What sense does it make to compare the health and diets of hunter-gatherers with those of modern urban populations, and more importantly, what difference might it make? A medical researcher takes on both questions and presents provocative answers. On the question of comparability, the author cites research that shows that all hunter-gatherer societies had a lower prevalence of coronary heart disease (CHD), obesity, diabetes, and the “cancers of prosperity,” whether their diets contained a high or low proportion of animal fat. He suggests that, rather than attempting to derive health lessons directly from “primitive communities,” we would learn more by examining contemporary Western groups who have different prevalences of CHD. Why is it, for example, that the incidence of CHD in New Mexico is “less than half” that of New York?
But would it make a difference? He notes that, even though it is widely understood that obesity, hypertension, and other risk factors are directly related to CHD, “no matter what efficacious lifestyle changes are recommended…they will be very largely ignored.”