Chronic disease absent in traditional lifestyles

This interesting editorial article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2001;73:353-354) covers a wide range of topics. First, it notes that individuals living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle are free from chronic diseases that plague the modern world, and this holds true even in cases where the diet is high in fat. The editorial explains that, in today’s traditional rural African societies, heart disease, diabetes and obesity are virtually absent and most elderly individuals still die of infection. The rural African diet does not contain large amounts of processed foods and sugar, smoking is rare in those areas and people engage in significant amounts of daily physical activity. From reviewing hospital records in Massachusetts from 1910 to 1920, the author infers that heart disease was once much more rare in this country.

The article goes on to point out that, if the current trend continues, all American will be obese by the year 2230. In conclusion, the author states that “no matter what efficacious lifestyle changes are recommended, they seem almost irrelevant because they will be very largely ignored.” Personally, I have seen many people regain their health by making courageous lifestyle and diet changes, and I would not be so quick to discount people’s willingness to make changes if given proper information.