9

votes

Paleolithic Fiber Consumption

Answered on October 26, 2014
Created July 07, 2010 at 2:46 PM

Dr. Robert Lustig ("Sugar the Bitter Truth" - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM ) was on the Livin'La Vida Lo-Carb show a few days ago and he stated there has been analysis on 50,000 year old human fecal matter that shows hunter gathers consumed 100 to 300 grams of fiber per day. He said it twice and I had to rewind it twice to make sure I heard it correctly. Before grains and beans is that even possible? If possible what would you have to consume to hit 200 grams per day? Dr. Lustig is a pretty smart guy but unless I'm missing something, that seems pretty wacky. Does anybody know what study he is referring to?

F6c1df7d5699661bd1f0d6d0a6c17fc6

on October 12, 2010
at 10:20 PM

This number is astronomically high. My cursory investigation of the internets, shows that - excluding legumes and grains - the food highest in fiber seems to be avocado. You'd have to eat around 15 cups to get 100 grams of fiber.

F6c1df7d5699661bd1f0d6d0a6c17fc6

on October 12, 2010
at 10:10 PM

Thank Darwin that we are not apes, but their much more carnivorous cousins!

72a1e3ccf044c2fe1f994e10927e18a8

(183)

on July 15, 2010
at 08:59 AM

C'mon guys, it was hard for them to tell the vegetables apart from the bark, so they just ate the whole tree.

C1ea79115a062250a7263764797faa30

(851)

on July 11, 2010
at 03:26 PM

@Offca: Of course there are a great many variables in the answer to your question, and I couldn't guess at the ranges for the entire planet. However, just in my little nook in the Pacific Northwest, right outside my window there are maybe a dozen or so plants that have edible parts with varying fiber/carb content. In my experiences on primitive survival trips I'd say that there is always plenty of plant food to be had quite easily, and for actual HG's who know their stuff and travel all the time, plant food is overly abundant.

A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581

(4896)

on July 11, 2010
at 01:00 PM

But today we can go and buy a few pounds of whatever veggies we want easily.. how much ready to eat plants were they able to gather? How easy was it to find wild tubers or cucumbers? the wild versions of today's veggies were for sure smaller and growing in small quantities, unless it was some extremely bounty region.

C1ea79115a062250a7263764797faa30

(851)

on July 11, 2010
at 03:07 AM

I think it's almost certain that mid-wander munching was the rule rather than the exception. I would like to note, though, that the historical consumption of significant quantities of these fibrous foods does not necessarily imply that they were a large part of the diet for meaningfully desired health reasons - after all, the meat and fat our ancestors could have gotten from animals requires more energy expenditure in hunting and is much less reliable a food source.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on July 10, 2010
at 06:10 PM

Im with you totally on loving the veggies. At dinner sometimes i think i get more satisfaction out of my huge bowl of salad doused in olive oil than i do from my steak. However, I do NOT think that the bulk of evidence shows us that our ancestors were consuming much veg. Not in the way that Lustig makes out in the interview. I like the guy but i dont see this one.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on July 10, 2010
at 06:08 PM

But right in their analysis they assume a "based on a 50:50 animal–vegetable subsistence ratio ". I mean, im not scientist or anthropologist but from all the Cordain and Gedgaudus stuff i've read, they seem to be saying that the ratio is much heavier towards animal product.

5472f6c94387c7fc82a04da4885363b0

(353)

on July 08, 2010
at 04:56 PM

haha, tim, I agree...

0d2dec01a5ed9363a9915e111ae13f7e

(4583)

on July 08, 2010
at 03:40 AM

I'm glad you brought this up. I too did a double take at Lustig's comment of fiber intake. Perhaps one lab's analysis of one particular ancient human latrine's contents is not the best basis for such sweeping statements.

5472f6c94387c7fc82a04da4885363b0

(353)

on July 08, 2010
at 12:11 AM

No he meant what he said. He even admitted that it sounded crazy.

36dd8a49324c45fb49a38765000eca1e

(377)

on July 07, 2010
at 05:09 PM

The ratio of starch to fiber in root tubers is pretty overwhelming. In order to get 100 grams of fiber from a sweet potato you have to consume seven pounds of them, in which case you would be vomiting up your meal by then.

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11 Answers

4
211d4075d68b24cd0aa7ebfa94262bb9

on July 07, 2010
at 11:50 PM

According to Eaton, paleolithic fiber consumption was likely more than 100 grams/day:

http://www.gregdavis.ca/share/paleo-articles/academic/The%20Ancestral%20Human%20Diet%20by%20S.%20Boyd%20Eaton.pdf

"Proximate analyses of uncultivated vegetables and fruits consumed by recent HG show that they are substantially more fibrous (133 g dietary fibre/kg) than are those now commercially available (42 g/kg), which have been modified by millennia of selective agricultural practice (Eaton, 1990). Hence, the high intake of wild plant foods by ancestral humans necessarily provided a great deal of fibre. Calculation of ancestral dietary fibre intake, based on a 50:50 animal???vegetable subsistence ratio (as opposed to the 1985 estimate of 35:65), suggests an average total fibre intake of >100 g/d."

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on July 10, 2010
at 06:08 PM

But right in their analysis they assume a "based on a 50:50 animal–vegetable subsistence ratio ". I mean, im not scientist or anthropologist but from all the Cordain and Gedgaudus stuff i've read, they seem to be saying that the ratio is much heavier towards animal product.

2
0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19245)

on July 07, 2010
at 07:04 PM

I would speculate that he meant to say 10 to 30 grams of fibre a day. This is more in line with what you will consume if you eat a range of plants each day like leaves, roots, bulbs, tubers, fruit, nuts ect. Nobody can eat 300 grams of fibre a day. Everyone makes errors of speach occasionally. However I could be wrong.


Ok I see that my initial response was incorrect, he did mean it. Some estimates from Boyd Eaton have put some hunter-gatherers fiber intake at nearly 100 grams per day. http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/reprint/126/6/1732.pdf

People eating one modern version of the paleodiet were eating about 42 grams of fibre a day. http://www.thepaleodiet.com/articles/JANA%20final.pdf

I have read that Denis Burkitt reported that traditionally living African groups of people eating a cultivated diet in the middle 20th century were eating 100 grams of fiber a day.

Apparently the average wild chimpanze gets about 200 grams of fiber a day. If you go back far enough our ancestors probably ate something similar, but it would be along way back in time. Gorrilas might eat 300g a day but they are quite specialised to eat vegetable matter all day.

I don't know where he got the figure of 100-300 grams a day of fiber came from. Around 100 grams seems more like an upper limit for humans to me and more of this would have been soluble fiber than the insoluble fiber in modern diets. Eating 300 grams of fiber a day would make an interesting emperiment, I'm not sure I'd like to try it though.

5472f6c94387c7fc82a04da4885363b0

(353)

on July 08, 2010
at 12:11 AM

No he meant what he said. He even admitted that it sounded crazy.

1
D5cde8031564f905260ce9aa7a1f5e2c

on July 11, 2010
at 06:57 AM

You guys ever check out Jeff Leach's stuff? His research suggests that inulin - soluble, prebiotic fiber - was a major part of many early hunter gatherer diets. Inulin is different than insoluble fiber; it promotes butyric acid production, and it acts as food for beneficial gut flora. Stephan wrote about butyric acid and fiber a few months back.

I can definitely see soluble fiber being consumed in significant amounts. We can't treat fiber as a monolith.

http://www.paleobioticslab.com/prebiotics_in_ancient_diet.htm

1
7df8f3cc7f1475c3ecbbd4a4feb87d04

(514)

on July 10, 2010
at 05:07 PM

Perhaps this challenges somewhat all the people who say that veggies should be only garnishes to a diet of mostly fat and protein from meat and fish? I love my veggies and can easily eat several pounds of fresh cucumbers and several more of celery and carrots and lettuce in one day. It's nice to think that my ancestors might have done the same. Could they have munched on various things growing alongside their path as they walked about?

C1ea79115a062250a7263764797faa30

(851)

on July 11, 2010
at 03:07 AM

I think it's almost certain that mid-wander munching was the rule rather than the exception. I would like to note, though, that the historical consumption of significant quantities of these fibrous foods does not necessarily imply that they were a large part of the diet for meaningfully desired health reasons - after all, the meat and fat our ancestors could have gotten from animals requires more energy expenditure in hunting and is much less reliable a food source.

A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581

(4896)

on July 11, 2010
at 01:00 PM

But today we can go and buy a few pounds of whatever veggies we want easily.. how much ready to eat plants were they able to gather? How easy was it to find wild tubers or cucumbers? the wild versions of today's veggies were for sure smaller and growing in small quantities, unless it was some extremely bounty region.

C1ea79115a062250a7263764797faa30

(851)

on July 11, 2010
at 03:26 PM

@Offca: Of course there are a great many variables in the answer to your question, and I couldn't guess at the ranges for the entire planet. However, just in my little nook in the Pacific Northwest, right outside my window there are maybe a dozen or so plants that have edible parts with varying fiber/carb content. In my experiences on primitive survival trips I'd say that there is always plenty of plant food to be had quite easily, and for actual HG's who know their stuff and travel all the time, plant food is overly abundant.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on July 10, 2010
at 06:10 PM

Im with you totally on loving the veggies. At dinner sometimes i think i get more satisfaction out of my huge bowl of salad doused in olive oil than i do from my steak. However, I do NOT think that the bulk of evidence shows us that our ancestors were consuming much veg. Not in the way that Lustig makes out in the interview. I like the guy but i dont see this one.

1
07154e6d8e42065f230d06249700fe5b

(2057)

on July 08, 2010
at 02:26 AM

That number doesn't make much sense to me. If I go anywhere near that minimum number, I'm spending a good portion of my day eating, crapping, and being uncomfortably full. None of that makes sense in terms of survival. I think it's more likely that the faecal remains that were analysed are missing context. Perhaps there was simply no other food around at the time? Sounds way more plausible than 100-300 grams of fibre. That's gorilla territory, and we simply don't digest fibre the same way they do.

That being said, I really enjoyed the rest of Lustig's lecture. But then, I'm a biochemistry nerd :P

0
Eb7f7f2588f5f38687b067d51bd91577

on June 05, 2013
at 11:29 PM

I would've never made it as a hunter-gatherer, then. My digestive system cannot handle anything more than 10 grams of fiber without getting stopped up. Maybe my ancestors were Eskimo.

0
8ce8b8fd33944e67dfd6277e7b671815

(327)

on May 11, 2013
at 02:58 AM

going to have to say that these people were more active than we were and were eating a larger number of calories. I could see them eating up to 100g of fiber if they were to say walking 30 miles to go hunting/gathering, also wrestling, playing. It takes energy to live like a gatherer.

0
55e0f52ae8fcb0aac1aca2a75215a22c

on October 12, 2010
at 09:06 PM

"If I go anywhere near that minimum number, I'm spending a good portion of my day eating, crapping, and being uncomfortably full."

Yes, you hit the nail on the head of what it felt like exactly to be a paleolithic person. A majority of time the paleo man or woman was spent foraging for raw food, eating what they found on the spot. Do you know why apes have bloated bellies? All they eat is slow-digesting fiber, mostly rough fibers. Pounds upon pounds of plant matter and leaves. None of it is cooked, therefore the fiber is not readily available to the digestive system and must slowly be broken down in the stomach by acids.

That we can cook our fiber from a variety of sources is a blessing. Improved transport (barrels, sacks, baskets, wow!), safe storage and preservation, and cooking of food is what led to our enormous growth in numbers and thus made civilization possible.

This is just my opinion, but what I believe Lustig is getting at is that we can never get too much fiber, and that it might be possible that we evolved to consume large amounts of fiber and that by reducing it by 90% we might be messing with our bodies in some very unpleasant ways that we simply don't understand yet.

He just wants us all to eat more fiber. I've been trying to stick to what he says, and while I've only modestly changed my diet I've already felt better, have more energy, and seem to feel less "gross."

F6c1df7d5699661bd1f0d6d0a6c17fc6

on October 12, 2010
at 10:10 PM

Thank Darwin that we are not apes, but their much more carnivorous cousins!

0
4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

on July 07, 2010
at 05:42 PM

Which culture? Is this human matter or perhaps gorilla?

0
8092ca58bbed539c2a2c717a6e54d9d6

on July 07, 2010
at 03:42 PM

i'd say root tubers....sweet potato, taro, yam, manioc etc etc.

36dd8a49324c45fb49a38765000eca1e

(377)

on July 07, 2010
at 05:09 PM

The ratio of starch to fiber in root tubers is pretty overwhelming. In order to get 100 grams of fiber from a sweet potato you have to consume seven pounds of them, in which case you would be vomiting up your meal by then.

-1
Medium avatar

on October 26, 2014
at 06:07 AM

as a fruitarian i get minimun 100gr of fiber a day and 40 gr of protein easily and i dont eat a lot some eat more fruits than me cause i am not very active if i was more active i would put more into my body and CONSUME more proteins and fiber ! proteins not that much important i use cronometer i have even my omega 3 sometime one hundred pourcent but normaly around 80 - 70  pourcent everyday. i am heahtly high carb cruelty free i even dont eat vegetables cause of suffering fruits is the fruit that is givin to human by trees i eat cooked fruits like squash too pumpkin, when its the season, i will eat whats in the season and tropical fruits too

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