by Tammera J. Karr, PhD
Like so many who are in the health care and academic modalities, reading – like every word on the page, kind of reading – morphs into expert skimming. A personal challenge this year has been to return to actual reading with a book, not a tablet, phone, or computer screen. The value of exercising our brain and eyes is essential in maintaining cognitive health. At one time I could devour five to ten books a month. To be honest, they were all bubble gum books that entertained versus educated. I used to think how boring non-fiction books were, now my view is, shall we say more mature. Today after years of reading research, clinical data, and health and food-related books and on electronic screens, it is almost impossible for me to read a work of fiction. I also had lost my power to stay focused both mentally and my eyes physically on an actual book. This concerned me, as vision changes can be related to cognitive decline, and I decided it was time for a change.
I found myself drawn to anthropology, wanting to learn for myself if the volumus information being spouted on the internet, social media and at conferences about Paleo diets had any foundation in fact. This path also meant I would be questioning deeply held beliefs of highly respected or publicized professionals.
My Journey began with reading Luther Cressmans’ book “The Sandle and the Cave,” Oregon State University Press 1981. Cressmens’ pivotal work on Native Peoples of the Pacific Northwest and in particular, the tribs of Oregon changed academics whole approach to the science of anthropology in the 1930s – 1980s. For those of you who do not know Oregon History, the great basin area east of the cascades is home to peoples who date back almost 10,000 years, confirmed with DNA testing. Cressmens’ work and those who followed him have turned science on its ear over the populating of the Americas. For me, reading, Cressman’s work supported my thought on what was an actual paleo diet versus the glamorized version on social media. My mind wanted to learn more about what food anthropologists had to say on traditional diets.
This lead me to food anthropology blogs, newsletters and yes, even social media groups. Here I learned that modern science now is able to find minute traces of plant cells and DNA in the pores of ancient pottery shards. High tech scans are able to trace and identify for the first time what past civilizations and people ate. Before now it was all theory, and as Cressman stated just because a food is present in an area today does not mean ancient populations utilized it. In order for us to eat like the pioneers, we are going to have to get over many of our preconceived perceptions of food. To eat like actual paleo individuals, we have to throw out the book on everything we have ever known, and place ourselves in entirely different environments and in the position of eating or die. None of us want this to be the norm; we like our gourmet coffee and tea, global foods, and even a bag of highly procced industrial chips.
My husband shared with a work colleague with a science on the ground job that I was reading The Sandle and the Cave. “Oh he said if she is reading that, then she needs to read, “No Bone Unturned by Jeff Benedict, it is about the Kennewick man and how the truth was being literally buried by the government.” So I did, every page in one day. I like many in Oregon remember when it was announced in the 1990s that the oldest dating human remains had been found along the banks of the Columbia River, and they were caucasian not resembling known native peoples. Then we heard the remains were found to be native and returned to the Umatilla tribe for repatriation. I seemed to have missed the rest of the story that followed.
What I didn’t know was the nations leading forensic anthropologists and archeologists from the Smithsonian and Universities spent over five years embroiled in a lawsuit against the Corp of Engineers and the Department of Justice pertaining to due process and as the attorney phrased it “the right to knowledge.” This is a real David and Goliath story; scientists placed their credibility, careers, and livelihoods on the line and they won, not because the government capitulated but because the scientific evidence was rock solid and a massive cover-up was exposed that wanted to gage and discredit scientists who pushed for “transparency and freedom of knowledge”.
This is a mystery story worth reading, and it brought back to my mind a conversation I had with a Lawyer about our right to dietary information and freedom of choice on food. I still rankle over her telling me the constitution does not guarantee our right to health freedom, and the difference one word made in the writing of the constitution – “inherent” to “inalienable.” I wonder how much information has been buried and scientists discredited because they posed an unpopular scientific finding or theory, counter to the agenda of a government agency, academic institution or a multinational corporation?
We may never know the answer to that question. As long as we have the freedom to seek out knowledge, to write and read books printed on paper or uncensored on the internet, we have the opportunity to grow, learn and be a positive influence on our corner of the world.
To food for the brain as well as the body.
© 2019 Holistic Nutrition for the Whole you