Researchers at the University of California have demonstrated how, when followed correctly, a diet based our ancestors’ eating habits can help lower weight, boost energy levels, and generally “make people feel good.”
The diet was developed by Dr. Ann Vicks, a dietary anthropologist at Yale. Vicks used what she calls “the buried wisdom of the ancients” to create a nutrition plan that the researchers say actually works. Her discovery of a 1957 book called What Americans Eat prompted the revelation. The book, which she stumbled across in an old archives room in Yale’s library, explores the way people in the United States ate in the 1950s. Vicks compiled recipes from the ancient book in her best-selling diet guide.
“We were initially shocked by the results,” says Tristan Espinosa, who led the study. “I mean, here you have this diet that calls for no radical omissions of any food group or ingredient. It doesn’t require you to juice carrots, fast for days on end, eat only meat, or subsist off of vegetable broth for weeks at a time. The diet is completely counter-intuitive. But for some weird reason, it works. The ancients apparently knew what they were doing.”
Vicks says that the 1950s was a pivotal decade for American health. After that, Americans’ weight starting ballooning and overall feelings of self-worth began plummeting. The people of the 1950s, Vicks insists, ate three full meals a day, with calorie counts that often seem high even by today’s standards. Most meals contained vegetables and items that are frequently shunned by the health-conscious. These include meat, animal fats, butter, eggs, dairy products and grains.
“If you look at old black and white photos of the ancients from the 1950s,” Vicks said, “they generally weren’t overweight. Also, they are smiling, but genuine smiles, nothing like the forced toothy grins you see today. Suicides rates were lower then and people were typically more patient, civil and kind. All due to the diet based on their ancient wisdom.”
Espinoza says that while the data showing a causal relationship between the diet and happiness are inconclusive, he and the other researchers do believe diet can play a role in mental health. “Why not?” he said. “It might sound crazy to the non-scientific community, but what if eating enough quality food somehow made us feel, well, fulfilled?”
Vicks claims her diet could revolutionize American society, even leading to lower rates of drug abuse, violence and depression.
“We typically think that the wisdom of the ancients is just myth and lore,” Vicks said. “But it’s possible they knew more than we do. If nothing else, consider their flawless facial complexions. Did you ever see anything nicer?”
The UC research group will publish its findings in the fall issue of The American Review of Health Sciences. Vicks’s book The Way of the Ancients: Living Well in the 1950s, as well as her previous book, How To Not Eat Like Your Meal Is Going To Run Away, are available in bookstores and from online vendors.