A just released study conducted by the University of Adelaide’s Centre for Ancient DNA and the University of Aberdeen reports that oral bacteria underwent a change 10,000 years ago with the incorporation of grains into the diet.
Analysis of the bacterial DNA from the teeth of non-grain consuming hunter-gatherers compared to the bacteria from early grain-adopting humans (early farmers from Central Europe and late Neolithic, Bronze Age, and medieval populations) demostrated a change in composition. Specifically, pre-grain hunter-gatherers demonstrated greater diversity in oral bacterial species, while modern humans preferentially express more spirochetes, fusobacteria, and bacteroidetes.
Study co-author Professor Keith Dobney comments: “It is clear from our study that the diversity of modern human’s oral bacteria is much reduced compared with our prehistoric hunter-gatherer and early farming ancestors who existed over 7,500 years ago. Over the past few hundred years, our mouths have clearly become a substantially less diverse ecosystem, reducing our resilience to invasions by disease-causing bacteria.”
This study rounds out what anthropologists have been telling us for years: When Anatomically Modern Humans (often called “Cro Magnon” in the earlier literature in European populations) first incorporated grains such as einkorn and emmer wheat 10,000 years ago, maize/teosinte 4000-8000 years ago in the Americas, and sorghum and millet in sub-Saharan Africa 8000 years ago, we experienced an explosion of tooth decay, tooth loss, tooth abscess, increased evidence of iron deficiency (“porotic hyperostosis”), along with reduction in height and bone diameter, as well as a reduction in brain size–the very first time hominids experienced a shrinking brain.
Another excellent description of the effects of incorporating grains and sugars into the diet of primitive non-grain, non-sugar consuming humans can be found in the record of dental health tabulated by dentist, Dr. Weston Price, during his 10-year worldwide trek during the early 20th century. (A reprint is available in paperback from Amazon.) Time and again, Dr. Price found healthy, well-formed teeth in humans eating their primitive diets, only to experience a surge in tooth decay, tooth loss, tooth abscess, and maxillary (facial) and mandibular (jaw) malformations with the adoption of “white man’s food” of wheat and sugar. Note that the observations of Dr. Price, anthropologists, and the bacterial DNA studies record effects of grains that pre-date the grains that are now changed, courtesy of agribusiness. Wheat was always bad; modern agriculture just made it much worse.
Obviously there is more to health than dental health. It is part of the fundamental dilemma of anthropology: Bony tissues such as jaw, pelvis, and teeth are preserved, while soft tissues such as intestines, liver, and brain are not. The marked downturn in oral health–shift in bacterial populations, decay, infection, and facial malformation–I take as evidence that, by allowing grains (and more recently sugar) into the human diet, we paid a big health price. We battle the shift in oral bacteria, dental decay, and facial malformation from consumption of “healthy whole grains” and sugar by brushing our teeth with fluoridated toothpaste, dental floss, fluoridated water, dentists and orthodontists. But no such “solution” exists for the destructive effects of grains on our internal organs. Those we just live with (or die with) while taking a variety of prescription drugs to subdue.
Or, of course, we could just choose to eat NONE of it. Read the comments of a dental hygienist witnessing these phenomena in our own time.