.)
Many researchers have observed extremely large protein intakes among Eskimos.
I have searched around what the people on the other site of Bering Strait—namely Chukotka and Yakutia (Russia)—would be eating at present and in the past. It seems there is more nutritional tradition still intact, as the imported food from elsewhere is expensive. Great online source, a lot in English, all confirming Duck’s hypothesis of omnivore eating even in these harsh conditions. Many plant sources; roots, fruits, leaves, barks stored for winter in a very creative way. And do not forget there has always been a lively trade, the coastal people traded their food sources with the inlanders. If you have time, see for yourselves: Chukotka (tourist guide with pictures) From The Dishes of Peoples of Yakutia this must be yummy:
Vil’mulimul’ [Вильмулимуль] – Reindeer blood, kidney, liver, ears, roasted hooves, and lips mixed with berries and sorrel and stuffed into a stomach—which is dried and then saved in cold storage and fermented over winter to provide a rich spring food, full of calories and vitamins.
This food is made by many northern peoples. Climate Change Adaptation: Traditional Knowledge of Indigenous Peoples Inhabiting the Arctic and Far North Marine Hunters of Chukotka on the Plants.
The Eskimo and coastal Chukchi use around sixty types of land and sea plants in their diet. Half of those plants are used in food on a regular basis. The languages of the Yupik Eskimo do not have a general word for the whole plant, but instead have individual words for its edible parts, for instance, the stem with its leaves or the root. Anything that is not used in food is called “grass”, or “flower”. Gathering and preparing plants for winter is an important responsibility of the women and is even called “women’s hunt”. Seaweed is an essential part of the diet; hunters also gather it on their way home after hunting sea mammals.
And it would be fun to read this one (abstract only)
Traditional foods in the diet of Chukotka natives “The traditional diet of Chukotka natives consists of caribou meat, marine animals and fish, depending on the place of residence. All meat products or fish are eaten with local plants: roots, green leaves, berries or seaweed. Local foods are usually eaten raw frozen and dipped into seal oil or melted caribou fat.
And, lastly, see, what you get by cherrypicking from the vast online photo source by keywords: inuit berry picking.
One more gem, almost 200 years old, from my treasure hunt: [easyazon_link asin=”B00A69PIV6″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”fretheani-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]Narrative of a Pedestrian Journey Through Russia and Siberian Tartary: From the Frontiers of China to the Frozen Sea and Kamtchatka, Volume 1[/easyazon_link], by Captain John Dundas Cochrane.
Do not forget to google him:
John Dundas Cochrane (1780–1825)destined for the sea from an early age, but is best remembered as the Pedestrian Traveller.
At the end of the Napoleonic Wars, he set out on a six-year tour of France, Spain and Portugal on foot. When in 1820 the Admiralty turned down his offer to explore the river Niger, he decided instead to walk round the world via Russia, Siberia and North America. On his arrival in St Petersburg, the Russian government gave him money to continue his journey using sledges and canoes where necessary, but he abandoned it in Kamchatka, marrying a local woman and returning with her to England.
This account of his travels was published in 1824 and was immediately popular, going into several editions. By no means a scientific survey, it is full of interesting anecdotes and observations about a then unknown and mysterious area of the world.
The book was published in 1824, worth reading (long live the google books).
Some of his observations on fish eating:
I always ate of raw fish, as well from choice, as from a wish to conform to the manners and customs of the natives, confident that time and experience must have initiated them into a knowledge of what is best for their climate.
The manner of dressing their food is by boiling, when wood can be procured, which, however, is not frequently the case during the winter season. They then generally consume frozen meat or fish, which, with them, as with the others in reindeer coun tries, is considered a necessary and extravagant luxury ; warm and raw marrow is also their greatest delicacy.
The scurvy rages during winter with the poorer and consequently with the greater, proportion of the inhabitants of the Kolyma, because they, the poorer sort, cannot afford to eat raw fish, it being an article of luxury. It is true, that a most prodigious quantity of fish is caught on the banks of the Kolyma, but it does not follow that such a quantity is eaten raw ; indeed it is only a very small proportion that can be so consumed, and that quantity is naturally bought up and retained by the more wealthy part of the community. Herrings are the principal productions of the Kolyma, and are retained for the dogs. Red salmon constitute the next quantity, and are universally used by all classes, by being boiled, or dried up into youkola. The nailma, and, I think the osioter, being white fish, are the only species that are eaten in a raw state ; while mocksou and mock son are expressly converted into youkola, one for man and the other for dogs. There is also another reason why the poorer classes cannot partake of raw fish ; it is not only dear and scarce, but it is a most extravagant mode of eating fish, for a person can consume three times the quantity in a raw state, that he can either boiled or in the way of youkola. I hope this statement will be understood by my readers.
And on putrid meat eating:
As we continued our melancholy route, we fell in with two white bears bound to the north, but fear, probably, on either side, kept us apart. Still along the Okota, we reached twenty-five miles, the horses enjoying very fine pastures, but our provisions entirely at an end. The rains had again overtaken us, and were rapidly swelling the rivers. Of the last of the reindeer, the flesh was so far gone that I could not eat it; the Yakuti, however, are so fond of putrid meat, termed in England game, for indeed it was nothing else, that they finished it, regretting only that it was so little in quantity.
And there’s a volume II.
Hope you’re as excited as I am to have others so interested go out and find new information and integrate it into the narrative. I think Stefansson is an important explorer. But he wasn’t a deity; and moreover, there are many other works by others, and it now looks to me that Stefansson was a better self promoter, and so there was little competing stuff.
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Nothing really to do with the current conversation and I hope my poor etiquette is excused. On (gov subsidised) TV in Australia this sunday is the start of a 2 part series on our relationship with bugs called “Life on us”.
It might be pertinent to educating more people.
I have not had the time to look around to see if it has been available elsewhere sorry but it will play after Sunday online.
“TWO-PART SERIES: PREMIERES SUNDAY 27 APRIL AT 8:30PM ON SBSONE
There are still unexplored planets in our Solar System – strange worlds of bizarre creatures locked in a fight for survival. These unknown worlds are you and me. Each one of us is a walking ecosystem teeming with a wide variety of life forms in their trillions. “
In some respects I wonder why we are even wasting our breath talking about the Inuit. Richard, you should consider changing the title of this post because it turns out that the Inuit weren’t even an indigenous culture to the Arctic. They were a very modern culture that figured out how to settle in Alaska and Greenland.
Most people don’t seem to realize that Christianity predates the Inuit culture by about 1000 years. The Inuit started in Alaska about 1,000 years ago and are descendants of the Thule People, who settled the Arctic only a few hundred years before that.
To give you an idea of how recent that is in the human dietary timeline, the earliest bread was supposedly invented about 30,000 years ago.
How the fuck did the Inuit ever get accepted into the “Paleo” world in the first place? There’s nothing indigenous or evolutionary about them!
And, as it is now well known, the modern Inuit have abandoned their traditional low carb lifestyle.
So, for those who are counting, the “original” Inuit diet only lasted roughly 20-25 generations. If we were to count the Thule, it’s about 50 generations of low carb. That’s all folks…
That’s what all this fuss is about. Probably not even worth our time thinking about it anymore when you consider it’s not even a blip in the human timeline.
The Inuit culture does qualify as indigenous according to most academic and cultural uses of the term: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/5session_factsheet1.pdf. There’s no universally agreed upon official definition that I know of, but it roughly means predating European colonial settlement.
I think what you mean is that the culture wasn’t developed in North America until after the Stone Age, though it does have earlier roots in Asia.
The reason Paleo folks cite traditional Inuit diet and culture is because it was classed as a hunter-gatherer culture before European settlement and most Paleo diets are based on notions about hunter gatherer cultures.
Their diet is a consequence of their environment and as such pretty well anyone living above the 60 Lat before the advent of modern transportation lived on similar diets as there is not a great deal of vegetation. So while the Inuits are relatively new, previous inhabitants of the area probably had similar dietary patterns.
And I have no idea where you are going with “the modern Inuit have abandoned their traditional low carb lifestyle.” because the new or novel foods of western civilization is killing them at a rate that even a polar bear would be proud of. Same thing can be said for a lot of the aboriginal communities hear on the Northern Plains and on the West Coast who both at relatively high fat animal based diets.
That’s a ridiculous statement. Alaska is not a wasteland devoid of plants. What do you think a 400 pound herbivorous caribou eats? No, they don’t just eat lichen from trees all day.
The tuber Hedysarum alpinum — which is also mentioned by Richard in the beginning of this article was one of the most coveted staple foods for Dena’ina People, who were the original inhabitants of Southcentral Alaska before the Inuit arrived. And if you’ve been paying attention in the comments, Gemma has uncovered the dietary habits of the Siberians which relied heavily on plants. The Siberians were known to be the ancestors of many of the Eskimos that predate the Inuit.
It seems the Dena’ina People arrived in Alaska sometime between 1,000 and 1,500 years ago — while the Inuit are descendants from the Thule, who arrived 1,000 years ago. My general point being is that they haven’t been eating this diet very long in terms of human history. Most Paleos point out that bread is a modern invention. Well, the Inuit diet has been around for only 1/30th the timeframe that bread has been around. Paleophil has correctly pointed correctly that I was mistaken about the Inuit technically being an “indigenous culture.”
At any rate, the wikipedia page for these potatoes (Hedysarum alpinum) says:
So, the cultures that inhabited Alaska before the Thule and Inuit coveted these tubers and were a major component of their diets — despite the fact that you believed nothing grew up there.
And Tim (an Alaska resident) can attest that there are plenty of edible plants (tubers, berries). In fact, here is a paper that shows that there are plenty of edible plants virtually everywhere in Alaska.
Contributions to the Ethnobotany of the St. Lawrence Island Eskimo
And for the record, St. Lawrence Island is situated at 63°30′ North latitude. Think about that next time you go around telling people that plants don’t exist in Alaska.
Let’s see, what Captain Cook saw at this northern latitude of more than 60°, from:
A voyage to the Pacific Ocean: undertaken by command of His Majesty, for making discoveries in the Northern Hemisphere: performed under the direction of Captains Cook, Clerke, and Gore: in the years 1776, 1777, 1778, 1779, and 1780
full text available via google books
August 5, 1778
“The land before us, which we imagined to be the continent of America, appeared rather low next the sea; but, inland, it rose in hills, which seemed to be of a tolerable height. On Wednesday the 5th , at ten o’clock in the morning, we ran down, and, soon after, anchored between the island and the continent in seven fathoms. The latitude of this island is 64 30′ north, and its longitude is 193 57’east. Tho surface of the ground principally consists of large loose stones, covered in many places with moss and Other vegetables, of which twenty or thirty different species were observed, and most os them were in flower. But the Captain saw not a tree or shrub, either on the island, or upon the neighbouring continent. Near the beach where he landed, was a considerable quantity of wild purslain, long-wort, peases &c. some of which he took took on board for boiling. He saw several plovers, and other small birds ; a fox was also seen.
We found a little way from the shore where we landed, a sledge, which occassioned this name being given to the island.
See Sledge island: http://www.captaincooksociety.com/home/detail/alaskan-places-named-by-cook-part-4
Non-believers shall proceed on to study the Resolution’s log from 1778: http://badc.nerc.ac.uk/cgi-bin/corral/view_images/a=55/l=113/p=1/
I never said that nothing grew in Alaska, if you are on the coast, you can grow some of the biggest vegetables you can imagine because of the relatively temperate climate and long summer days. However, if you go 1000km. there is relatively little growing. The key word is relatively. I grew up on the Pacific Coast and now live on the high prairie. While lots grows here, it is a relative desert compared to the coast and is brown and frozen for the majority of the year.
People exploit their environment to sustain themselves and how they exploit them depends upon the opportunity cost andwhat gives them the biggest return for their efforts. For the people of this region, the farther north you and inland people are, it becomes much more economical to focus on animal sources of food for scarce calories. How long and how many calories would you have to burn in order to get the same amount of calories you can get from a caribou or seal.
To follow on your odd point that they Inuit have “abandoned” their low carb lifestyle. They have largely abandoned it because the environment has changed and the relative cost of obtaining calories favors Doritos over walruses. It is far easier and much less dangerous to go to the store and get an equivalent amount of calories from Doritos than going out on a seal hunt.
If plants hardly grew in central Alaska, then the animals that the inland Inuit hunted would starve to death. Alaska has lakes and rivers running right through it and plenty of vegetation near them.
Go ahead and log onto Google maps and take a look with “street view” around central Alaska and you’ll see there are plenty of plants to be found. It’s not the wasteland you imagine it to be.
At any rate, Tim Steele actually lives in central Alaska, so maybe we’ll let him be the judge, no?
The study of Arctic people is fascinating. I have always been under the impression that the Arctic Sea coast has been inhabited by men for about 5-8000 years, possibly longer based on archeology of the area. http://www.akhistorycourse.org/articles/article.php?artID=151
The Alaska landscape has changed lots in the last 10,000 years, as the sea level rose and the coast erodes, more clues are lost daily.
One thing for certain, the Inuit were real and managed to eke out a life in one of the harshest climates and food landscapes on Earth. They were also certainly nomadic and any ‘civilized’ explorer that happened upon a group of Eskimo or Inuit had no way of knowing their past and would have made generalizations based on a lifestyle that may have only been a temporary one.
Ah, I see now Tim. The “Inuit/Thule” are really the modern newcomers in Alaska. Other Eskimo tribes predated them by a few thousand years.
So, it sounds like the Inuit/Thule were a modern influence on these early Eskimo cultures. Given that the Dena’ina People (who pre-dated the Inuit) relied heavily on fruits and rhizomes (like Alpine sweetvetch), it sounds like the Inuits erased a lot of the original indigenous habits of Alaska natives. Sounds like that was what Arthur Haines was suggesting when he said that, “it is likely this practice of consuming these rhizomes is much older than what was practiced by Alaska natives.”
I see now….
So, the whole reason we’ve been led astray researching the Inuit is because Stefensson and Atkins (and every other low carb author) started jumping up and down about them (and not knowing their origin), when in fact the Inuit were really one of the last cultures to enter the Arctic. I think we’ve been duped and distracted by the Inuit when we should be looking at the Siberian ancestors of the Yupik and other early Eskimos.
“I think we’ve been duped and distracted by the Inuit when we should be looking at the Siberian ancestors of the Yupik and other early Eskimos.”
The History of Kamtschatka, and the Kurilski Islands: With the Countries Adjacent
via google books
Great read, the whole chapter V is called “Of TREES and PLANTS.”
And lets not forget that even when it comes to the Inuit, that Anore Jones wrote in Plants that We Eat that they ate a wide variety of plant foods (see by Melissa McEwen).
And as I mentioned before in another comment thread, Weston Price and Bear Grylls also reported that 20th century Eskimos ate wild plant foods that contain significant carbs and/or prebiotics.
Last, but not least, even Stefansson himself reported observing Eskimos eat plant foods. Of course, he downplayed the importance of it, but the claims on the Internet that all the 19th-20th century Inuits and other Eskimos didn’t eat any plants (or starch or carbs), or that Stefansson said so, appear to be urban legends. After all, there are Inuit words for plant foods, including Eskimo potato species like oatkuk and mashu, and multiple reports beyond those of Anore Jones, Weston Price and Bear Grylls, that they ate them (such as here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eskimo_potato and here: http://arctichealth.nlm.nih.gov).
Thankf a lot, Gemma. I juft wafted two hourf reading about the Ruffian people of the Kamtfcahtka Peninfula. What an amazing piece of hiftory!
I read on page 81 that thefe favages were eating loads of Birch bark…what could that have been about? Only beavers eat bark.
The chapter on marriage and romance was a blaft!
Haha, Tatertot, you never disappoint! I liked the Chapter on Gods, too.
“THE Kamtchadales, like other barbarous nations, have no notions of a deity, but what are absurd, ridiculous, and mocking to a humanized mind. They call their god Kutchu, but they pay him no religious worship, and the only use they make of his name is to divert themselves with it ; they relate such scandalous stories of him as one would be ashamed to repeat. Amongst other things they reproach him with having made too many steep hills, too many small and rapid rivers, too much rain, and too many storms ; and in all the troubles that happen to them upbraid and blaspheme him.”
In conclusion, from the Chapter Of Plants and Trees:
“These are the principal plants which they make use of in their kitchens ; however there are a great number of others, and also of plants thrown out by the sea, which the Kamtschadales eat both fresh and dry in the winter : for, as Mr. Steller observes, they refuse nothing, but eat everything they can get down, even the driest plants and nastiest rotten mushrooms, although one would imagine the consequence dangerous, as indeed it sometimes happens. However, he tells us the natives have obtained such a knowledge of plants, and of their use both in food and medicine, that he is surprised ; and that one shall not find so much knowledge of this sort among any barbarous nation, nor even, perhaps, amongst the most civilized. They give a name to every one of their plants, and know all their proper ties, and the different degrees of virtue which they derive from the various soils and expositions in which they grow ; and so accurate are they in these distinctions, and also in the proper time of gathering the feveral fruits and other produce, that it is truly wonderful. Hence the Kamtschadales have this advantage above other people, that they can find food and medicine every where ; and, by their knowledge and experience, are in little danger from the noxious plants.”
“I think we’ve been duped and distracted by the Inuit when we should be looking at the Siberian ancestors of the Yupik and other early Eskimos.”
I’d say that’s a fair statement. It’s still pretty darn amazing these people did as well as they did with no help other than their wits.
I totally agree. To me, it’s like a culture that went on a moonshot a few dozen generations ago and managed to thrive in an alien environment.
In survivalists terms, they were pretty badass. But, in evolutionary terms, they are about as “Paleo” as a hamburger bun.
Tim, Duckie, Okay fair enough but they weren’t living on beef tenderloin, striploin and T bone steaks with cauliflower mash and salad either. That’s more or less the version of ‘paleo diet’ that a lot of people have embraced. Not to mention coconut and almond flour products. Crap like that.
She says, picking sautéed dandelion greens from between her teeth after having consumed a number of lamb kidneys with black eye peas in olive oil and vinegar (thanks Marie). The Fart Man cometh.
Point noted, GabKad – I think though it is important to note, though, that they are extreme outliers in the spectrum of H-G’s. We haven’t been able to examine them, and they weren’t known for longevity or exceptional health. But, they experienced rapid decline with western food, so there’s that.
The indigenous people that always amazed me were the New Zealand Maori. Now there is a group of people to emulate! Betcha they didn’t do much ketosis.
Tatertot, currently the Maori are in about as much metabolic trouble as the native populations in North America. They also, during their tenure in the region, managed to eliminate several species of ground dwelling birds etc.
Humans are a hungry species. Anyone who thinks we can live in harmony with our environment is confused.
Don’t you wonder what would have happened if groups like the Incans, Maori, Inuit and other isolated groups were left alone, but had access to modern technology. Much of the decline of these groups was bacterial in nature, exposure to germs they had no defense against, as it was new foods.
they’re perfectly fucking paleo in that they lived a completely non- agricultural existance.
Oh, my bad. Here I thought “Paleo” referred to eating a diet that people actually evolved on for a few million years. I guess not.
Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt has a post up on RS
‘Is Potato Starch LCHF? About Resistant Starch’. There are a number of counter arguments in the comments. Thought you might find this one interesting, if you haven’t already seen it: Life Extension: Debunking and Deconstructing Some ‘Myths of Paleo’. Part One: Tubers. In some ways I think she may be addressing people who follow PHD because she uses the term ‘safe starches’ a bit.
You’re right, it’s probably a pretty safe bet that the pre-colonised Maori weren’t in ketosis very much.
Like other Polynesian peoples, the Maori idea of a meal was that it should be composed of kai – a starchy vegetable food, like kumara (sweet potato) – and kinaki – an accompaniment of animal foods, like fish or shellfish or birds, and other vegetable foods, like pikopiko (fern tips) or seaweed.
It was the kai that was the most important part of the meal. Indeed, to the Maori, a meal wasn’t a meal without kai. Apart from growing sweet potato and various cultivars of native potatoes, the Maori went to considerable lengths to obtain wild kai, like aruhe (fern root) and ti kouka (the heart of the “cabbage tree”).
Kai was usually cooked in earth ovens, although sweet potato that had been harvested, dried and stored were also eaten raw.
The Maori also gathered a variety of berries, and seaweeds, especially karengo (similar to the Japanese nori).
As for the kinaki, shellfish and other seafoods, like sea urchins and rock lobsters, were particularly prized and often eaten raw, straight after being caught. Fish were usually eaten cooked, and were eaten in their entirety – the heads, livers and roes were a special treat. Birds were usually cooked and preserved in their own fat.
I guess the point here is that the traditional food culture of the Maori covered all the bases: digestible and resistant starches, lots of other prebiotics (not to mention probiotics!), glycogen and glycans, plenty of fats and oils, protein in spades, etc.
As you’ve implied, not a ketogenic diet by any stretch of the imagination!
I’m looking forward to the book. Best wishes from down here in New Zealand!
It seems that the Maori were one of the few indigenous cultures the Capt Cook and others regarded as equals. Not only were they big and strong, but wicked smart. I read that the entire villages would come out for calisthenics in the morning.
Not saying that other cultures were mentally slow or physically weak, but the Maori seemed to have a system that worked extremely well for them at the time.
“the Maori seemed to have a system that worked extremely well for them at the time.”
To my mind that is an extremely deluded comment.
Btw, down south where I live the only source of starch of any consequence was bracken (aruhe); you can forget about kumara here. Even on Banks Peninsula crops failed 2 out of very 3 seasons.
Ipomea Batatas was widely observed in 1885:
It’s delusional to think the Maori were healthy, intelligent people when Capt Cook or whoever first encountered them?
Or it’s delusional to think they were eating starch?
If they were not eating starch, even more reason to tear into their diet to figure out how they became so powerful and healthy.
Duck – You’ll have to run over to Kew Gardens and see if the plants are still there. Now that would be amazing!
Duck, I don’t know what you’re meaning to prove with the above. I know they loved kumara. Who doesn’t? Yes, so much so they tried to grow it down south pretty much in vain. I mentioned Banks Peninsula because of its microclimate – yet even there it mostly fails. And Maori did live here and much further south.
I think what Michael may be referring to are the vastly different climates between the North and South islands of NZ. While there were way more Maori settling the N island, there were still Maori living on the South. Banks Peninsula that he refers to is the South island in Canterbury. I wonder if we’re looking at something similar to the more Arctic populations in terms of diet, as the S island is much colder and harsher in terms of climate. I have read that fish, like the sea mammals, also have glycogen present right after killing (and that a blow to the head upon catching slows glycogen depletion and the onset of rigor mortis by 18 hours). The S island would also have given whales for catch and consumption, as well as bountiful shellfish. So perhaps the absence of plentiful kumara (though by no means total absence) didn’t mean an absence of carbs, though I’d guess he’s right that S island Maori would have been lower carb than their N island counterparts.
Tater, no and no. It’s delusional to think they had a system that worked extremely well for them at the time.
“Based on analyses of the pre-Classical Maori economy, and especially the nature of its food production, hunger was indeed sometimes a too-intimate companion.” From Moon’s ‘This Horrid Practice’. Some modern PC speculation on the whys and wherefores of cannibalism. When one reads the old sources this becomes even more evident. Maori have only been in NZ 700 years and exhausted most low-hanging fruit, e.g., moa and many marine species, within roughly one century.
Michael, I see. Looks like the south was a different ballgame. Thanks for the clarification!
Wait…everyone knows that the further south you go, the warmer it gets. What kind of crazy world is New Zealand?
Well, you’ve given me an idea…wonder how many carbs are in the guy that lives next to me? I would have cannibalised him sooner, but was always worried about his fat content.
You gotta watch those polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Btw, Tater, I was being picky. They had a system that worked well enough or they wouldn’t be here. I just took issue with the “extremely well”. To be honest, I wouldn’t want to swap our current ‘system’ for theirs back than. Just sayin’.
A fascinating culture for sure. And it seems there is an entire database devoted to the Maori’s plant use!
I started taking the potato starch two days ago in a glass of milk before breakfast. I took 1 tbsp the first day and experienced nothing so yesterday I went up to 3 tbsp which gave me rough enough bowel movements that I am only taking 2 today. But even at 3 tbsp I have had zero fartage whatsoever. y’all talk about the farts like they are the evidence that something good is happening.
Do I have a problem? If so, should I try taking it with probiotics?
I wanted to take it a month without probiotics before taking probiotics to determine what they’re effect is.
Thanks in advance guys
I also had no gas from potato starch (4 tbsp, right off the bat), and the good folks here said the explanation was that I had enough cofeeders to eliminate it (not a bad thing). My diet was already pretty heavy on reheated beans, potatoes, pasta and rice.
I did add a soil-based probiotic just to be like the cool kids and still developed no gas. I think you’re okay.
I’d say, too, it depends on how your think your gut is, healthwise. If you are having troule forming normal stools or other gastro-complaints, you most likely have big issues. If your gut is fairly normal, ie. none of the Pepto Bismol lyrics, ‘nausea, heartburn, indigestion….upset stomach, diarrea! Yay, pepto bismol!!!!! ‘ Then you are just lucky. Some people have gut bugs that eat the gas produced by others.
And the plant on page 84 “Lillium flore atro rubeote” , what would that be?
“The natives of Kamtchatka, and the wives of the Russian Cossacks, dig up the roots in the harvest, or take them out of the nests of the field-mice, dry them in the sun, and sell them for five or fix rubles the pood. The faranne half boiled, and beat up with brambleberries, cranberries, or such other of this kind, makes one of the most agree able confections, being of a sharp sweetness; and if one had enough for every day’s use, the want of bread would be tolerably well supplied.”
‘Lillium’ refers to lily’s, of which there are many edible species with edible bulbs. I realize it was stupidly unscientific of me, and shows my confirmation bias—ooops, wrong thread—but I Googled “Edible lily bulbs” and found this PubMed article:
The bulbs of the Easter lily ( Lilium longiflorum Thunb.) are regularly consumed in Asia as both food and medicine, and the beautiful white flowers are appreciated worldwide as an attractive ornamental. The Easter lily is a rich source of steroidal glycosides, a group of compounds that may be responsible for some of the traditional medicinal uses of lilies. Since the appearance of recent reports on the role steroidal glycosides in animal and human health, there is increasing interest in the concentration of these natural products in plant-derived foods.
More glycans? We’ll never stop finding them.
A lot could be learned from here: Journal of a Voyage with Bering, 1741-1742, by Georg Wilhelm Steller
Unfortunately no full text available, just for fun see what you get by searching for “scurvy”
It doesn’t matter if they can be calle dindigenous or not. What matters is that they did, and modern people can, live and remain healthy on an all meat diet.
“…modern people can, live and remain healthy on an all meat diet.”
Could be, if they eat the whole animals, raw or rotten, including the intestines and its content. Never dare eat any plants or roots or fungi, Melissa, they can be deadly for you!
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find…
Now, I think enough was said, posted, published, argumented, asked, discussed and answered. If anyone is still in need of some more information, look in here. The whole book is free online, even PDF available for download (533 pages).
Off to my garden, now 🙂
TRADITIONAL PLANT FOODS OF CANADIAN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
Nutrition, Botany and Use
“This volume details the nutritional properties, botanical characteristics and ethnic uses of traditional food plants of indigenous Canadian Peoples. It contains an index of over one thousand plants from all provinces of Canada, as well as the bordering states, for which the Indian and Inuit peoples of each region have been consulted as the definitive source concerning plant usage within the scope of their environment and culture. Health care professionals and organizations working with Indigenous Canadian Peoples, biologists, ehtnologists and academics will appreciate the comprehensive information compiled on nutritional, medical and botanical characteristics.”
I’m honored that Dr. Eades thought that I came about the Inuit’s dietary habits on my own. Alas, it was not me but Yiu H. Hui, Ph. D who figured this all out a few years ago. Here’s the key quote from his 1985 book:
I put that quote at the top of the first FTA article on this subject, but Dr. Eades must have missed it.
For those who want to learn more about the esteemed Dr. Hui, he has published numerous books in the field of food science. His Amazon.com bio reads:
If Dr. Eades has a problem with Dr. Hui’s research, perhaps he should take it up with Dr. Hui.
Who is Dr. Eades? That guy who sells supplements illustrated by photos of a woman who not only appears to have lost about 30 pounds in 6 weeks but also changed from brown skin to white skin? I can appreciate that a box of hair colouring will change someone over the course of an hour, but to take a supplement that will bleach skin and shrink the gut? That’s amazing. You can change your ethnic identity along with your weight with Dr. Eades’ supplements. Impressive as all getout.
As we now know, marine mammals have a lot of glycogen in their skin (as well as in their meat, and blubber), but humans only have a little in comparison. Nevertheless, human glycogen depletion in postmortem skin has still been studied. It seems that the type of sweat gland has a major effect on the speed of glycogen degradation.
Again, this is just another example that Dr. Eades’ “basic science” paradigm is woefully inadequate.
So, glycogen behaves differently in different tissues and different glands. Fancy that.
Now, I’m not sure if this link has been posted here or not:
INTERVIEWING INUIT ELDERS
Perspectives on Traditional Health (360 pages)
Gemma, great find. I downloaded and read a bunch. Most of these plants grow right outside my door. I’ve used some, but always looking and wondering about others. Spruce trees get new needles in the spring, known as ‘spruce tips’ they make excellent tea and are said to be high in Vit C.
Incredible reading, really. Did you know the Inuit word for someone with a heartburn?
Ummmmm, is it “Gaggingonafodmap”?
“Likkingonarolaids” or maybe…”Pazdapeptobismol”?
When you drive to the Arctic Ocean there is a Lake Lackonookie, a Gobbler’s Knob, and a place called Hooterville. The end of the road is a place called Dead Horse, but the last gas station is in Coldfoot. Winter’s are long here.
Its “siiruluktuq”. And seems the best remedy was a lamp moos 🙂
Ha, and as there is Volume 5, there must be some more. Here they are, for the Inuit geeks:
1) INTERVIEWING INUIT ELDERS
Introduction (228 pages)
2) INTERVIEWING INUIT ELDERS
Perspectives on Traditional Law (254 pages)
3) INTERVIEWING INUIT ELDERS
Childrearing Practices (152 pages)
4) INTERVIEWING INUIT ELDERS
Cosmology and Shamanism (280 pages)
Thanks Duck for your outstandig work digging up facts on the inuits. Eventhough I am a proponent for LCHF for weight loss and blodsugar control for diabetes, I have always found the inuit- and “read Stefanson”-argument uninteresting for the rest of humanity, with no inuit relatives.
My first thougts were of cause that the darwinian selection pressure might have produced significant genetical adaptions on the inuits to thier very unique dies. But now learning that the inuit Culture is only about a 1000 years old, another thought struck me.
Do we know anything about the inuit microbiota? There might be adaptions there for this very special human diet. It isn´t very far fetched to assume that the inuits might have picked up some gut bacteria from true carnivores like the seal.
By the way, here is my blog post on the Sami diet in northern Scandinavia and Russia:
Thanks Per! As you probably know, I came across the Sami people in the comments of your recent translation post.
Inuits are very young, but other Eskimos are older:
But, as Gemma is showing, the Siberian ancestors and pre-Thule Eskimos appear to have eaten a wider variety of foods.
I also hope you know that I am fully supportive of LCHF for those who need it. This is purely an anthropological exploration.
In terms of microbiota, I think you are probably one of the few who are focussing on the real story here (even more so than I am). My guess is that when you eat enough raw meat, you probably end up consuming a lot of bacteria species that are adept at breaking down animal fibers. That’s probably why people need time to adjust to eating raw meat — it’s not something you can just start doing in one day.
And, as we know, it’s far easier to change your microbiome than your genome. 🙂
Art Ayers suggests that raw foods prepared directly from the hedges, garden or shot in the woods arrives with the bacteria whose populations can explode symbiotically in the human gut.
If that is so, then incorporating a proportion of raw with cooked should begin to change the microbiome.
I have been an advocate of Steak Tartare since my 1st honeymoon in Paris. Raw filet, eggyolk, minced onion, moutarde &c. – if raw be the music of love, play on.
I actually find raw meat/fish far easier to digest than cooked, as far as effects on the stomach. For example, I ate at a Japanese steakhouse with friends and the only ones in our party who did not complain of bloated, aching stomaches were the two of us who ate (mostly) raw sashimi or sushi dinners.
And I found steak tartare to be one of the easiest-digesting foods I’ve ever eaten.
I couldn’t resist. Such a pity, that these Inuits didn’t measure the glycogen of the meat they were going to eat and didn’t check their ketones after the feast 🙂
From: Kabloona, a book by Gontran de Poncins, published in 1941:
“For three days and nights we followed the caribou, shooting, wounding, killing, skinning, carving, and eating.
Another caribou lay wounded, the blood running down his horns, He tried to rise, stumbled, fell, tried again to rise; and my stomach heaved at the sight of the beast as at the sight of a horse in a bull ring. Two shots finally killed him. When I, carrying this poor beast on my back – his weight was about seventy pounds – had rejoined my Eskimos, I found them butchering two animals. They skinned the caribou by inserting a hand between hide and flesh, and the hide came away with a sound as of tearing silk. Then they cut it up with and dispatch that my troubled stomach barely permitted me to take note of and after tearing at choice cuts of the raw meat with their teeth and gulping it down, they put the bulk of it into a sack improvised out of the hide; and this meat, with the useful bones and valuable sinew, we carried back to our base.
For fifty feet round the tent the snow was filthy with blood, entrails, heads, and legs of caribou. Back at camp they ate again, hands, faces, and coats covered and spattered in blood, squatting like cave-men in the snow and ripping the tendons out of the legs with their powerful teeth while the caribou tongues – great delicacies – were set down to dry on the ground. All round lay the dogs, breathing heavily after their enormous feast, but like the men, prepared shortly to eat again. For dogs as for men, famine was always in the offing, and while both crammed themselves I could see both grow from hour to hour fatter and greasier, the faces of the men shining and their stomachs bloated, like cannibals. Because their dreams had been of the feast they woke in the night, shook themselves out of that Eskimo sleep than which nothing is more profound; and they began again in the night to gnaw and tear and gulp.
That night I ate the biggest meal I have ever eaten. I was hungry, I was exhausted, the cold was as severe as ever, and I had taken almost no food since leaving the Arviligjuarmiut camp. Algunerk was already hacking away at a seal when we straightened up in the igloo. The seal had been dragged into the middle of the igloo by a rope run through its nose. The Algunerk’s axe had been thawed out, for otherwise it would not have cut. Now he was going at the seal like a woodman chopping down a tree. We were too hungry to wait until he had finished, and we grabbed at the chips as they flew through the air and swallowed them where we stood. We ate for twenty hours. What a farce the white man’s table is! Whole quarters of seal were swallowed, snow and all; and the snow grated between our teeth as we bit into the meat. This cold dish finished, we began on the next course. I had contributed half a sack of rice, which was boiled with ten or twelve pounds of caribou meat; and while we chewed seal blubber from one hand, we dipped the other into the steaming- vessel of caribou and rice.
Next morning we had hardly awoken before the feast continued. Frozen fish was our first delicacy, even before the tea was brewed; and the fish was followed by seal. This time it was one of Ittknangnerk’s seals that went; and we were still in our sleeping-bags as we chewed it. The turn of the dogs would come later, and what we had eaten, they would eat. Ittimangnerk, who was well-bred, had begun by cutting away the choicest morsels of seal and passing them to his host, and Algunerk had put them aside without a word. Between meals, as it were, we ate 0qp-w (?), dried fish. It tasted as if smoked and made an excellent appetizer. Innumerable mugs of black tea were drunk, and then, our appetite returning, we stripped off long slices of lake fish and passed them round, each taking his bite, cutting the rest off with his knife close to the lips, and handing on what remained. A fish would go round so swiftly that I could scarcely swallow fast enough. I had to pass my turn twice, which made them laugh. There was a little boy of six years, and he was brought into the circle: it would teach him to be a man.”
Awesome! Read that, then watch this:
Only 1 minute.
Errata: Those above are two different parts of the book, I forgot to include […].
Thanks, Tatertot. My stomach is not troubled. My father is a hunter, we often have skinned wild hares, rabbits and occasionally pigs, too. Never ate them raw 🙂 though.
It seems Dr. Eades overlooked evidence that wild caribou have more postmortem glycogen than beef. Caribou meat actually tastes “livery” according to the study.