We Were Born to be Healthy:
Part 3 of 7

evolution rThis is the 3rd installment. Part 1 is HERE, and Part 2 is HERE.


Ian Spreadury wrote a seminal paper in 2012 reviewing 112 peer-reviewed articles, which helped create for me a clearer perspective of being healthy. The answers to “What happens and why?” take shape with the dawn of civilization.


About 10,000 years ago, the age of civilization began. With it, grain agriculture emerged. The seeds of grasses were cultivated and then processed into flour. Flour could feed the masses. But, flour was an acellular carbohydrate.


What’s the big deal with acellular carbohydrates?


All of our plants are made up of cells that have cell walls. When we eat plants, our digestive system naturally breaks down these cell walls and utilizes the nutrients of the entire cell. When man places unnaturally high pressure and heat on plant cells, the cell walls are destroyed and the resulting product is a highly condensed substance without cell walls. These are acellular carbohydrates.


Man took the seeds of grasses, destroyed their cell walls, and created an acellular carbohydrate called flour. Many of the original nutrients within the natural cell were lost. Sugary foods also were processed into acellular carbohydrates. As these processed carbohydrates became commercialized, many varieties of carbohydrate-dense foods were created. These dense, acellular carbohydrates have played havoc on our digestive systems ever since.


Today, most Americans eat dense, acellular carbohydrates at every meal and for every snack. Ian Spreadbury recognized that the foods that contained 23% or less carbohydrate density were more easily handled by our digestive system; foods that contained more than 23% carbohydrate density were implicated in chronic inflammation and chronic disease.


The food we eat is part of the answer to the question, “What Happens and Why?”


(For your information, I have listed some common foods with their carbohydrate densities: “less than or equal to 23%” and “more than 23%”. I’ve also listed a government-sponsored website and instructions that you can use to calculate the carbohydrate density for almost any food you can think of. Both are at this link.)


Here are summaries of two papers that demonstrate how our food can be our best medicine.


Scientific Paper # 1:


An experiment was reported in the Journal of Periodontology in 2009. Ten individuals were allowed to eat whatever they could fish, forage, and cook over a course of four weeks. They only were given some basics of whole, unprocessed foods to start off. They could not practice any oral hygiene. At the beginning of the study, bacterial cultures were taken from their tongues, dental plaque, and gum pockets along with recordings of pocket depths and points of gum bleeding. At the end of four weeks, the researchers discovered that the plaque levels had increased in both volume and varieties of bacterial species. However, they were surprised that the species of bacteria were not virulent and that pocket depths as well as bleeding points decreased significantly. In essence, these individuals ate nutrient-dense whole foods, didn’t practice any oral hygiene, and their signs of gum infection decreased.


Scientific Paper #2:


In this other paper, researchers summarized results of 37 clinical studies to determine the actual nutrients that assisted in periodontal healing after surgery or assisted in overall periodontal health. Here are the nutrients most often associated with gum health:

  • Vitamin D (primary source: the sun; dietary sources: fatty fish, pastured eggs)
  • DHA (dietary sources: oily fish like salmon, sardines, anchovies)
  • Low ratios of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids (In the US the ratio is about 30:1, but in healthy societies it is closer to 1:1)
  • Low processed carbs and high fibers (dietary sources: fruits and vegetables)
  • Calcium (dietary sources: bones and bone broth, dark leafy greens, canned salmon with bones)
  • Magnesium (dietary sources: Swiss chard, spinach, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, raw cocoa)
  • Vitamin C (dietary sources: broccoli, citrus)


It would be interesting if there were a diet that incorporated an abundance of these nutrients in its base of food choices.


And, there is. It’s the Paleo-type diet Here, Here, Here.

What Went Wrong?

evolution rIf our primal ancestors ate nutrient-dense foods that allowed them to thrive with no gum disease or tooth decay, then what went wrong? Today there is a 47% prevalence of periodontitis among adults in the United States. Periodontitis is the advanced stage of gum disease where not only the gums are infected, but also the bone surrounding the roots of the teeth are infected and breaking down. For those who are over 65 years old, the prevalence of periodontitis jumps to 70%. When and why did the prevalence of gum disease go from almost 0% to 70%?
It didn’t happen in one day. It was progressive and cumulative.
The major change began with the emergence of civilization. Civilization allowed peoples to come together. Civilization brought many good things to humans – protection from the elements and protection from their enemies. Societies developed farming and agriculture, which brought an abundance of foods like grains to feed the masses. The timeline was about 10,000 years ago.
Unfortunately, some of the cultivated foods were processed into dense, acellular carbohydrates, which were concentrated (or dense) carbohydrates that had their cell walls broken down and removed. These were lacking in nutrients. In time, these acellular carbohydrates began replacing many nutrient-dense foods that used to be the dominant makeup of the human diet.
Healthy carbohydrates are contained in the living cells of plants. When these plants are normally cooked, the cell-to-cell links are broken down, but the cell walls that contain the healthy carbohydrates are not destroyed. When healthy plants are ingested, the body’s digestive system breaks down their cell walls and metabolizes their contents.
Dense acellular carbohydrates do not occur naturally in nature.
Two of the most powerful ways humans created dense acellular carbohydrates were to isolate and concentrate sugars from plants, and to grind dense seeds into highly compacted flour. In both cases, heat and pressure would destroy the original food’s cell walls, resulting in dense carbohydrates. These carbohydrates were dead. They did not spoil over time like healthy, cellular carbohydrates would spoil. The resulting flour and sugars were dense, acellular carbohydrates that caused unhealthy changes in the body.
There is a progression of damage that occurs when we eat dense acellular carbs. The lack of essential nutrients in these foods will starve the body’s cells of what they need to thrive. The acellular carbohydrates not only lead to unhealthy bacterial changes in the mouth and gut but also affect the lining of the gut.
Once the gut lining is damaged, harmful bacterial byproducts (called lipopolysaccharides or LPS) and undigested food particles can leak into the bloodstream. Our immune system reacts to these invaders into the bloodstream and creates cascading events of inflammation, which are highly destructive to many functions of the body. Chronic inflammation leads to increases in degenerative diseases of the whole body.
It was once believed that periodontal disease caused systemic diseases. However, the American Heart Association made a statement that there was no evidence indicating a causal link between periodontal disease and heart disease. The AHA suggested independent factors were causing both periodontal disease and heart disease.
Science now knows that the frequent ingestion of high-density, acellular carbohydrates in flour and sugar products (1) creates a growth of unhealthy bacteria in the mouth and gut, (2) damages the cellular lining of the gut, and (3) produces deficiencies in micronutrients. These unhealthy carbs most likely could be the real root cause of periodontal disease, cardiovascular diseases, and other chronic diseases of modern humans.
Hunter-gatherer populations today eat unprocessed foods, and these societies can thrive on a wide variety of macronutrient ratios (ratios relating fat to protein to carbohydrate), ranging from equatorial tribes like the Kitava of Papua, New Guinea, who consume 65 percent of their calories from carbohydrates, all the way to the !Kung in Africa’s Kalahari Desert who eat large quantities of nuts that are 60 percent fat. What neither of these tribes consumes are carbohydrate-dense, acellular foods. These societies rarely have degenerative diseases or tooth decay or gum disease that plague most modern people today.
Q: What went wrong?
A: Our food supply became dominated with dense, acellular carbohydrates that have led to unforeseen damage in the human body.