TPNS 31: The Native Australian Model
Sunday, March 25, 2012 at 09:24PM
Plant Positive

Primitive Nutrition 31:
The Native Australian Model


Australian aborigines are another primitive culture to gain recent prominence online as examplars of superior health. 

The dentist Weston Price found them to have excellent teeth.  These men certainly have enviable teeth.  No doubt diet at least partially explains their lack of dental caries as Price noted.  So these people weren't eating sugar. 

The arrival of Europeans in Australia brought a variety of problems for the Aboriginals extending to the present day.  Their traditional diet had been low in sugar and refined carbohydrates, but the Europeans brought to them new and unhealthy foods.  By 1975 some were consuming as much as 400 lbs of sugar per year per capita.  This single fact expresses just how bad the industrialized diets of poor Aboriginals could get.  Price was witnessing an early stage of this trend.

Diet may not be the only factor to explain Price’s observations of their teeth.  This author raised the possibility that selective pressures on dentition were important for some Aboriginal ancestors.  Perhaps, once again, genetics was a factor.

Another important consideration is the naturally occurring fluoride in the water where some Aboriginals lived.  Remember that fluoridation came into practice in the US following epidemiological studies linking higher natural fluoride concentrations in drinking water sources to low tooth decay.  Here you see this has been seen as a contributor to Aboriginal dental health even quite recently.

Fluoride levels were so naturally high in some areas that up to 30% of children had moderate to severe fluorosis, which is the staining or damaging of teeth by excess fluoride.  This important factor was left out of Price's book.

Australian aboriginals seem to have had their reputation enhanced online by this photo featuring an older gentleman with a great physique, right there in the middle. 

Here is the source of the photo.  Not surprisingly, the man in the center is a tribal chief.  The title states he died of fright upon seeing an automobile.  So in spite of his healthy appearance he likely died of a cardiovascular event.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say this man's physique was probably not representative of Australian Aboriginals of his day.  His Tiwi culture conferred status based on foraging ability.  Maybe he was a chief because his fitness and his hunting and gathering skills went hand and hand.

Here are some other older Aborigines.  They aren't built quite the same, are they?  Weston Price thought these were among the oldest humans in the world. I doubt he based this belief on official birth records.

This book from 1894 tells a different story, stating their men seldom lived to see their 50th year.

Let's look at some other Aborigines.  These guys look fine but unexceptional.

Same thing here.

And here, too.  They certainly weren't overweight, but few people were before they encountered industrialized foods.

Here's another unremarkable guy.    This text informs us that Aborigines smoked, ate insects, and occasionally practiced cannibalism.  None of these are recommended in fad diet books.

This author rated the physical strength of Aboriginal males as below average.

Let's look more closely at their diets.  This very old book says they ate corn and tubers.  Those aren't exactly Paleo.  Moths and frogs were enjoyed as well.

The aborigines did have dietary practices that might be more enjoyable to copy than eating moths and people.  They ate a lot of high-fiber foods, too, so I'll put up one of my favorite slides again from the Paleobiotics Lab.

In the middle paragraph you see the Aborigines were big consumers of fruit and dietary fiber.  No wonder they maintained a healthy weight.

Paleopathology of Aboriginal Australians, Stephen Webb

As best we can tell, Aborigines were relatively healthy, but they really don't fit any idealized notion of perfect health.  They were not free of disease and stress.

Unfortunately, like all primitive cultures, the Aborigines dealt with parasitic infections.  This is a very important fact to consider when assessing the health of primitive humans.

And lastly, some hunter gatherer aboriginals were very far from model Paleo dieters.  Some hunter gatherers in the Western Desert of Australia ate plenty of cereals.

Their diets could have been described as predominantly vegetarian.

As you can see, the model Paleo cultures weren't quite as ideal and representative of their beliefs as the fad diet promoters want you to think.  If you want to see examples of old dietary practices that actually produced uncommonly good health, you'll want to watch the next video.

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