The EvoS Lifestyle Project is a protocol for a framework to test the efficacy of two lifestyle interventions through a randomized controlled design; diet and social organization. Currently the protocol provides instruction for comparison of the EvoS diet to the diet prescribed by United States Department of Agriculture in their latest 2012 guidelines. Participants will be recruited into these two dietary regimes either as individuals or as small groups of 5-10 individuals.
The EvoS diet is a modified paleolithic-type diet and is based on rigorous research. The main premise of the Paleolithic diet is that human metabolism, physiology and behavior has not fully acclimatized and adapted to the dietary and lifestyle changes that have occurred since the advent of agriculture and especially more recently since the industrial revolution which introduced novel dietary components such as refined sugar, refined flours and vegetable oils in our diet.
The social organization intervention is based on prior research that suggests that individuals find it easier to adhere to a diet as groups as compared to when alone. Members of groups will be given full flexibility to identify group goals and they will be encouraged to brainstorm about how they can facilitate each other to reach their goals. Our method of organizing groups is based on Elinor Ostrom’s core design principles for the efficacy of the groups. One of the design principles is forming strong group identity: identifying a unified group goal to attain healthy lifestyle could provide such an identity. Another design principle is that groups must have the authority to make their own rules to achieve objectives agreed upon by consensus. Hence, we are intentionally leaving many decisions to the club members themselves and monitoring the organizations that they create to measure their success.
The EvoS Diet is based on one of the fundamental yet often neglected aspect of evolution; mismatch. Organisms adapt to the specific conditions of the environment through natural selection, if the environmental conditions specific to the adaptive trait change then the trait may not remain adaptive. The concept of mismatch can be briefly explained by the feature-factor relationship between an organism and its environment. An organism can be said to be made up of a number of features that have evolved over time to match the various factors within an environment. Each match between a feature and a factor increases the organisms fit or adaptedness with the environment.
Mismatch occurs when a feature of an organism does not match with the relevant factor of the environment. When the feature-factor relationship gets disturbed (by sudden change in the environment) then the feature finds itself in a novel environment. If this feature behaves maladaptively in the novel environment then the organism has to deal with a potentially harmful mismatch that reduces it fit or adaptedness with the novel environment. Not all factors of the environment might change to create a mismatch; in fact a highly plausible scenario is that certain features are mismatched while others are not; if their relevant factors remain unchanged in the novel environmental condition. It is also possible that certain features of the organism may be already pre-adapted to novel environmental condition. Thus we expect to see a mosaic like pattern of mismatch and fit in the feature-factor relationships of an organism with its environment. The degree of this mosaicness will determine how well adapted (or maladapted) an organism is to its environment.
Our diet is based on this understanding of mismatch. We recognize that there is a mismatch between the genetic evolution that occurred in the past and the modern environment. Furthermore we also recognize that certain components of the modern diet if modified may be as healthful as components of a paleolithic diet. Conversely, we also recognize that certain components of the paleolithic diet may not be healthful for everyone as it is an inherently blood glucose reducing, blood pressure lowering and high on iron. Lastly, we recognize that large scale dietary revolution has occurred at two different times in recent history; after agriculture and after industrial revolution and both have played an important role in the development and distribution of western diseases and these two events have played independent (yet cumulative) roles in exacerbating the mismatch.
In the pilot research study our diet will be based on a hunter-gatherer type or a paleolithic type diet; as we wish to first replicate previous findings of efficacy of this dietary framework. Once established that this diet is beneficial than a standard USDA recommended diet we will then move on to pursuing our long term goal of monitoring the feasibility and efficacy of incorporating the modern components of diet, in an attempt to test whether modern components (post-agricultural) of diet can be modified in such a way as to make them as healthful as a paleolithic diet.
Our diet will be based on fruits, vegetables, lean meat, seafood and some nuts as this type of diet has been shown previously to improve biomedical markers responsible for metabolic diseases. The participants will be advised to find these foods in their supermarkets and local farms. The participants will be reminded time and again that changing the sources of macronutrients is more important than the changing the composition of macronutrients.
On a final note, the EvoS diet is NOT a weight loss diet. It is part of a lifestyle intervention to eat a healthy diet. We recognize that caloric needs of the participants will differ, and that weight loss may not be the end goal of some participants.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, research opportunities and exploring the possibility of collaboration.