11-30-2003
Was Humanity's Rise to Preeminence Fueled By Fish Oils? - 2

    What Dr. Sears points out in his book is that primates haven't been particularly successful evolutionary adaptees. More than 97% of all primate species have died out in the 5,000,000 years since the first hominids began to scavenge for food at the edges of jungles. Today, there are only four other species of great apes still left on the planet: gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, and bonoboes, and these are dying out. (I don't know where baboons and mandrills fit into Dr. Sears bestiary.) As of 150,000 years ago, hominids hadn't made much of a dent upon the planet. Even the taming of fire and the advent of homo sapiens hadn't greatly increased the impact of the hominids upon their surroundings.
     "Then something happened virtually over night to turn this rather insignificant species into the dominant player on the planet."
    The climate underwent a pronounced cooling. The Neanderthals evolved to become shorter, stockier, and more muscular to conserve heat, and moved into the Middle East and Europe. Homo sapiens remained in Africa, and began to die out, dropping to as low as, perhaps, 10,000 inhabitants. Suddenly, something changed drastically, and humans made more progress in the next few thousand years than they had made in the previous 3,000,000 years. About 100,000 years ago, our human ancestors began to emigrate out of Africa, working their way up into southern Europe. 
    "Then, some forty thousand years ago, there was one final cognitive leap that resulted in an explosion of art, culture, religion, social organization, and tool making never seen before on this planet. Soon afterward, other psecies that had survived for hundreds of thousands of years under the most brutal conditions suddenly became no match for the previously undistinguished bit player in the soap opera of evolution. When the otherwise evolutionarily successful Neanderthals encountered this new species, it was no contest. The last of the Neanderthals died out some thirty thousand years ago, disappearing with the other 97 percent of unsuccessful primate species before them."
    Dr Sears continues, saying,
    "Many scientists believe that the starting point separating modern humans from the ragtag band of earlier species was the diet that our ancestors adopted in the East African Rift Valley." (Ethiopia, and Olduvai Gorge). "In essence, they stumbled upon brain food. This brain food caused their thinking skills to expand with incredible speed, giving them a tremendous advantage over every other species on the planet. Within an incredibly short time, they became able to dominate the earth."

    "As I pointed out earlier, it appears that our immediate ancestors were perhaps only one or two generations from extinction, just like the other 97 percent of previous primate species. But something happened that gave them a second chance: they learned to scavenge a new food source that wouldn't have been found in the African savannah. This food was the shellfish found along the shores of the lakes in the East African Rift Valley. Shell fish consume algae and therefore can accumulate algae-derived fats in higher concentrations, in turn giving our immediate ancestors more of these algae-derived fats than have been consumed at any time in history."

    Dr. Sears observes that catching fish is difficult, and that the organized harvesting of fish didn't take place until about 40,000 B. C., when the final explosion in mental ability occurred. And he attributes this final flowering of the human mind to the omega-3 fish oils found in the Cro-Magnon diet, coupled with their diet of non-starchy fruits and vegetables, animal fats (including adequate omega-3 fats), and lean protein. Dr. Sears observes that the Cro-Magnon diet would probably have consisted of about 40% complex carbohydrates (from fruits and vegetables during the summers, and from nuts and root vegetables during the winters), 30% fats, and 30% lean protein. The Cro-Magnon branch of the family was taller and more muscular than we are today, with an average male cranial capacity of about 1,500 cc. compared with our average male cranial capacity of about 1,350 cc.
    Dr. Sears also notes that if eating omega-3-rich fish were the only requirement for bestriding the world, whales would have prevailed long ago. The ability to walk on two legs, freeing the hands for tool making and tool use, would have been another key ingredient in our rise to prominence. To this must be added the development of the frontal cortex, where rational thinking and reasoning take place. A frontal cortex appears in the primates and in no other mammals.
    A third piece of the puzzle (per Dr. Sears) is that we had to have diets that could furnish a steady flow of blood sugar to the brain. Our brains consume 70 percent of the body's energy.
    Dr. Sears concludes,
    " The diet that made us human will keep us human. That diet was rich in fruits and vegetables and contained virtually no grains. It was also rich in high-quality protein, especially fish and lean protein. Our diet has the power to radically improve or impair our intelligence.  To understand why, you have to learn more about the fats that made us smart."

    Dr. Sears believes that the ratio of arachidonic acid (AA) to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in the blood is a key marker for the state of one's future mental and physical health. A ratio of 1.5 is considered to signal ideal health.
    The average U. S. AA/EPA value is 11  the average Japanese value is 1.5. Of course, the Japanese are the longest-lived people in the world, and may have the world's highest average IQ. On the other hand, they aren't cancer-free, or as tall as the Cro-Magnon. 
    Whatever benefits a low-insulin, high omega-3 state confers should be apparent in the Japanese.

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