It is not as if farming brought a great improvement in living standards either. A typical hunter-gatherer enjoyed a more varied diet and consumed more protein and calories than settled people, and took in five times as much viatmin C as the average person today.
Rather than heralding a new era of easy living, the Agricultural Revolution left farmers with lives generally more difficult and less satisfying than those of foragers. Hunter-gatherers spent their time in more stimulating and varied ways, and were less in danger of starvation and disease. The Agricultural Revolution certainly enlarged the sum total of food at the disposal of humankind, but the extra food did not translate into a better diet or more leisure. Rather, it translated into population explosions and pampered elites. The average farmer worked harder than the average forager, and got a worse diet in return. The Agricultural Revolution was history’s biggest fraud.
But carbon 13 [the carbon from corn] doesn't lie, and researchers who have compared the isotopes in the flesh or hair of Americans to those in the same tissues of Mexicans report that it is now we in the North who are the true people of corn.... Compared to us, Mexicans today consume a far more varied carbon diet: the animals they eat still eat grass (until recently, Mexicans regarded feeding corn to livestock as a sacrilege); much of their protein comes from legumes; and they still sweeten their beverages with cane sugar. So that's us: processed corn, walking.
There is a neat economic explanation for the sexual division of labour in hunter-gatherers. In terms of nutrition, women generally collect dependable, staple carbohydrates whereas men fetch precious protein. Combine the two – predictable calories from women and occasional protein from men – and you get the best of both worlds. At the cost of some extra work, women get to eat some good protein without having to chase it; men get to know where the next meal is coming from if they fail to kill a deer. That very fact makes it easier for them to spend more time chasing deer and so makes it more likely they will catch one. Everybody gains – gains from trade. It is as if the species now has two brains and two stores of knowledge instead of one – a brain that learns about hunting and a brain that learns about gathering.