The far healthier diet and exercise intake of our Stone Age ancestors

Paleolithic nutrition twenty-five years later

presents the findings of a review of research since the original paper presented 25 years ago, where the 1980’s diet of average Americans was compared to that of early man. A quarter of a century ago recommendations pointed to the benefits of the Paleolithic diet and lifestyle, this more up-to-rate comparison outlines how the hunter-gatherer lifestyle is even more ideal today as westernized lifestyles have  become worsened over recent decades. We are all too familiar with the regular headlines warning of obesity rates. Data averages show Americans today eat more, of the wrong kind of foods, exercise less, are less mobile for work and leisure and added to that many smoke and drink significant amounts of alcohol. When looking at our at our ancestral diet and exercise patterns this research highlights again that the diet of early man had lower levels of refined carbohydrates and sodium, higher levels of fiber and protein and physical activity levels were also much higher, resulting in higher energy. It is argued that a shift to the Stone Age balance is a healthier regime, the nutrition is far superior than to unscientific ‘fad’ diets popular today and the model would contribute further to primary prevention of several important diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. We are reminded that the high mortality rate and short life span of our ancestors were overwhelmingly due to infectious diseases we now control, not due to their diet or exercise intake.



A quarter century has passed since the first publication of the evolutionary discordance hypothesis, according to which departures from the nutrition and activity patterns of our hunter-gatherer ancestors have contributed greatly and in specifically definable ways to the endemic chronic diseases of modern civilization. Refinements of the model have changed it in some respects, but anthropological evidence continues to indicate that ancestral human diets prevalent during our evolution were characterized by much lower levels of refined carbohydrates and sodium, much higher levels of fiber and protein, and comparable levels of fat (primarily unsaturated fat) and cholesterol. Physical activity levels were also much higher than current levels, resulting in higher energy throughput. We said at the outset that such evidence could only suggest testable hypotheses and that recommendations must ultimately rest on more conventional epidemiological, clinical, and laboratory studies. Such studies have multiplied and have supported many aspects of our model, to the extent that in some respects, official recommendations today have targets closer to those prevalent among hunter-gatherers than did comparable recommendations 25 years ago. Furthermore, doubts have been raised about the necessity for very low levels of protein, fat, and cholesterol intake common in official recommendations. Most impressively, randomized controlled trials have begun to confirm the value of hunter-gatherer diets in some high-risk groups, even as compared with routinely recommended diets. Much more research needs to be done, but the past quar98ter century has proven the interest and heuristic value, if not yet the ultimate validity, of the model.

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Article details

Konner, M., & Eaton, S. (2010). Paleolithic Nutrition: Twenty-Five Years Later Nutrition in Clinical Practice, 25 (6), 594-602 DOI: 10.1177/0884533610385702

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