The real paleo diet was heavy on plants with very little meat: study

The real paleo diet was heavy on plants with very little meat: study

The actor portrays a pre-agricultural man holding a meaty bone.
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  • For some prehistoric people in the Andes, a Paleo diet meant eating lots of plants
  • Research shows that 80% of the diet consisted of plants.
  • According to one expert, there were as many varieties of the Paleo diet as there were human populations at the time.

The popular Paleo diet is based on the belief that we are better off eating like our ancestors by sticking to a largely meat diet.

But a new study shows that some of our ancestors didn’t eat meat at all, but preferred a diet that consisted mainly of plants.

“Conventional wisdom holds that early human economies were focused on hunting — which led to a number of high-protein dietary fads, such as the paleo diet,” said Randy Haas, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Wyoming, who led the study. said in a press release.

“Our analysis shows that 80 percent of the diets are of vegetable origin, and 20 percent are of meat.

A study published on Wednesday looked at the remains of ancient humans buried in Peru’s Andean Altiplano region about 9,000 years ago.

Herman Pontzer, a professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University, told Business Insider that this adds to a body of evidence showing that prehistoric diets were incredibly diverse, from meat-heavy to meat-poor.

“One way to think about it is, as soon as everyone tells you the Paleo diet is a thing, you can stop listening,” said Pontzer, who was not involved in the study.

The Paleo diet is a high-protein diet that emphasizes unprocessed foods.
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what are you eating

When you look at an anthropology site, it’s easy to think that people always love a good barbecue.

“Animal bone is often better preserved, more abundant and easier to recover from archaeological sites,” archaeobotanist Ceren Kabukcu, who studies ancient diets from the University of Liverpool, told BI.

The same applies to sharp rock and bone tools used for hunting.

This so-called preservation bias has led some prominent researchers to speculate that Paleolithic humans preferred hunting to gathering.

But the advent of more modern analytical techniques, including mass spectrometry, has changed the story. For example, scientists can now read what people ate at that time from the type of atoms or isotopes stored in human bones, such as nitrogen.

“When you eat protein, you’re eating nitrogen, and all the nitrogen in the world comes in different flavors,” Pontzer said.

If you eat something higher up the food chain, “you keep adding that particular form of nitrogen,” he said. This isotope binds to bones as they grow, and scientists can read them thousands of years later.

Haas and his colleagues conducted such analyzes on the bones of 24 people in Peru, Wilamaya Patjxa and Soro Mik’aya Patjxa.

It was a group of nomadic foragers who lived about 2.3 miles above sea level between 9,000 and 6,500 years ago. Agricultural and pastoral economies didn’t exist then, “at least not as we know them today,” Haas told BI in an email.

The group was long thought to be meat eaters. But a study by Haas and colleagues, published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE, found that they eat 70 to 95 percent of their diet from plant matter.

Tubers—relatives of the modern potato—probably formed a staple of their diet.

“I was shocked by the result—about an 80% plant-based diet among early Andean hunter-gatherers,” Haas said.

“At that point it was clear the story was wrong and there was a good explanation for why it was (protection bias),” he said.

There is no paleo diet

This isn’t the only study that disproves the model often raised by proponents of the modern definition of the Paleo diet.

Paleo-diet traditionalists support the definition popularized by exercise physiologist Loren Jordan in the early 2000s. He urged people to eat meat-free, carb-free diets to emulate their ancestors.

Since then, people have come up with variations of this idea, such as the pegan diet, which is a mix of the paleo and vegan diets.

These diets may work for you individually, but according to anthropological evidence, they don’t stack up, Pontzer said.

“Where it starts to get weird is when we start engaging with stories about the past to support a particular extreme view of what we should eat,” he said.

What is clear is that a meat-rich diet does not reflect what people ate thousands of years ago.

Instead, prehistoric populations foraged for whatever was available around them, almost always relying on a healthy mix of hunting and gathering.

“The collection is reliable. You always come home with something,” Pontzen said.

Some populations, such as Arctic people, may have relied on big game for their food, said Pontzer, who also wrote the book “Burn” on the subject.

But others, like early Australian and South American populations, ate mostly plants. Many were in the middle.

Early humans, or early ancestors, didn’t avoid starchy foods, Pontzer said. For example, one study found that Neanderthals ate a lot of starchy carbohydrates.

Neanderthal Museum (Mettmann, Germany)

These diets changed with the seasons or as supplies ran out.

As investigative techniques improve, we can learn more about our ancestors’ diets by revisiting the evidence, Haas said.

“Humans, as far as we can tell, have eaten a really diverse diet and can do well on all kinds of diets,” Pontzer said.

“Keep your diet working. But I wish we had less of this revisionist history to support our dietary choices because there’s so little evidence,” Pontzer said.

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