Book review: Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us about Sex, Diet, and How We Live, by Marlene Zuk
This book refutes some myths about what would happen if we adopted the lifestyle of some imaginary hunter-gather ancestor who some imagine was perfectly adapted to his environment.
I’m a bit disappointed that it isn’t as provocative as the hype around it suggested. It mostly just points out that there’s no single environment that we’re adapted to, plus uncertainty about what our ancestors’ lifestyle was.
She spends a good deal of the book demonstrating what ought to be the well-known fact that we’re still evolving and have partly adapted to an agricultural lifestyle. A more surprising point is that we still have problems stemming from not yet having fully evolved to be land animals rather than fish (e.g. hiccups).
She provides a reference to a study disputing the widely held belief that the transition from hunter-gatherer to farmer made people less healthy.
She cites evidence that humans haven’t evolved much adaptation to specific diets, and do about equally well on a wide variety of diets involving wild foods, so that looking at plant to animal ratios in hunter-gather diets isn’t useful.
Her practical lifestyle advice is mostly consistent with an informed guess about how we can imitate our ancestors’ lifestyle (e.g. eat less processed food), and mainly serves to counteract some of the overconfident claims of the less thoughtful paleo lifestyle promoters.