Is the Paleo Diet a Myth? Cavemen Likely Ate a Plant-Based Diet

The popular paleo diet guides people to adopt the supposed eating habits of our ancient ancestors, focusing on lean meats as well as fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. But new research seems to dispel the myth that cavemen ate an excessively meaty diet.

A new study, published in Nature, found that hunter-gatherers actually consumed more vegetables and suggested they preferred what has become known as a plant-based diet.

Researchers conducted advanced isotopic analysis of bones and teeth — from the remains of a Paleolithic group called the Iberomaurus — found in Taforalt Cave in Morocco, which was inhabited about 15,000 years ago.

They found that the Stone Age diet “unequivocally” showed a “substantial plant component”.

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“This particular dietary pattern challenges the prevailing view of a high reliance on animal protein among pre-agricultural human groups,” the researchers wrote.

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According to the study, the presence of plant processing tools such as grinding stones at the site, as well as a higher incidence of dental caries and periodontal disease, supports the dominance of plant foods in the Iberomaur diet.

Evidence suggests that the group especially ate a lot of “fermentable starchy plants,” such as acorns, legumes, or wild grains.

A picture of a plant-based meal.


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Analysis of nitrogen levels contained in collagen and tooth enamel showed that up to 80% of the food eaten by the inhabitants of the Taforalt cave was plants.

The researchers did note, however, that some animal protein was consumed, as cut marks were observed on the faunal assemblage, a group of animal fossils found together in a layer, providing evidence of animal slaughter and processing at the time.

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The researchers also noted the potential early weaning of infants to Taforalt using starchy plant foods, highlighting “the notion of a focus on plant foods for the population, potentially extending to a primary source of nutrition for infants.”

“This is in contrast to hunter-gatherer societies where extended periods of breastfeeding are the norm due to the limited availability of weaning food,” they wrote.

The researchers also suggested that the increased reliance on plant foods among the Iberomaurus was likely driven by several different factors, including the availability of a wider range of edible plants and the depletion of large game species.

Categories: Trends
Source: HIS Education

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