Read an Excerpt: 'Good Calories, Bad Calories'

The fat content of the diets to which we presumably evolved, however, will always remain questionable. If nothing else, whatever constituted the typical Paleolithic hunter-gatherer diet, the type and quantity of fat consumed assuredly changed with season, latitude, and the coming and going of ice ages. This is the problem with recommending that we consume oils in any quantity. Did we evolve to eat olive oil, for example, or linseed oil? And maybe a few thousand years is sufficient time to adapt to a new food but a few hundred is not. If so, then olive oil could conceivably be harmless or even beneficial when consumed in comparatively large quantities by the descendants of Mediterranean populations, who have been consuming it for millennia, but not to Scandinavians or Asians, for whom such an oil is new to the diet. This makes the science even more complicated than it already is, but these are serious considerations that should be taken into account when discussing a healthy diet.

There is no such ambiguity, however, on the subject of carbohydrates. The most dramatic alterations in human diets in the past two million years, unequivocally, are (1) the transition from carbohydrate-poor to carbohydrate-rich diets that came with the invention of agriculture—the addition of grains and easily digestible starches to the diets of hunterepilogue gatherers; (2) the increasing refinement of those carbohydrates over the past few hundred years; and (3) the dramatic increases in fructose consumption that came as the per-capita consumption of sugars—sucrose and now high-fructose corn syrup—increased from less than ten or twenty pounds a year in the mid-eighteenth century to the nearly 150 pounds it is today. Why would a diet that excludes these foods specifically be expected to do anything other than return us to "biological normality"?

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