Back to the beach

Fishes - Mahakam River © Hans Post

Fishes – Mahakam River © Hans Post

Why do I like to wander along the shoreline? Why do I like collecting and eating shellfish so much? Why did I loose so much weight and feel so much better, when changing my diet drastically after suffering some years from metabolic syndrome and hypertension?  The pieces of this puzzle fell into place during a discussion I had with my old friend Erwin Kompanje.

We talked about the relationship between human evolution and food. Mainstream science follows the hunter-gatherer hypothesis. We all know the paintings of Zdenek Burian about the mammoth hunters, but when we look at the fossil record from the North Sea basin, for example, we find fish spears, not mighty spearheads capable of penetrating the thick skin of pachyderm giants like the woolly mammoth or rhinoceros. We think early men mostly ran for these beasts, rather then hunting them.

Mammoth hunters ©

Mammoth hunters ©

Nevertheless ice age men were organized hunters and probably able to hunt on big animals, we presume, but we are still looking at humanoids close to modern man, like early Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis. We think hunting big game would be a hazardous job, and so to be avoided. Far more likely our ancestors consumed plants; nuts, berries and eggs in the season and shellfish and fish, the latter available all year round.  Of course they hunted, but we presume birds and small mammals were more easy prey.  What thus this mean for modern men’s diet? The coming time I will write some blogs on this subject.

For now: back to our ancestors.  It is a science fact for some time that Homo sapiens evolved in Eastern Africa and from thereon migrated to Europe and Asia (and during time to the Americas and Oceania), see map, original from the National Geographic website.

Human migration map - ©

Human migration map – ©

Early humans left Africa 50.000 to 70.000 years ago, which is from an evolutionary point of view, very shortly. The fossil record can trace the primate evolution in Eastern Africa back to six or eight million years. So the period “out of Africa” only covers 1 to 2 percent of our evolution. In other words: it would be very interesting to know how we evolutionary adapted to our natural East African environment. Which was not a dry savanna (then and now) as many may think, but an environment rich in lakes, rivers and of course an extensive seashore.

This all got the attention of a study group from the Groningen University in the Netherlands: Prof. Dr. Frits Muskiet and his co-workers. Muskiet wrote a very interesting paper on the subject:”Evolutionaire geneeskunde U bent wat u eet, maar u moet weer worden wat u at”, in Dutch with a English summary. You can download the PDF here: F.A.J Muskiet, 2005 – Evolutionaire geneeskunde. An interest lecture on the subject is given by Remko Kuipers, you can here him speak following this link.  The researchers conclude that early men consumed mostly plants, shellfish and fish, all abundant in their African habitat. Furtheron human migration seems to follow the shoreline…

Is this the reason why I love to wander along the beaches and why my current diet (containing vegetables, fruit, eggs, shellfish and fish, but no sugar and hardly any dairy products and meat) is so beneficial to my health and weight?

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