Holford and the history of agriculture

This morning, I was interested to read Holford arguing that

there are a whole lot of fundamental principles relating to how we live. I mean, for example, if you go back to a time when everyone was a hunter/gatherer, that’s 200 generations ago, that’s all. It’s really not that much. And, of course, all food was organic; all food was whole, unrefined and so on.

However, 200 generations is – being generous, and allowing 25 years/generation – 5,000 years. Humans have been farming for more like 10,000 years.

I am not, generally, especially convinced by this argument from ancientness. However, if someone is going to make this type of argument, we would at least hope that they would get their timelines right.

Holford also argues that

2,000mg [per day vitamin C] is pretty much what a Gorilla will eat in a natural environment, from fruits, leaves, berries and shoots. So my combined food and supplement intake of Vitamin C is about 2,000mg, and that is pretty consistent with evolution.

Holford, however, is not a gorilla. What is healthy for a gorilla is not necessarily healthy for him (or for you).

Given that the article related to a show put on by the Irish Association of Health Stores – which no doubt sell a range of interesting health foods – I would also note that gorillas have been known to eat faeces (their own, and those of other gorillas). Does a gorilla-style diet still sound so appealing?

h/t to Gimpy.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Holford and the history of agriculture

  1. gimpy

    If I recall correctly, the gorilla large intestine is somewhat bigger proportionaly than the human equivalent. This is because the gorilla predominately eats shoots and leaves, with a side order of ants and grubs, whereas the human diet is typically more varied, with ant and grub consumption being a minority pursuit and meat consumption, unknown in gorillas, being more common. This suggests that Holfords views on the diet of apes owes little to the academic literature and rather more to the burblings emitting from that orifice at the lower end of his digestive tract.

  2. Reading that Holford comes across as fairly mainstream, he doesn’t mention vitamin pills until the end, and he even says that rather than fortifying food with vitamins we should just eat food with vitamins in it which is quite sensible (albeit idealistic).

    Certainly a far cry from ‘Vitamin C is better than AZT’, maybe he is trying to change his image?

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  3. uk dietitian

    I once attended a meeting in London where Holford used the same argument, man = ape = needs lots of vitamin C. At one point a doctor debating with him turned and said in that alpha-medical-male drawl – “well, apes are fruitarians who need Vitamin B12 so they eat their own faeces to get this. I don’t think Patrick would be suggesting this aspect of ape diets to his clients”. Cue audience laughter

  4. Given that the article related to a show put on by the Irish Association of Health Stores – which no doubt sell a range of interesting health foods – I would also note that gorillas have been known to eat faeces (their own, and those of other gorillas). Does a gorilla-style diet still sound so appealing?

    Millions of flies can’t be wrong.

    • Quite right. And flies have been eating this way for eons – while clearly remaining in excellent health.

      Now I just need to get the water out of my keyboard…

  5. Nick

    Gorillas are herbivores and eat comparatively little fruit. They are also hind-gut fermentors, their large intestine being about 3 times the length of humans and in comparison highly efficient; they absorb their B12 there. Their diet consist mainly of huge amounts of fibre that is fermented in the large intestine into short chain fatty acids by the gut-flora (i.e. ultimately a ‘high fat’ diet!). They do eat feaces but very rarely — it’s probably an adaptation to ensure a healthy gut-flora, a bit like you downing an ‘probiotic’ Actimel/Yakult! Basically we are not gorillas and comparissons to their diet is b*llocks.

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