Our Native American ancestors:What their poop has to offer

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In Arizona, 20 human specimens of coprolite have been dissected to tell tales of dietary fare and a possible link to Type II diabetes. Dating back to A.D. 1150, poop samples from Antelope Cave reveal a diet so rich in fiber that, by today's standards, would ease the most stubborn human constipation.

With a consistent diet of flour from corn, yucca, and prickly pear, these peoples were ill-equipped for the European-influenced diet that would eventually take over their consumption habits. So how did the diet affect blood sugar levels in the cave dwellers?
University of Nebraska-Lincoln forensic professor Karl Reinhard explains: "When we look at Native American dietary change within the twentieth century, the more ancient traditions disappeared. They were introduced to a whole new spectrum of foods like fry-bread, which has got a super-high glycemic index." Those two dietary traditions had a significant gap in the glycemic index, which determines how food is processed in the body and how blood sugar levels are regulated. The cave peoples ate foods that were rich in fiber, but those foods had a much lower glycemic index compared to the emerging European diet. As a result, the body did not adjust to the diet and its breakdown of sugar levels, leaving the body susceptible to lower-than-normal blood sugar regulation and insulin production.

Reinhard concludes that a genetic disposition to blood sugar absorption developed and we never fully recovered, a somber reality from a petrified clump of human dung.

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2 Comments on "Our Native American ancestors:What their poop has to offer"

runninggrrl2's picture
Comment Quality Moderatork 500+ points

Actually, I think pretty much any ancient diet would have been extremely high in fiber and low in sugar and refined carbohydrates. This is probably why the Paleo way of eating is getting a new resurgence--it focuses on eating mostly plants and animal products with no grain products and only a few kinds of fruits. I eat an 80% Paleo diet--I leave wiggle room for vodka and Skittles, of course--but the vast majority of my diet is meat, greens, other veggies, some fruit, eggs, nuts, and the occasional whole grain like corn on the cob or popcorn. No way do I want to get diabetes like my grandpa did.

An apple a day keeps the ExLax away!

Anonymous's picture

Nice article. However, I doubt that the Native American diet was anywhere close to being homogeneous. As most people know meat,and especially fat,provides a lot of quick easy calories. This sample looks like it was taken in area that would probably have little game, whereas if you were able to check the Plains Indian's poop, no real steady encampments which makes it difficult, you would probably find mostly meat, with little fiber.