Health Markers and the Human Genome

Physical activity, sleep, sun exposure and dietary needs of every living organism (including humans) are genetically determined. In this regard, despite the occurrence of important genetic changes since the Agricultural Revolution, most of the human genome is comprised of genes selected during the Paleolithic Era, a period that lasted from about 2.5 million to 11,000 years ago.

Moreover, hunter-gatherers, and other populations minimally affected by modern habits, when compared to industrialized populations, exhibit superior health markers, body composition and physical fitness and a very low incidence of chronic degenerative diseases.

As such, we recognize the profound changes in diet and lifestyle that occurred after the Neolithic Revolution – and more so after the Industrial Revolution and the Modern Age – are too recent on an evolutionary time scale for the human genome to have fully adapted.

This means that in order to achieve our normal (optimal) phenotype, it is important to mimic the ancestral environment, as pictured in the Normal Phenotype figure below.

Human Genome Normal Phenotype| The Paleo Diet

Because we are not genetically adapted to the modern environment, when exposed to that environment virtually everyone will experience a suboptimal phenotype, pictured below. A suboptimal phenotype may or may not be considered pathological, depending on genetic and epigenetic variants.

Human Genome Suboptimal Phenotype | The Paleo Diet

Learn more “The Western Diet and Lifestyle and Diseases of Civilization”


Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus

Pedro Bastos MA MS Ph.D., candidate in Medical Sciences at Lund University, Sweden; International College of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine

Maelan Fontes MS Ph.D., candidate in Medical Sciences at Lund University, Sweden

Oscar Picazo MSc, Ph.D., candidate in Human Nutrition; Nutriscience Education and Consulting Lda, Lisbon (Portugal)

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About the Author:

Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor Emeritus Dr. Loren Cordain is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. His research emphasis over the past 20 years has focused upon the evolutionary and anthropological basis for diet, health and well being in modern humans. Dr. Cordain’s scientific publications have examined the nutritional characteristics of worldwide hunter-gatherer diets as well as the nutrient composition of wild plant and animal foods consumed by foraging humans. He is the world’s leading expert on Paleolithic diets and has lectured extensively on the Paleolithic nutrition worldwide. Dr. Cordain is the author of six popular bestselling books including The Real Paleo Diet Cookbook, The Paleo Diet, The Paleo Answer, and The Paleo Diet Cookbook, summarizing his research findings.

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