Those Mythical Hunter Gatherers Who Stay Thin Because They Are More Active Than You?

You know the ones…they are always invoked in the context of, “You’re overweight because you’re a victim of Western Civilization. If you only moved around like our hunter-gatherer ancestors, you’d burn more energy and you’d be thin…”

Well, it turns out those hunter-gatherers aren’t mythical, and despite their activity, they don’t burn any more calories than you do.

That second part is a little hard to believe, as it goes against pretty much everything we’ve been told about the causes of obesity (not to mention strategies for combating it). But here’s the quote at the heart of the research:

As expected, physical activity level, PAL, was greater among Hadza foragers than among Westerners. Nonetheless, average daily energy expenditure of traditional Hadza foragers was no different than that of Westerners after controlling for body size.

The paper raises some interesting points, and there’s plenty of speculation on the role of sugar (and other refined carbs) in obesity rates in Western societies…but as usual, there’s no substitute for reading the paper yourself.

What I find particularly fascinating is that people as active as the Hadza do not have a marked difference in energy expenditure than Western adults, despite the (apparent) dramatic difference in activity.


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