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A Theory of Ehlers-Danlos as a Genetic Advantage in Ancestral Environments Contributing to Advanced Civilization

Updated on June 16, 2012
Olmec figurines depicting hyperflexible entertainers.
Olmec figurines depicting hyperflexible entertainers. | Source

The Genetic Advantages of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome in ancestral environments

Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is a disease caused by genetic mutations in genes coding for connective tissue. This causes a fragility of the connective tissue which may lead to growing difficulties, loose and easily damaged joints, hernias, gut rupture, arterial rupture and other problems. I theorize that the persistence of these genetic anomalies can be explained by the genetic advantages they provided in ancestral environments and which can possibly be regained by changes in diet, routine, and supportive medication.

Here are a list of some possible advantages.

1. Greater flexibility, strength, and speed due to higher adrenaline levels in ancestral environments

It's well known that those with EDS are able to perform amazing feats of flexibility. This would have produced an advantage in ancestral times, especially in hunting cultures. The high levels of vitamin C, protein, and collagen in a hunter-gatherer diet would have protected against tissues becoming too fragile. This would have given those with EDS an genetic advantage. Since the age of death in ancient times was much shorter than it is now, those with EDS would have experienced the advantages without any higher a risk of death than others. Even with the dangerous form of vascular EDS, the mean age of death is currently 48 years old so in ancient times even those with vascular EDS may have experienced the advantages and died no sooner than anyone else.

75% of those with EDS have orthostatic intolerance including POTS. Many of those with POTS have elevated levels of adrenaline. In ancestral environments, hunter-gatherers who were constantly moving might have experienced increased speed, strength, and mental focus from elevated adrenaline levels.

In my personal experience (I have hyperadrenergic POTS), my adrenaline levels have been measured to be about twice a normal level, and just slightly below levels seen in those with an adrenaline producing tumor. Higher adrenergic function produced for me, greater speed and strength and mental performance but with the usual drawbacks of anxiety and eventual fatigue. However, the drawbacks have been greatly reduced or absent on a natural hunter-gatherer style Paleo-diet and I imagine in ancestral environments, the gains were greatly heightened and the drawbacks much less.

The following study demonstrated increased muscle sympathetic activation in those with POTS compared to controls. In ancestral environments, this could have been an advantage by increasing speed and strength.

Altered sympathetic nervous reactivity and norepinephrine transporter expression in patients with postural tachycardia syndrome.

Lambert E, Eikelis N, Esler M, Dawood T, Schlaich M, Bayles R, Socratous F, Agrotis A, Jennings G, Lambert G, Vaddadi G.

Circ Arrhythm Electrophysiol. 2008 Jun 1;1(2):103-9. Epub 2008 Apr 30.

2. Greater intelligence, memory, and body awareness in ancestral environments due to enhanced adrenergic and glutamatergic neurotransmission

In simple terms, in my personal experience, I have found that enhanced adrenergic activity leads to greater intelligence and awareness but puts one at risk for anxiety disorders and in extreme cases, excitotoxicity leading to dysautonomic conditions.

In the ancestral environment, this enhanced activity provided an advantage but in modern environments can lead to nervous system damage from prolonged stress and excitation.

People with EDS and dyautonomia are extremely perceptive and sensitive to their own bodies and environment. It is possible that in ancient times, this provided a great advantage in intelligence and health awareness.

For example, someone who experiences pain from an inflammatory reaction to a certain food is able to identify the source of the pain and refrain from eating that food. However, many people who are not pain sensitive have inflammatory processes and even heart attacks and experience no pain from it until they have a very advanced illness. This ability to be aware of internal processes may have been a great advantage.

Enhanced glutamatergic activity has been found to ehance learning and memory but is associated with conditions of excitotoxicity from increased excitotoxins like refined sugars, MSG, and aspartame in the diet.

Enhanced adrenergic activity is associated with superior memory ability. One study found that enhanced adrenergic activity produced both superior memory but also an increased risk for PTSD.

McEntee, W. J.; Crook, T. H. (1993). "Glutamate: Its role in learning, memory, and the aging brain". Psychopharmacology111 (4): 391–401. DOI:10.1007/BF02253527.

de Quervain, D. J. -F., et al. PKCα is genetically linked to memory capacity in healthy subjects and to risk for posttraumatic stress disorder in genocide survivors. PNAS, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1200857109

Olmec figurine demonstrating acrobatic poses consistent with connective tissue disorders

Ancient Olmec figurines often depicted persons in acrobatic poses demonstrating extreme joint flexibility suggestive of EDS or Stickler's Syndrome
Ancient Olmec figurines often depicted persons in acrobatic poses demonstrating extreme joint flexibility suggestive of EDS or Stickler's Syndrome | Source

The Ancient Olmecs or "Rubber People"

The Olmecs were the first great civilization of Mexico. The name "Olmec" means "rubber people" in the language of the Aztecs. This supposedly refers to their use of latex to create rubber products but to me, it suggests another interpretation, that the rulers had a form of EDS or particularly Stickler's Sydrome and this provided an advantage of intelligence, speed, and agility that influenced the advancement of their civilization.

The Ancient Olmecs were earlier referred to as Tamoanchan meaning "mouth of the jaguar'. I propose that both names, "Rubber People", and "Mouth of the Jaguar" actually refer to traits of Stickler Sydrome among the ruling classes. An upturned mouth is a trait of cleft lip in Stickler Syndrome.

Other traits of Stickler Syndrome is documented in the art as follows:

The Olmec's Were-jaguar figures has facial features consistent with Stickler's Syndrome


Were-jaguar figurines with cleft palate and almond-shaped eyes

The 'were-jaguar" figurine as shown above present figures with cleft plate and epicanthal folds of the eyes as consistent with a connective tissue disorder known as Stickler Syndrome but also sometimes considered a form of EDS in the research literature.

Other Evidence of Stickler Syndrome in Olmec Royal Lineages

Stickler syndrome can be very debilitation. Earlier forms of Olmec art presented figures, possibly rulers with cleft palate and epicanthal folds of the eyes. However, the most famous forms of art are the collossal heads. They are said to depict rulers dressed as ball game athletes with protective coverings on their heads. These statues no longer have the cleft palate but instead have flattened facial features and almond shaped eyes. This is consistent with milder forms of Stickler Syndrome, indicating theoretically, that the more debilitating forms presenting with cleft palate in the so called were-jaguars gave way to rulers with flattened facial features and much milder Stickler syndrome that gave them an advantage in the Mesoamerican ballgame which continued in later cultures including the Aztecs.

There is some speculation that the heads represent a Negroid ruling class as the facial features are common in African populations. The features are also consistent with mild forms of Stickler syndrome that would be expected to evolve from the more serious forms depicted as were-jaguars. Whether they are of African origin or not is not yet known. In either case, a type of face is depicted clearly suggestive of hyperextendible skin, drooping eyelids, and flattened facial features (mid-face hypoplasia in Stickler's Syndrome). Below are colossal heads.

This particular head looks clearly African but also has mild stickler facial features including flattened facial features, drooping eyelids, and prominent lips with a very prominent lip groove
This particular head looks clearly African but also has mild stickler facial features including flattened facial features, drooping eyelids, and prominent lips with a very prominent lip groove | Source
Olmec head with flattened facial features and protective helmet.
Olmec head with flattened facial features and protective helmet. | Source
Olmec head with flattened facial features, epicanthal eye folds, and prominent lip groove (partial cleft palate)
Olmec head with flattened facial features, epicanthal eye folds, and prominent lip groove (partial cleft palate) | Source

EDS Traits in Ancient Egyptian Royal Lines, To be Continued

There is evidence of EDS traits also in ancient Egyptian royal lines. Consider the latest theory on the health of King Tut. He is suspected to have had a partially cleft palate, mild scoliosis, receding gums, a broken leg, and an injury to his foot. These are all traits of EDS in pathological form which may have been the result of the introduction of grain to the Egyptian diet which allowed them to feed more workers to build pyramids and other feats of civilization but being deficient in vitamin C once over-processed, will cause full or low level scurvy which will aggravate a predisposition to joint and skin laxity.

It is possible that collagen mutation made possible by meat eating in our evolutionary history was a main advantage that separated us from other great apes, and EDS is a bi-product of continued evolution of collagen types conferring advantages and costs.

As a disclaimer, all of this speculation is for fun and inspiration, not to foster accusations and division, so take it with a grain of salt. I will explore EDS traits in ancient Egypt and other societies in later posts.


DF Seldon, MS, NBCC

King Tut mask presenting Stickers-like epicanthal folds of the eyes  and prominent lip groove (partial cleft palate) similar to those in ancient Olmec heads.
King Tut mask presenting Stickers-like epicanthal folds of the eyes and prominent lip groove (partial cleft palate) similar to those in ancient Olmec heads.


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    • profile image

      5 years ago

      Um, you have to SEE Stickler's syndrome. What you describe might be congruent with type I Stickler, but that African statue you describe as having Mild Stickler's is most definitely not at all. The midface is not flattened at all in the way Stickler's faces are.

      Drooping eyelids are not characteristic, nor are almond-shaped eyes (Down's syndrome). The Olmec derive from Native American lineages (i.e. Central Asia) and also possibly some Polynesian (Many South American Indians look very Polynesian.) Your argument would be better supported if you could find clear evidence in their extant descendents, as well as descendents of related tribes. The problem is Stickler's syndrome so far has been identified mostly in European-Americans (including a Dutch Kindred.)

      I do agree with your thesis that Ehler-Danlos could have conferred an advantage; Paganini (often considered to have Marfan's but much more likely Ehler-Danlos) was an extraordinary violinist and had his share of romantic conquests ;)

    • pan1974 profile image


      6 years ago from Columbus,Ga

      Wow, that is just so interesting.


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