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A rising tide of obesity and the diseases it causes threatens to bankrupt the NHS. Thirty per cent of US women are now on diets. Jamie Oliver's healthy school meals go down like a lead balloon. The US food supplement market hit $15 billion last year. What is up with our nutrition?

Well, actually, it all started 10,000 years ago with the invention of agriculture. Contrary to received opinion, this may have been a bad mistake. Agriculture makes it possible for a few peasants to feed thousands and the excess wealth that this generates enables a more leisured class to develop arts, culture and technology. These, in turn, encourage the growth of cities so that different crafts can benefit each other and trade between them. But cities spawn a ruling class, kings and absent aristocratic landowners to exploit everyone, together with diseases and disasters fanned by proximity, and wars to steal each others' wealth.

Not only did agriculture generate these questionable benefits, but it also left us with a dependence on farmed cereals and animal products. However, we were not evolved to eat them. Homo sapiens evolved close to, if not in, water and the mainstay of our diet was sea food. Twenty per cent of the whole brain and half of heart cell membranes consist of a single "polyunsaturated" fatty acid (PUFA), docosahexanoic acid (DHA), which is mainly acquired by eating oily fish such as tuna, mackerel or salmon, or shellfish. Fish, rather than mammals, together with the fruits and roots that paleolithic man ate in abundance, provided us with most of the calories and proteins that we needed together with all the essential vitamins, minerals and fatty acids that we have to get from our diet. Moving into cities, and away from water, greatly limited supplies of these.

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