Inuit Genetics Show Us Why Evolution Does Not Want Us In Constant Ketosis | MWM 2.37

Why were the Inuit never in ketosis, despite their traditional high-fat diet? That question is answered in this lesson. The answer provides a stunning example of human evolution and makes it clear that evolution does not “want” us in a constant state of ketosis. CPT-1a deficiency is a genetic disorder in the ability to make ketones and to derive energy from fatty acids needed to make glucose during fasting. In its severe form, it is extremely rare, dangerous, and fatal if not treated with frequent feeding and often a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet. A much more mild form of CPT-1a deficiency known as “the Arctic variant” is only found in the Arctic and it is nearly universal in the Arctic. It causes a serious impairment in the ability to make ketones, dramatically raises the risk of developing hypoglycemia while fasting, and causes a three-fold increase in infant mortality. Yet virtually everyone native to the Arctic has it and it is usually asymptomatic. What is utterly stunning about this is that this variant took hold of the Arctic in one of the strongest selective sweeps ever documented in humans. This means that evolution judged this variant as better suited to the Arctic environment than almost any human gene has ever been suited to any environment. How on earth can an impairment in fat metabolism be well suited to an environment that forces a high-fat diet on its inhabitants? Watch the full video to find out.

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  1. Vilhjalmur Stefansson sounds like an Scandanavian, specifically an Icelander. In fact, he was Icelandic and he was also born in Canada. His fellow explorer in a controlled study of an all-meat diet, Karsten Anderson, did get pneumonia and had to go off the diet until his pneumonia resolved.

    Some Scandanavians share gene adaptions in common with the Greenlandic Inuit, just at lower frequencies (there’s evidence of gene mixing between the two populations.)
    There’s a high likelihood that Scandanavians themselves have certain adaptions too for arctic cold and a diet similar to the Arctic although they grow and eat more plant matter (including root vegetables and some grain in winter), plus some berries in summer (like the Inuit do) they also rely heavily on fish and game in winter.

    Their adaptions might be different and come at a lower physiological cost compared to moderate CPT-1a deficiency. Icelanders in particular should have the adaptions:
    they’re a smaller, more isolated population and more adaptive pressure, and a diet VERY heavy in fish, fermented dairy, and meat.

    The Inuit do not eat NO plant food. They collect seaweed, forage berries and various plants (fireweed, etc.) and wild tubers when they can. With hypoglycemia a chronic risk, and hunting uncertain, of course they’d gather even more food to prevent fasting and as medicine for illness. Also, they get carbohydrates from meat.

    “Inuit actually consume more carbohydrates than most nutritionists have assumed.[16] Because some of the meat the Inuit eat is raw and fresh, or freshly frozen, they can obtain more carbohydrates from their meat, as dietary glycogen, than Westerners can.[16][17] The Inuit practice of preserving a whole seal or bird carcass under an intact whole skin with a thick layer of blubber also permits some proteins to ferment, or hydrolyze, into carbohydrates” And there’s the root veggies, grasses, berries and other plant matter, too. Their diet is 15-20% carbohydrate on average.

  2. Doesn’t this make sense? If a need for prolonged fasting (starvation) produced a ketogenic state, wouldn’t that utilize peripheral fat stores that were necessary to preserve in order to survive in that cold climate? I imagine they didn’t have much energy but their caloric needs decreased while preserving peripheral fat stores for insulation.

  3. Incredibly interesting! thank you
    In my travels as a drum circle facilitator/teacher, I’ve traveled to the CDN Arctic 3 times.
    Could this mean that fasting has a different (more dangerous?) effect on Inuit people?

  4. I did Keto and got very sick. I’m 12% Siberian/Native American. Is this possilbe why? I also have fatty liver even after cutting out most sugars and very low fructose. I think I recently activated the fatty liver that I had rid of just one year ago and now am having pain in liver area after Keto. I can’t find this gene on the 23andme or the epignetic test I did. Thanks for the post.

  5. Stefansson’s diet did not faithfully replicate the Inuit diet – he initially became quite ill and only stabilized by increasing % of fat intake.

  6. What about Europeans who lived for long periods with the Inuit and shared their diets and stressors? Two of them, Vilhjalmur Stefansson and his pal, lived with the Inuit for a year and did fine; They went on to spend a year under observation to prove they could live just fine on fatty meat. No doubt there are other examples of hunter-scavengers who do well on mostly meat diets. Although the strong selection process is pretty impressive, CPT1A deficiency cannot be the whole story.

    1. You need a sample size higher than 2 to see this. Some of the stressors could have been combinations with other genetics that are more prevalent in their population. We also don’t know the level of stress compared to history. There could have been more widespread food shortages, or environmental calamities, or nutritional deficiencies that took many years to develop. Furthermore, Stefansson and his pal were not taken from the population at random. They were probably unusually resilient people to be drawn to that kind of adventurous exploration.

  7. Really interesting, but what if the mutation only really matters in the Arctic? Maybe it conveys a thermogenic advantage? What about other famous ‘low-carb’ populations like the Masai?

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