A group of Native American agriculturists lived in Kentucky in 1500 AD but suffered from hypocarnivory, whereas hunter-gatherers from thousands of years before suffered far less disease and almost no cavities.
Nutrition and Health in Agriculturalists and Hunter-Gatherers: A Case Study of Two Populations.
- I highly recommend reading this blog to fully discover why this science article is so great - written by my friend Dr. Michael Eades of Protein Power.
Writes Claire Cassidy, Ph.D., author of the study:
Available fauna and flora, water, and climate were so similar in the two areas that it may be assumed that whatever natural stresses existed at one site were probably existent at the other also, and therefore, in themselves, these should not affect the health and nutrition differently.
Population size and degree of sedentarism affect disease spread. In the cases of the Hardin Village and Indian Knoll, since both are sedentary or semisedentary, this variable should be negligible in explaining differences in disease experience between the sites.
Archeological-reconstructable variability in material culture is also fairly small (though Indian Knollers used the spear-thrower and spear, while Hardin Villagers had pottery, permanent houses, and the bow and arrow). Thus, in all probability the most significant difference between these two populations is in subsistence technique, with agriculture at the later site, and hunting-gathering at the earlier.
At Hardin Village, primary dependence was on corn, beans, and squash. Wild plants and animals (especially deer, elk, small mammals, wild turkey, box turtle) provided supplements to a largely agricultural diet. It is probable that deer was not a quantitatively important food source… At Hardin Village, remains of deer were sparse.
At Indian Knoll it is clear that very large quantities of river mussels and snails were consumed. Other meat was provided by deer, small mammals, wild turkey, box turtle and fish; dog was sometimes eaten ceremonially.
There are several other dietary differences. The Hardin Village diet was high in carbohydrates, while that at Indian Knoll was high in protein. In terms of quality, [some] believe that primitive agriculturalists got plenty of protein from grain diets, most recent [researchers] emphasize that the proportion of essential amino-acids is the significant factor in determining protein-quality of the diet, rather than simply the number of grams of protein eaten. It is much more difficult to achieve a good balance of amino-acids on a corn-beans diet than when protein is derived from meat or eggs. The lack of protein at the Hardin Village signaled by the archaeological data should prepare us for the possibility of finding evidence of protein deficiency in the skeletal material.
The most parsimonious interpretation of this information is that mild food shortages occurred at regular intervals at Indian Knoll; perhaps late winter was a time of danger. [Researchers] using growth arrest lines [Harris lines] and … archaeological data, have similarly concluded that in the hunter-gatherer populations they studied, food shortages occurred regularly, probably on a yearly basis. At Hardin Village growth arrest was caused by illnesses or crop failure which resulted in long-lasting, but randomly-occurring episodes of growth arrest.
Tooth decay was rampant at Hardin Village, but uncommon at Indian Knoll. Adult males at Hardin Village had an average of 6.74 carious teeth per mouth, while at Indian Knoll the corresponding frequency was 0.73 per mouth. For women the rates were 8.52 and 0.91 per mouth respectively. No Indian Knoll children under twelve years of age had caries, whereas some Hardin Village children already had developed caries in milk teeth in their second year of life. Tooth decay is closely associated with sugar content and consistency of food, occurring with higher frequency in sweet or high carbohydrate diets which are soft and sticky.
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