What Actually was the Stone Age Diet?


Abstract:Purpose: In the last few years there has been considerable talk of the 'Stone Age diet' as an attractive alternative to the 'modern' diet. The underlying idea is that recent distortions of diet are likely to be harmful and that, if we can recover a primeval diet, we will live in closer harmony with our digestive systems and their evolutionary biochemistry. This paper aims to evaluate that set of ideas rigorously in relation to the extensive and sometimes detailed records of the past. Design: Comparative and direct palaeoanthropology and archaeology. Methodology: To review evidence of the comparative picture established by the nearest living relations of hominids (extant apes), and of the deep view given by the fossil records and archaeological evidence. Results: The broad outline of the evolutionary record is becoming increasingly clear: human ancestors diverged from the last common ape ancestor about 8-10 million years ago. Since then major stages of dietary evolution can be traced, involving the incorporation of roots/tubers and additional meat into a previously largely fruit-based diet. Within the last 2 million years, early humans colonized highly diverse environments, including arctic regions where there was no choice but to eat meat. Conclusions: There was no one Stone Age diet. Overall, diets of the past varied greatly. The adoption of agriculture within the last few thousand years led to great changes in diet, especially concentration on single cereals and milk.

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