Cereal Grains: Humanity´s Double-Edged Sword

From an evolutionary perspective, humanity’s adoption of agriculture, and hence cereal grain consumption, is a relatively recent phenomenon. This research shows that this event occurred in most parts of the world between 5,500 and 10,000 years ago. Cereal grains represent a biologically novel food for mankind [341, 342], consequently there is considerable genetic discordance between this staple food, and the foods to which our species is genetically adapted. Cereal grains lack a number of nutrients which are essential for human health and well-being; additionally they contain numerous vitamins and minerals with low biological availability. Furthermore, the inability of humans to physiologically overcome cereal grain antinutrients (phytates, alkylresorcinols, protease inhibitors, lectins, etc.) is indicative of the evolutionary novelty of this food for our species. This genetic maladaptation between human nutrient requirements and those nutrients found in cereal grains manifests itself as  vitamin and mineral deficiencies and other nutritionally related disorders, particularly when cereal grains are consumed in excessive quantity.

Although, cereal grain consumption may appear to be historically remote, it is biologically recent; consequently the human immune, digestive and endocrine systems have not yet fully adapted to a food group which provides 56% of humanity’s food energy and 50% of its protein.

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Cereal Grains: Humanity´s Double-Edged Sword

Cordain L

Simopoulos AP (ed): Evolutionary Aspects of Nutrition and Health.Diet, Exercise, Genetics and Chronic Disease.World Rev Nutr Diet. Basel, Karger, 1999, vol 84, pp 19-73 (DOI: 10.1159/000059677)

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