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Ancient Hunters Didn't Burn More Calories, They Ate Better

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July 26, 2012

Ancient Hunters Didn't Burn More Calories, They Ate Better

By Chad Love

It's long been assumed that our sedentary, technology saturated, modern lifestyle is the primary reason so much of the industrialized world is fat. Well, you know what they say about assuming things. As it turns out, humans burn about the same number of calories if they're running down gazelles on the African plains, perched in a deer stand, or making sure they have the proper cover sheets on those TPS reports...

From this press release on sciencedaily.com:
Modern lifestyles are generally quite different from those of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, a fact that some claim as the cause of the current rise in global obesity, but new results published July 25 in the open access journal PLoS ONE find that there is no difference between the energy expenditure of modern hunter-gatherers and Westerners, casting doubt on this theory.

The research team behind the study, led by Herman Pontzer of Hunter College in New York City, along with David Raichlen of the University of Arizona and Brian M. Wood of Stanford measured daily energy expenditure (calories per day) among the Hadza, a population of traditional hunter-gatherers living in the open savannah of northern Tanzania. Despite spending their days trekking long distances to forage for wild plants and game, the Hadza burned no more calories each day than adults in the U.S. and Europe.

According to the story, the findings that both African hunter/gatherers and Office Space drones have about the same metabolic rate completely upends the view that western obesity rates are caused by lack of activity. The real culprit? Too much food, and of that, too much processed food. Thoughts? Reaction?

Comments (19)

Top Rated
All Comments
from Koldkut wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

Truth!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

Truth? If there were no arches around, the big yellow arches, how could they have eaten better?...what was their life expectancy?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dcast wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

Thats why the paleodiet is raved about. Eat only natural veggies, fruit, and meat basically anything but what you buy in a box,bag,container, etc... As for obesity I have read countless articles stating and showing that USA isn't the fattest nation in the world but equal to all developed nations. I think it would be worth while for some research on all the hormones, antibiotics, and GMO food that we consume to see if it isn't a link to obesity, cancer, heart disease, and all the other diseases, but this would have to be done in secret and by a independent research group.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ORbowhunter wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

Before any food in your mouth ask yourself these questions; Could I hunt it? Could I fish it? Could I pick it? Or, could I dig it from the ground? If you can't answer these questions then don't eat it.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from AOfisher wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

I am no scientist but a couple of things struck me in the scientific study referenced. First, I’m not sure a comparison of a hunter-gatherer group from Africa provides a good basis of comparison for Western cultures. I skimmed through the scientists’ paper and understand that there was an attempt to control for physiological differences between the two groups (namely, size), but those adjustments themselves are based on formulas that are just that: mathematical formulas. A better control for physiological differences would be to take the same group of individuals and subject them to different lifestyles (I understand this may not be practical). Second, the population of hunter gatherers studied totaled 19 individuals. The scientists claim that this is a statistically sufficient population size. That maybe a sufficient population size to represent the genetic pool of the group of people studied, but I’m not convinced it is a sufficient size to represent hunter gatherers in general. What about variation across cultures and regions? The activity level a specific group may be tied to their genetics and the area where they live (it may be easier to hunt and gather food in one area vs. another). If more data points were collected across several groups, then the first concern above would be less relevant.

Every now and then, scientists come up with new and “shocking” claims. I would wait until other data confirms the validity of this study. In the meantime, I would not give up the exercise yet…

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from makersman wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

yep!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

Sayfu, truth to his last statemnt, Too much food, and too much over processing of that food.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tom donohue wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

Avoid Fructose af it is was the plague, which it kinda is.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brazilnut wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

Is beer a vegetable?

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from chuckles wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

Well people may expend the same amount of energy in calories but the key is in how much they take in. You gain weight when the intake exceeds the expenditure. What you eat also makes a difference. If you eat natural foods vs the high fructose corn syrup diet I bet it is easier to stay at a healthy weight. Definitely have to read the whole study before making any sweeping conclusions.Still seems counter-intuitive to me.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

We expend as much energy? Are you kidding? Our kids aren't allowed outside. They stay inside and play video games. Adults to finger exercises on this machine all day long.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ingebrigtsen wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

a huge ammount of the energy the body takes in is expended in keeping the body temperature aligned. this is a extremely complex energy system adaptable to huge variations in climate etc.. way too complex to explain to u guys :P
cut the carbs if u wanna loose weight, and excersice to build a lil muscle, muscles expend energy. this will work for 4 out of 5 people on average, since 4/5`th of us have mainly hunter/gatherer genetics where sugars and carbs where only a opportunistic part of the diet. the last 5`th has mainly farmers genetics, and can tolerate alot higher and daily useage of complex sugars withouth developing intolerance to insulin..

summing up be4 i actually explain the fine details and most of u would go durrr if i did, if cutting carbs dont get u down in weight u need to be on a low energy diet instead..
whats wrong today with our diet is that refined sugar is cheap to produce and is added to almost everything for profit,, if citric acids and stabilisers wasnt added to coke u would feel sick drinking it cos it would be so damn sweet..

so cut the carbs and the horsedung and actually KNOW how things work instead of listening to experts comming up with trendy new ways of making people still need them..

people where people a hundred thousand years ago too, just culture and invention has improved since then..

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 1 year 37 weeks ago

Sayfu, a fit human body burns fewer calories to do the same job, not more. So they may do more, but their bodies are in tune with what they do, hence, more efficient.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tom warner wrote 1 year 37 weeks ago

When I was a young lad growing up during the 1930's, there were very few fat or even overweight people. Any fat kid or adult was considered a freak; someone who had something wrong with them. I cannot recall any fat classmates all through school. Although lack of exercise is no doubt a factor, I would have to conclude that it's our diet. Obesity has exploded in a very short period of time; and the people who are not actually horribly fat, still are too heavy anyway. I think it's a no-brainer. We're eating TOO MUCH of the WRONG STUFF.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian Robinson wrote 1 year 37 weeks ago

I am sorry to say the average American hunter is a lard ass

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from BobGWI wrote 1 year 37 weeks ago

ORbowhunter, you just ruined Cheezits for me. I'm voting for beer as a veggie.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Red Salas wrote 1 year 37 weeks ago

Too much processed food today is also a factor in why people are fat.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 1 year 37 weeks ago

koldkut...not sure about the science behind that statement you made. Doesn't seem to make sense for what I know about buring calories.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bioguy01 wrote 1 year 37 weeks ago

I think it's right on the money. Even in hunter-gatherer societies, there are long periods of people just sitting around and doing nothing marked by short periods of energy expenditure in hunting and gathering food. Why...because it's all about energy conservation. Hunting and gathering food is energy intensive, so people tend to conserve their energy for times when we absolutely need to use it. Additionally, 3 square meals a day is not necessarily a luxury afforded to a subsistence life-style. In a subsistence situation, you eat when you're hungry and food is available. If your hungry and food isn't available, you starve until you find food.

I'm just waiting for some kind of natural disaster to set us back to a time before modern refrigeration. In such times, hunters and farmers are highly valued in a society. We will be leaders! :-)

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from ingebrigtsen wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

a huge ammount of the energy the body takes in is expended in keeping the body temperature aligned. this is a extremely complex energy system adaptable to huge variations in climate etc.. way too complex to explain to u guys :P
cut the carbs if u wanna loose weight, and excersice to build a lil muscle, muscles expend energy. this will work for 4 out of 5 people on average, since 4/5`th of us have mainly hunter/gatherer genetics where sugars and carbs where only a opportunistic part of the diet. the last 5`th has mainly farmers genetics, and can tolerate alot higher and daily useage of complex sugars withouth developing intolerance to insulin..

summing up be4 i actually explain the fine details and most of u would go durrr if i did, if cutting carbs dont get u down in weight u need to be on a low energy diet instead..
whats wrong today with our diet is that refined sugar is cheap to produce and is added to almost everything for profit,, if citric acids and stabilisers wasnt added to coke u would feel sick drinking it cos it would be so damn sweet..

so cut the carbs and the horsedung and actually KNOW how things work instead of listening to experts comming up with trendy new ways of making people still need them..

people where people a hundred thousand years ago too, just culture and invention has improved since then..

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from ingebrigtsen wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

a huge ammount of the energy the body takes in is expended in keeping the body temperature aligned. this is a extremely complex energy system adaptable to huge variations in climate etc.. way too complex to explain to u guys :P
cut the carbs if u wanna loose weight, and excersice to build a lil muscle, muscles expend energy. this will work for 4 out of 5 people on average, since 4/5`th of us have mainly hunter/gatherer genetics where sugars and carbs where only a opportunistic part of the diet. the last 5`th has mainly farmers genetics, and can tolerate alot higher and daily useage of complex sugars withouth developing intolerance to insulin..

summing up be4 i actually explain the fine details and most of u would go durrr if i did, if cutting carbs dont get u down in weight u need to be on a low energy diet instead..
whats wrong today with our diet is that refined sugar is cheap to produce and is added to almost everything for profit,, if citric acids and stabilisers wasnt added to coke u would feel sick drinking it cos it would be so damn sweet..

so cut the carbs and the horsedung and actually KNOW how things work instead of listening to experts comming up with trendy new ways of making people still need them..

people where people a hundred thousand years ago too, just culture and invention has improved since then..

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from AOfisher wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

I am no scientist but a couple of things struck me in the scientific study referenced. First, I’m not sure a comparison of a hunter-gatherer group from Africa provides a good basis of comparison for Western cultures. I skimmed through the scientists’ paper and understand that there was an attempt to control for physiological differences between the two groups (namely, size), but those adjustments themselves are based on formulas that are just that: mathematical formulas. A better control for physiological differences would be to take the same group of individuals and subject them to different lifestyles (I understand this may not be practical). Second, the population of hunter gatherers studied totaled 19 individuals. The scientists claim that this is a statistically sufficient population size. That maybe a sufficient population size to represent the genetic pool of the group of people studied, but I’m not convinced it is a sufficient size to represent hunter gatherers in general. What about variation across cultures and regions? The activity level a specific group may be tied to their genetics and the area where they live (it may be easier to hunt and gather food in one area vs. another). If more data points were collected across several groups, then the first concern above would be less relevant.

Every now and then, scientists come up with new and “shocking” claims. I would wait until other data confirms the validity of this study. In the meantime, I would not give up the exercise yet…

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

Truth!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brazilnut wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

Is beer a vegetable?

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from tom warner wrote 1 year 37 weeks ago

When I was a young lad growing up during the 1930's, there were very few fat or even overweight people. Any fat kid or adult was considered a freak; someone who had something wrong with them. I cannot recall any fat classmates all through school. Although lack of exercise is no doubt a factor, I would have to conclude that it's our diet. Obesity has exploded in a very short period of time; and the people who are not actually horribly fat, still are too heavy anyway. I think it's a no-brainer. We're eating TOO MUCH of the WRONG STUFF.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dcast wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

Thats why the paleodiet is raved about. Eat only natural veggies, fruit, and meat basically anything but what you buy in a box,bag,container, etc... As for obesity I have read countless articles stating and showing that USA isn't the fattest nation in the world but equal to all developed nations. I think it would be worth while for some research on all the hormones, antibiotics, and GMO food that we consume to see if it isn't a link to obesity, cancer, heart disease, and all the other diseases, but this would have to be done in secret and by a independent research group.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ORbowhunter wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

Before any food in your mouth ask yourself these questions; Could I hunt it? Could I fish it? Could I pick it? Or, could I dig it from the ground? If you can't answer these questions then don't eat it.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from tom donohue wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

Avoid Fructose af it is was the plague, which it kinda is.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian Robinson wrote 1 year 37 weeks ago

I am sorry to say the average American hunter is a lard ass

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

Truth? If there were no arches around, the big yellow arches, how could they have eaten better?...what was their life expectancy?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from makersman wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

yep!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

Sayfu, truth to his last statemnt, Too much food, and too much over processing of that food.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from chuckles wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

Well people may expend the same amount of energy in calories but the key is in how much they take in. You gain weight when the intake exceeds the expenditure. What you eat also makes a difference. If you eat natural foods vs the high fructose corn syrup diet I bet it is easier to stay at a healthy weight. Definitely have to read the whole study before making any sweeping conclusions.Still seems counter-intuitive to me.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

We expend as much energy? Are you kidding? Our kids aren't allowed outside. They stay inside and play video games. Adults to finger exercises on this machine all day long.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 1 year 37 weeks ago

Sayfu, a fit human body burns fewer calories to do the same job, not more. So they may do more, but their bodies are in tune with what they do, hence, more efficient.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from BobGWI wrote 1 year 37 weeks ago

ORbowhunter, you just ruined Cheezits for me. I'm voting for beer as a veggie.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Red Salas wrote 1 year 37 weeks ago

Too much processed food today is also a factor in why people are fat.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 1 year 37 weeks ago

koldkut...not sure about the science behind that statement you made. Doesn't seem to make sense for what I know about buring calories.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bioguy01 wrote 1 year 37 weeks ago

I think it's right on the money. Even in hunter-gatherer societies, there are long periods of people just sitting around and doing nothing marked by short periods of energy expenditure in hunting and gathering food. Why...because it's all about energy conservation. Hunting and gathering food is energy intensive, so people tend to conserve their energy for times when we absolutely need to use it. Additionally, 3 square meals a day is not necessarily a luxury afforded to a subsistence life-style. In a subsistence situation, you eat when you're hungry and food is available. If your hungry and food isn't available, you starve until you find food.

I'm just waiting for some kind of natural disaster to set us back to a time before modern refrigeration. In such times, hunters and farmers are highly valued in a society. We will be leaders! :-)

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment