Beyond Ötzi: European Evolutionary History and its Relevance to Diet. Part I

In the previous post, I explained that Otzi descended in large part from early adopters of agriculture in the Middle East or nearby.  What I'll explain in further posts is that Otzi was not a genetic anomaly: he was part of a wave of agricultural migrants that washed over Europe thousands of years ago, spreading their genes throughout.  Not only that, Otzi represents a halfway point in the evolutionary process that transformed Paleolithic humans into modern humans.

Did Agriculture in Europe Spread by Cultural Transmission or by Population Replacement?

There's a long-standing debate in the anthropology community over how agriculture spread throughout Europe.  One camp proposes that agriculture spread by a cultural route, and that European hunter-gatherers simply settled down and began planting grains.  The other camp suggests that European hunter-gatherers were replaced (totally or partially) by waves of agriculturalist immigrants from the Middle East that were culturally and genetically better adapted to the agricultural diet and lifestyle.  These are two extreme positions, and I think almost everyone would agree at this point that the truth lies somewhere in between: modern Europeans are a mix of genetic lineages, some of which originate from the earliest Middle Eastern agriculturalists who expanded into Europe, and some of which originate from indigenous hunter-gatherer groups including a small contribution from neanderthals.  We know that modern-day Europeans are not simply Paleolithic mammoth eaters who reluctantly settled down and began farming. 

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What's In A McNugget?

McNuggets before the breading and frying.
Weight Watchers recent announcement endorsing McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets as an appropriate meal selection for individuals striving to lose weight has sent the health and fitness industry into an uproar.  Any organization that strives to create a better quality of life through weight loss for their members will ultimately be leading them down a path of health disaster if they continue to give the okay to fast foods and their health deteriorating additives.

When consumers choose to make their own chicken nuggets at home, they get fresh chicken, cut it up into chunks, bread it and either bake it or pan fry them.  When searching McDonald’s website for ingredient lists for all of their menu options, the McNugget is only 45% farm raised, hormone injected chicken.  That leaves 55% of the remaining nugget comprised of chemicals; 37 to be exact. 

One of the 37 ingredients in the McNugget is dimethylpolysiloxane.   This anti-foaming agent is used in silicon, caulk, silicone breast implants, cosmetics, and Silly Putty.  When inspecting a McNugget, this chemical is what gives the “chicken” the whipped texture.

Another dangerous chemical contained in the McNugget is tertiary butyl hydroquinone.  This chemical is petroleum based and is found in perfumes, varnish, resins, and oil field chemicals.  Recent health studies show that this chemical highly carcinogenic and is known to cause stomach tumours as well as damage DNA. 

If you still are not convinced of the dangers that McNuggets or other foods offered on McDonald’s menu can cause to health, rent the documentary Super Size Me.  This movie is a scientific experiment that depicts what can happen to the human body overtime when eating frequent fast food meals.  Before the 8 week study could conclude, the participant developed fatty liver disease, his blood pressure sky rocketed, and his doctor highly suggested stopping the experiment for fear of future ramifications, possibly irreversible, to the participant’s health. 

If Weight Watchers was truly concerned for their participants and their health, they would begin to focus on educating all participants on smart ways to lose weight that include less fast foods, more fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins and incorporate daily exercise. 

All the best in Health and Fitness
~ Sue
PS – you can join in anytime by leaving a comment below indicating your interest and fill out the “Notify Me of New Posts by Email” box so that you’ll be up to date with all my posts.

Are You Making These 12 Diet Mistakes?

Diet Mistakes Can Influence Weight
Simple diet mistakes can derail your best efforts to get back into that favourite pair of jeans.

If the scale seems stuck, or your weight drops off only to bounce back up, there's a chance you could be making one of these 12 weight loss blunders.

All the best in Health and Fitness
~ Sue

PS – you can join in anytime by leaving a comment below indicating your interest and fill out the “Notify Me of New Posts by Email” box so that you’ll be up to date with all my posts.

Lessons From Ötzi, the Tyrolean Ice Man. Part III

There are two reasons why I chose this time to write about Otzi.  The first is that I've been looking for a good excuse to revisit human evolutionary history, particularly that of Europeans, and what it does and doesn't tell us about the "optimal" human diet.  The second is that Otzi's full genome was sequenced and described in a recent issue of Nature Communications (1).  A "genome" is the full complement of genes an organism carries.  So what that means is that researchers have sequenced almost all of his genes. 

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The Nose-Tube Diet

What do you think about this article? 

Should brides be so worried about slimming down for their wedding day? 

Read More On This Topic Here!

All the best in Health and Fitness
~ Sue

PS – you can join in anytime by leaving a comment below indicating your interest and fill out the “Notify Me of New Posts by Email” box so that you’ll be up to date with all my posts.

When You Work (and Eat) From Home: 7 Healthy Tips

As someone who works from home, I know that maintaining a healthy eating routine takes some passion and planning. Whether your job allows you to work from home – or you are a full time, hard working stay at home parent, it is easier than you think to embrace wellness in your in-home setting – simply by reducing stress and eating right.

You may feel that the lack a structured work environment makes it difficult to stay on track, your house versus a corporate office, for example. But in reality, if you learn to embrace all the wellness benefits of working from home you will find that you are able to take care of yourself and your family more than ever before. Healthy eating, stress reduction and exercise all go hand in hand. So focusing on all three of these areas will ensure that you succeed in whatever your diet goals may be – whether you want to lose weight, maintain it or build strength.

1. Get Ready for Work. If you work from home I’m sure you have had many days when you glance at the clock and it says 4pm and what do you know, you are still in your pyjamas. While I am a big fan of PJ workdays once in a while, the habit of not getting ready for the day can become a mentally fatiguing routine. There is something stable about a defined morning routine of getting ready for the day. Putting on “work clothes” whatever those may be, washing your face, and pampering yourself, showering, preparing a light breakfast and packing lunches for the day. And that leads to the next tip..

2. Pack Your Lunch. Maybe you already pack a lunch for your kids or for your spouse who goes off to work in an office structure. Or maybe you don’t pack any lunches at all. But give this tip a try and see if you like it. Instead of putting off lunch plans until “lunchtime” try packing yourself a lunch in the morning. You are more likely to be calm when you first wake – as any stresses from the day will have yet to shake you. So you are more likely going to pack yourself a lunch of healthy, nutrient dense foods like a large salad with some low fat protein and maybe a tall water bottle or glass filled with lemon wedges and mint for a beverage. My favourite lunch to pack for myself is a giant multi-veggie-ingredient salad topped with lightly sautéed tempeh or marinated tofu, maybe some quinoa, beans and/or brown rice thrown in too. Then around lunchtime I don’t have to worry about making my lunch, I just grab and go…

3. Take a Technology Free Lunch Break. This is probably the most important tip I can give you. Many of us who work from home or even out of an office sit at our desks and eat our lunch. Bad Idea. Your desk area – or in front of your computer, iPad or even smart phone should be an eat-free zone. Instead choose a sunny spot for your lunch. Take your packed lunch and unplug for at least twenty minutes to savour the flavours, textures, colours and nutrition in your meal. I usually like to eat outside on a sunny day. Or even find a sunbeam on the floor on my yoga mat. You don’t have to eat at a big kitchen table. Having a routine also means being flexible. The safety and comfort of routine can be played with to make it interesting and keep you on your toes.

If you are eating alone, lunch will be a nice quiet, tech-free time. If you are eating with your kids, this is a great way to teach them to break during the day for lunch – away from the television and their gadgets. This is a valuable lifelong habit they will appreciate. I remember my dad working from his in-home office. Every day at the same time he would break for lunch and savour his meal in peace. I now see the order and restraint in that routine.

And this goes for breakfast too! Maybe you are a more ‘large breakfast’ person. Be sure to do it tech-free. Enjoying your hearty breakfast in the line of fire of your tech gadgets and online chatter during the busy morning work-rush hours will only boost your stress and set a poor mood for the rest of your day. Find a quiet morning space to eat.

4. Hydrate. Constantly. Lucky us, work from home-ers have very close and easy access to a bathroom. Really! Many people actually halt their water drinking due to the fact that they fear being stuck in a long office meeting or conference call with the uncontrollable urge ‘to go.’ Well drinking lots of water throughout the day (and I do mean pure water – nothing sweetened or caffeinated) will hydrate your cells giving your skin a boost of moisture, helping you flush out toxins, keeping your digestive system running properly and also fighting off dehydration-induced fatigue. Grab a giant water bottle and let it follow you around all day long.

5. Take a Yoga Break. Stretching and feeling a sense of calm helps your body in many ways. It keeps your circulation up – which aids in digestion, energy and removal of toxins. Yoga and stretching also relaxes the body. And a relaxed body is much more likely to eat healthy foods throughout the day. And luckily, you can easily keep a yoga mat in your home and take a yoga break whenever you choose. Kids can join in too! There are even several yoga DVDs specifically designed for kids or parents and kids to do together. Even a ten minute break can work wonders on reducing stress.

6. Fill Up on Fibre. Fibre rocks. It not only helps to keep you fuller longer, but it aids your body in carrying out toxins and dead cells in your digestive tract. Fibre is especially important when you are dieting – not only for the caloric benefits, but because we store many toxins in our fat tissue. And when you start burning fat those stored toxins can be released into our blood stream and make us feel kind of crappy. But fibre to the rescue! As I said, it can aid in carrying some of those toxins out of our body. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds are all healthy high fibre, nutrient dense foods.

7. Release Stress Before You Start Eating. Very important. In a corporate office you usually have a certain time when everyone breaks for lunch. So even if you just got off a very stressful phone call or just heard some frustrating news – you sometimes have no choice but to break for lunch. More than likely, you won’t make the best food choices when your stress hormones are raging. Luckily when you work from home you can stop and delay lunch a bit and fill in that stressed out time with (no, not food) – with some stress-releasing activity like exercise, yoga, deep breathing, a hot Epsom salt bath or even a break to turn on some music or read a book. Try to not bring a stressed out mood to your lunch break. You hunger and digestion will not be at its best. You might be left with eating one too many french fries and a stress-induced upset tummy. Stress-release and having some favourite stress-releasing activities to break with during the workday is another great lesson for kids. Especially since kids tend to get stressed out very easily by little things. Maybe they lost their favourite toy or didn’t know the right answer when called on in school. Teaching kids to release stress during their “workday” is important to helping them make smart food decisions as well.

So yes, working from home is an asset in fight to improve your diet! Embrace its strengths and learn to spot the pitfalls of working and eating from home. And know that you are not alone at that lunch table – millions of stay at home-ers are joining you at the lunch table in spirit.

All the best in Health and Fitness
~ Sue
PS – you can join in anytime by leaving a comment below indicating your interest and fill out the “Notify Me of New Posts by Email” box so that you’ll be up to date with all my posts.

Lessons From Ötzi, the Tyrolean Ice Man. Part II

Otzi's Diet

Otzi's digestive tract contains the remains of three meals.  They were composed of cooked grains (wheat bread and wheat grains), meat, roots, fruit and seeds (1, 2).  The meat came from three different animals-- chamois, red deer and ibex.  The "wheat" was actually not what we would think of as modern wheat, but an ancestral variety called einkorn.

Isotope analysis indicates that Otzi's habitual diet was primarily centered around plant foods, likely heavily dependent on grains but also incorporating a variety of other plants (3).  He died in the spring with a belly full of einkorn wheat.  Since wheat is harvested in the fall, this suggests that his culture stored grain and was dependent on it for most if not all of the year.  However, he also clearly ate meat and used leather made from his prey.  Researchers are still debating the quantity of meat in his diet, but it was probably secondary to grains and other plant foods. It isn't known whether or not he consumed dairy.

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Exercise and Food Intake

The New York Times just published an article reviewing some of the recent research on exercise, food intake and food reward, titled "Does Exercise Make You Overeat?".  I was planning to write about this at some point, but I don't know when I'd be able to get around to it, and the NYT article is a fair treatment of the subject, so I'll just point you to the article.

Basically, burning calories through exercise causes some people to eat more, but not everyone does, and a few people actually eat less.  Alex Hutchinson discussed this point recently on his blog (1).  Part of it depends on how much fat you carry-- if you're already lean, the body is more likely to increase hunger because it very much dislikes going too low in body fat.  Most overweight/obese people do not totally make up for the calories they burn through exercise by eating more, so they lose fat.  There is a lot of individual variability here.  The average obese person won't lose a substantial amount of fat through exercise alone.  However, everyone knows someone who lost 50+ pounds through exercise alone, and the controlled trials support that it happens in a minority of people.  On the other side of the spectrum, I have a friend who gained fat while training for a marathon, and lost it afterward. 

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Next Primal Chef Event Sunday 5/20

Gil Butler has been working on a television show called Primal Chef, where he invites local chefs to make creative dishes from a list of Paleo ingredients, in a designated amount of time.  The format is reminiscent of Iron Chef.  The food is judged afterward by figures in the Paleo community.  Robb Wolf was a judge on the first episode.

Gil has invited me to be a judge on the next show, along with Sara Fragoso and Dr. Tim Gerstmar.  The next day, Sunday April 20th, Gil is organizing a catered Primal Chef event in Seattle, with Paleo dinner, speakers, entertainment, prizes, and a screening of part of Paleo Chef episode 1.  You can read the details and sign up here.  I won't be speaking because I don't have time to put together another talk right now, but I will be attending the event. 

My Fitness Progress So Far

Hi everyone, 
just want to share with you my fitness progress so far.

6 months ago I started doing 10min walks around my backyard (I was embarrassed at the way I looked and the way I walked – as Mel B puts it boombada, boombada). 

Today I finished a 3km walk in less than 34 minutes. I am so proud of myself :)   

How many Kms I have walked this week 

Lessons From Ötzi, the Tyrolean Ice Man. Part I

This is Otzi, or at least a reconstruction of what he might have looked like.  5,300 years ago, he laid down on a glacier near the border between modern-day Italy and Austria, under unpleasant circumstances.  He was quickly frozen into the glacier.  In 1991, his slumber was rudely interrupted by two German tourists, which eventually landed him in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Italy. 

Otzi is Europe's oldest natural human mummy, and as such, he's an important window into the history of the human species in Europe.  His genome has been sequenced, and it offers us clues about the genetic history of modern Europeans.

Otzi's Story

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Global Meat Production, 1961-2009

Total global meat production per person has steadily increased from 0.13 lbs per day in 1961 to 0.29 lbs per day in 2009*, a 120 percent increase over the last half century (currently in the US, average meat consumption is about half a pound per day).  Since meat consumption in the US and Europe has only increased modestly over time, this change mostly reflects greatly increased meat consumption over the last half century in developing countries** in Asia, Africa and South America.  In 1961, it's likely that most of the 0.13 pounds per day of meat was consumed in affluent countries such as the US, with not much consumed elsewhere (with some exceptions).  Historically, meat has always been expensive relative to other food sources in agricultural societies, so it's eaten by those who can afford it.
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Measuring Body Fat

The scale isn't the only way to tell if you’re overweight. Read how body fat is measured and what percentage of body fat compared to your total weight is considered too much.
Many people who are watching their weight — or trying to lose some pounds — turn to their bathroom scale. But that old familiar standby is not the only way to measure one’s size. Another possibility to consider is your body fat percentage.
Body Fat: What Are the Dangers?
When most of us hear the words “body fat” they have immediate negative connotations. However, in the right proportion, fat is actually critical to our diet and health. In the not-so-distant past, the ability to store extra body fat allowed our ancestors to survive in times of famine, when food was hard to come by. Even today it’s essential to keep the body functioning, to preserve body heat, and to protect organs from trauma.
Problems arise when our bodies store too much fat. This can lead to a variety of health issues, including high cholesterol, hypertension, glucose intolerance, and insulin resistance. Especially dangerous is fat stored at the waist, creating what is often called an “apple-shaped” body, as opposed to fat on the hips and thighs, a “pear-shaped” body.
“Normal body fat for men is around 8 to 15 percent of their total body weight and for women approximately 20 to 30 percent,” says Caroline Apovian, MD, associate professor of medicine and paediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine and director of the Centre for Nutrition and Weight Management at Boston Medical Centre.

Body Fat: How Can It Be Measured?
There are a variety of ways to measure the amount of body fat a person is carrying. “The most accurate way is ‘underwater weighing,’ which weighs the person on land and then underwater,” says Mary M. Flynn, PhD, RD, chief research dietician and assistant professor of medicine at the Miriam Hospital and Brown University in Providence, R.I. “But equipment for this is very expensive and not readily available.”
Another fairly accurate option is Bioelectric Impedance Analysis (BIA). BIA consists of electrodes being placed on a person’s hand and foot while a current (which is not felt) is passed through the body. Fat has less water and is more resistant to the current, whereas muscle, which contains more water, is less resistant. The resulting numbers are entered into an equation which figures the percentage of fat and lean tissue.
The easiest method is measuring waist circumference and determining the Body Mass Index(BMI). A waist circumference over 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men is cause for concern.
Figuring BMI involves a little more calculation. BMI is done by multiplying your weight in pounds by 703, then dividing that number by your height in inches two times. If the end result is less than 18.5, the individual is underweight;18.5 to 24.9 is normal; 25.0 to 29.9 is overweight; and over 30 is obese.
“However, you must be aware of this disclaimer. BMI alone is not an indication of body fat, especially in athletes and bodybuilders. Growing children under 18 years old should also avoid using BMI,” says Elizabeth Downs, RD, clinical dietician at the Montefiore Medical Centre at the University Hospital for the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, N.Y.
One final way of determining body fat is using skin callipers to measure fat at specific places in the body. However, not only is it easy to make errors, but this method also doesn’t measure any interior fat or fat contained in thighs and women’s breasts.
Ultimately the percentage of body fat is just another number in the health equation. And if you are not happy with the result, all it takes is adding exercise and cutting calories to get it moving in the right direction.

All the best in Health and Fitness
~ Sue

PS – you can join in anytime by leaving a comment below indicating your interest and fill out the “Notify Me of New Posts by Email” box so that you’ll be up to date with all my posts.

How I Lost 2.3kg In 1 Week

Today I want to share with you my personal testimonial, and my journey so far.

I have been a Yo-Yo dieter for many years and never
truly stuck to a weight loss program for any length of time as they were too hard, too expensive or they made me sick until now. 

The Vitamark Appetizer Diet® Shakes and Cookies are so easy to do and I have been doing it now for eight months. In my first 30 days I lost 14 lbs and kept it off, but then I hit a plateau.

While we were on the convention cruise I had the opportunity to speak with Cynthia Breed and Liz Schreiter about why my weight had stayed the same, and they both said the same thing – that I was not eating enough and I needed to add more calories to my diet as I was starving myself.

Then we had Tom introduce the magic scales – and it scared me. True age 44, body age 73 and 52% body fat. So I knew I had to get serious not just for my sake but for my families sake.

When Vitamark introduced the new Shrink Team Challenge Brochure “You’ve Weighed In, Now What?” I started to add the VitaMarin and the C-Lipid to my daily routine. The month before this I only managed a weight loss around 1kg, so by the end of the first week of taking VitaMarin and C-Lipid,  I had lost 2.3kg.  The only thing I had done different was introduce these 2 extra products to my diet.

In 3 weeks my total weight loss has been 4.5kg (10 pounds) and still coming off.

Sue Douglas
Mt. Gambier, SA, Australia



All the best in Health and Fitness
~ Sue

PS – you can join in anytime by leaving a comment below indicating your interest and fill out the “Notify Me of New Posts by Email” box so that you’ll be up to date with all my posts.

Eocene Diet Follow-up

Now that WHS readers around the globe have adopted the Eocene Diet and are losing weight at an alarming rate, it's time to explain the post a little more.  First, credit where credit is due: Melissa McEwen made a similar argument in her 2011 AHS talk, where she rolled out the "Cambrian Explosion Diet", which beats the Eocene Diet by about 470 million years.  It was probably in the back of my head somewhere when I came up with the idea.

April Fools day is good for a laugh, but humor often has a grain of truth in it.  In this case, the post was a jumping off point for discussing human evolution and what it has to say about the "optimal" human diet, if such a thing exists.  Here's a preview: evolution is a continuous process that has shaped our ancestors' genomes for every generation since the beginning of life.  It didn't end with the Paleolithic, in fact it accelerated, and most of us today carry meaningful adaptations to the Neolithic diet and lifestyle. 

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Shortcuts To Good Health

Today, when a sedentary lifestyle is the rule, people’s health is deteriorating day by day. Eating Healthy just requires a little planning. 

Here are some shortcuts to a Healthy Body. Every day, without our knowledge, a faint little feeling in the stomach prompts us to involuntarily look at the clock.

Then the revelation hits us- it is evening and we have not had the time to eat our lunch.

In today’s times, where a sedentary lifestyle is the rule, it’s observed that the health of people is deteriorating day by day. 
They have started taking themselves and their body for granted. 
They don’t even remember when they last had a proper meal.
Eating healthy just requires a little planning. Here are some shortcuts to achieve a healthy body:

Breakfast Is A ‘MUST’
Start your morning with some breakfast, be it a piece of fruit or a whole wheat bread. Put oatmeal into a thermos of hot water, and you could even let it sit overnight. In the morning, you shall have hot cooked oatmeal ready to eat. Similarly, a hardboiled egg can be eaten. This will prevent your body from going into starvation mode. Eating breakfast everyday will also help increase your metabolic rate.

Five Meals A Day
Have at least five meals a day in which three can be the main meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner, while other two meals can consist of foods which are handy and nutritious at the same time. Eating frequently prevents hunger pangs, provides consistent energy, and maintains metabolism efficiency. Grab healthy foods such as fruits that are high in fibre like apple, watermelon, muskmelon, orange, sweet lime, papaya and peaches.

Ask For Healthy Food
Some people’s work demands frequenting restaurants for dinner. Always watch out for hidden fats. Creamy soups, white breads, flaky pastries and mayonnaise-based salad dressings add unnecessary fats to the food. Try consuming broths instead of creamy soups. Instead of mayonnaise dressing, use variety of condiments and flavouring agents such as lemon, vinegar, herbs, onion and garlic to improve the palatability of your salad. Remember, a gram of fat contains more than twice as many calories as a gram of protein or carbohydrate. Ask for grilled, baked, boiled or broiled food rather than fried foods.

Hydrate When You’re Travelling
Your work might involve a lot of travelling in which air travel is one of the most dehydrating experiences. Because of this, people often complain of sore throats and other respiratory illnesses. To avoid these, one should not drink caffeine, cola or alcohol before or after the flights as these are diuretics and can increase the water loss. Avoid salted snacks like salted peanuts or fried foods in order to minimise dehydration. Try consuming lots of fluids in the form of water, fruit juice, coconut water, lime water, etc. In any case, one should drink at least 12 to 15 gasses of water everyday. The stress associated with travel may slightly increase the protein requirement, so one should make an effort to consume a little more protein each day.

Good Quality Of Food
Always remember that the quality of food you eat determines your efficiency at work. Avoid refined foods like white rice and those used to make white bread and sugary breakfast cereals as most of their vitamins and minerals are stripped away. They turn into blood sugar (glucose) so fast just like sugar; they can cause a spike in our insulin level.  Alternate refined flour with wholegrain flour. Substitute white sugar with honey or a sugar substitute . Remember, all this will help us to remain healthy.

All the best in Health and Fitness
~ Sue

PS – you can join in anytime by leaving a comment below indicating your interest and fill out the “Notify Me of New Posts by Email” box so that you’ll be up to date with all my posts.

The Eocene Diet

65 million years ago, a massive asteroid slammed into the Yucatan peninsula, creating a giant dust cloud that contributed to the extinction of terrestrial dinosaurs.  In the resulting re-adjustment of global ecosystems, a new plant tissue evolved, which paved the way for the eventual appearance of humans: fruit.  Fruit represents a finely crafted symbiosis between plants and animals, in which the plant provides a nourishing morsel, and the animal disperses the plant's seeds inside a packet of rich fertilizer.

Fruit was such a powerful selective pressure that mammals quickly evolved to exploit it more effectively, developing adaptations for life in the forest canopy.  One result of this was the rapid emergence of primates, carrying physical, digestive and metabolic adaptations for the acquisition and consumption of fruit and leaves.  Primates also continued eating insects, a vestige of our early mammalian heritage. 

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