The glories of ancient poo

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Anyone who has taken one of my cooking classes knows I love talking poo. Seriously, I do. Actual poo. Good poo generally means you’re healthy. We talk texture, ease of expulsion, and such.

So, it’s not surprising I found this article fascinating.

The ancient Native Americans of the desert Southwest subsisted on a fiber-filled diet of prickly pear, yucca and flour ground from plant seeds, finds a new analysis of fossilized feces that may explain why modern Native Americans are so susceptible to Type II diabetes.

Thousands of years of incredibly fibrous foods, 20 to 30 times more fibrous than today’s typical diet, with low impact on the blood sugar likely left this group vulnerable to the illness when richer Anglo foods made their way to North America, said study researcher Karl Reinhard, a professor of forensic sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

In fact…

The amount of fiber our diet contained in ancient times was up to sixteen times what we eat now.

In this article, the poo examined dates back to AD 1125 or earlier.

The glycemic index of a food is a measure of how fast its energy is absorbed into the bloodstream. It’s measured on a scale of 1 to 100, with 1 being the slowest absorbing with the least effect on blood sugar. The native people who lived in the deserts of Arizona would have likely eaten traditional stews with glycemic indexes around 23, Reinhard found. Foods scoring lower than 55 are considered “low-GI” foods.

Here are some specifics:

To find solid evidence of what ancient Southwestern tribes actually ate, Reinhard turned to what he called “the most intimate residues from archaeological sites” — fossilized poop. Known as coprolites, these fossils contain a record of their creator’s most recent meals.

The researchers analyzed 25 coprolites from Antelope Cave in northwestern Arizona, a dwelling that was seasonally occupied for thousands of years. These particular coprolites (20 of which turned out to be human) date back to at least A.D. 1150 and earlier. The dates make the cave a perfect time to look at the transition from a total hunter-gatherer lifestyle to one supplemented by some agriculture, Reinhard said.

Fascinating.

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