Are You as Healthy as a Hunter-Gatherer?

Modern society has come a long way from the foraging, uncivilized lives of our hunter-gatherer ancestors 10,000 years ago. Not only are we at far greater risk of being attacked by a saber-toothed tiger, but we have medicine to combat infection, well-constructed houses to protect us from the weather, and food readily available to stave off hunger. So, why then do many studies suggest that hunter-gatherer societies of the past and present are healthier than our industrialized culture?

For some time, common belief was that the hunter-gatherer lifestyle required far more physical activity than that of our predominantly sedentary, indoor way of living. In an article published in the journal The Physician and Sports Medicine, experts at the Mid America Heart and Vascular Institute at University of Missouri in Kansas City, Missouri state that our "change from a very physically demanding lifestyle in natural outdoor settings to an inactive indoor lifestyle is at the origin of many of the widespread chronic diseases that are endemic in our modern society." They go on to relate that the logical way to remedy these issues is to "replicate the native human activity pattern to the extent that this is achievable and practical."

What About Diet?

Recent studies, however, seem to believe that moving like a caveman doesn't go far enough. In fact, some believe that diet is the main factor in why industrialized society is less healthy than our ancestors'. In an article published in PLoS ONE, researchers cataloged the energy expenditure of a present day hunter-gatherer society, the Hadza of Tanzania, with that of Westerners. Researchers found that, despite spending their days hiking long distances in search for food, they burned no more calories than most Americans.

Instead, the researchers of the study suggest the calorie-dense Western diet and the tendency to overeat may play the largest role in the prevalence of obesity in the U.S. An article published by the Diabetes Center at University of California, San Francisco suggests that the before the agricultural revolution—which introduced cereal grains, legumes, saturated fats, simple sugars, and sodium to the Western diet—type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and certain types of cancer weren't as prevalent.




Exercise like a hunter-gatherer: a prescription for organic physical fitness.
O'Keefe, Vogel, Lavie, Cordain

Hunter-Gatherer Diet May Help Prevent and Treat Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes Center, University of California, San Francisco
Obesity Theories Challenged By Hunter-Gatherer Study