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Paleo Diet May Not Actually Mirror Ancient Diets

The Paleolithic (or “Paleo”) diet has gained popularity in recent years. It was designed to emulate the diet eaten by early humans in the Paleolithic era and omits any foods not available during that time, including grains, dairy products, legumes, processed oils and refined sugar. A recent study suggests that the Paleo diet, however, probably does not accurately reflect the diet of that era, as there were multiple diets in ancient times.

For this study, the researchers examined anatomical, paleoenvironmental, and chemical evidence as well has how animals living today eat. The anthropologists found that ancient humankind’s diet probably varied based on what was available in their areas. They also pointed out that paleolithic humans weren’t great hunters and that their teeth were not developed in a way that would allow them to eat many different plants.

The researchers warn that it can be hard to say exactly what the Paleo diet was. They point out that the recommendations made by current proponents of the Paleo diet are based mainly on the diets of modern-day hunter-gatherers, not the diets of our ancestors. They believe that the diets of paleolithic peoples were much broader than those of modern hunter-gatherers.

They caution that diets in the Paleolithic era would also depend largely on geography. People in the north, for example, probably ate an almost exclusive animal-based diet due to unsuitable growing conditions, while people living near the equator most likely had more plant life integrated into their diets.

Finally, ancient foods often did not look anything like modern-day foods, due to evolution and selective breeding of animals and plants with the advent of agriculture.

Researchers from Georgia State University and Kent State University conducted the study. It was published in December 2014 in the Quarterly Review of Biology.

One of the arguments behind following the Paleo diet is that it includes a minimal amount of processed foods, which generally should be avoided. While there are always a number of fad diets gaining popularity, the best dietary advice is to get a good balance of fruits, vegetables, and proteins.

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