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Atlanta's Eaton cautions, however, that hunter-gatherers ate meat that was naturally very lean. Today's corn-fed beef is much fatter, he says. Eating fish and lean meats will put you closer to the true hunter-gatherer diet. "Many nutritionists don't know it, but studies show cholesterol levels go down if you keep the fat content stable and you increase protein and decrease carbohydrates." Eaton says studies of Africa's !Kung San bushmen--modern-day hunter-gatherers--show they eat much more meat and cholesterol than doctors today recommend. Even so, they have almost no heart disease and very low blood cholesterol, about 125.
Mainstream nutritionists like Dr. Abhimanyu Garg, associate professor of internal medicine and a researcher with the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, find Audette's nutritional theories eccentric if not downright dangerous. "If the major thrust of the diet is that of carnivores, then there is a big problem," Garg says. "Not only are you going to get a lot of saturated fats that would raise cholesterol, but the excess protein would be wasted. There is a concern, certainly, that eating like this would make you gain weight."
Garg says the current nutritional recommendations, based on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration food pyramid, provide a balanced diet. "The current recommendations are good," he says. "They've been tested."
Diet is not the only area in which scientists are learning from prehistoric man. A recent story in The Wall Street Journal discussed several new books on the subject, including the best-seller The Moral Animal by psychologist Richard Wright. It discusses Darwinian psychology--studying our ancient ancestors to explain why we act the way we do today. And, as part of a similar emerging trend in Darwinian medicine--a concept that encourages health professionals to look at humans and their illnesses as products of a long evolutionary history--Randy Ness and George C. Williams published Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine earlier this year.
Audette, too, has embraced not just a caveman diet, but an entire lifestyle that, he says, reflects a respect for pre-technological man.
He has become a falconer--licensed by Texas Parks and Wildlife and by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife. Occasionally Audette uses his hawk, Arrow, and his dog, Sheika, to hunt in the fields near his home or makes a trip to East Texas during hunting season. Sheika flushes cottontails and jackrabbits from the brush, then Arrow swoops down and seizes the prey with his powerful talons. Sometimes Sheika, a long, slender creature with silky white fur, will flush a pheasant or quail. If Arrow has fed enough that day, Audette takes the game home to roast on a backyard grill for himself. But Audette doesn't expect to subsistence hunt until he fine-tunes his skills with a falcon instead of the slower hawk.
Until then, Audette and his wife of 10 years, Renee Solinger, do their hunting and gathering at the Plano Whole Foods Market. Audette converted his wife to the hunter-gatherer diet shortly after they met--appropriately--at the Greenville Avenue Whole Foods Market cafe. She was eating low-fat yogurt and he, of course, lectured her on nutrition.
Most women love shopping, Audette says, because of their biological imperative to do so. "Shopping is gathering," he says. "Neanderthal men hunted and the women gathered. There is a biological reason why you have so many men hunters in this country and why women love to shop--regardless of what feminists tell you."
Solinger, a tall slender woman in her '30s, is a self-employed CPA who is busy during the early spring tax season, but can slack off during slower months. She says this arrangement perfectly suits the hunting and gathering lifestyle.
Solinger says the hunter-gatherer diet simplifies shopping. "I go shopping every day and I buy meat and vegetables," she says. "I always pay cash and go through the express lane. It's so quick."
It's easy to cook, Audette adds. "We just broil the meat long enough to singe the salmonella off the outside, chop a few vegetables and we're ready to eat."
The furniture in the airy, sunny house he shares with Renee and their son, two-month-old Grayson Haak, "Gray-hawk" for short, has been "gathered" from garage sales, he explains proudly. Along one wall, an extensive entertainment center playing music by a local bluegrass band cost Audette about $75--secondhand. He and Renee rarely buy anything new, he says, a byproduct of becoming hunter-gatherers.
Audette has given up his job as a computer salesman to devote time to promoting his book and to writing a second edition, which will be out in July and will incorporate suggestions from readers, such as what to buy at the grocery store if you have no choices but processed foods.
Audette says all the elements of his life seemed to fall into place when he became a hunter-gatherer. "Other things that had nothing to do with nutrition seemed to come around--that's a hard thing to explain to people--I attribute a lot of what people call luck to being a hunter-gatherer."
His almost religious belief in the benefits of his diet has made Audette a one-man diet militia. He says the Food and Drug Administration's venerable food pyramid, taught to every schoolchild, is nothing more than propaganda cobbled together by food lobbyist groups. "Most of what passes for nutrition in this country is more politics than nutrition."