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Even Our Ancestors Never Really Ate the “Paleo Diet” - Your thoughts

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created June 05, 2013 at 1:22 PM

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/crux/2013/06/03/even-our-ancestors-never-really-ate-the-paleo-diet/

Despite its name, the Paleo Diet is a new food trend, one which has become increasingly popular in recent years. The diet???s basic tenet is that our bodies haven???t yet evolved to cope with the changes to our food intake as a result of agriculture. Paleo Diet aficionados hold that grains like wheat are making us fat and unhealthy, and that we would be far better off if we ate how our ancient ancestors did, focusing on lean meats, fruits and vegetables.

What researchers haven???t been able to answer, however, is exactly what our ancestors ate. Early humans and our other hominin predecessors lived pretty much everywhere, in environments as diverse as the Arctic, tropical rainforests and deserts, and so its likely that diet varied by region. Even within a given region, reconstructions of diet have had to rely on tooth analysis or bones found nearby.

A quartet of papers published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences have instead turned to stable isotope analysis, which analyzes the specific chemical signature of molecules, to determine the diets of a variety of ancient hominin species by looking at their fossilized teeth. The findings show that human ancestors started moving away from the traditional ape diet of fruit and leaves about 2.5 million years ago???much earlier than previously thought. Thus, even our ???paleo??? ancestors may never have eaten a paleo diet.

https://asunews.asu.edu/20130603_dietadaptations

Isotope analysis shows first evidence of grasses in an expanded diet and more flexibility in food choices

Expansion of our ancestor???s diet millions of years ago may have been a transformational stage in our ecological and evolutionary history. In four related research articles, scientists argue that human ancestors living 3.5 million years ago were the first hominins ??? species more closely related to humans than to chimpanzees ??? to show evidence of expanded preferences in their plant diet. The addition of tropical grasses and sedges to an ape-like diet set the stage for our modern diet of grains, grasses, and meat and dairy from grazing animals.

Diet has long been implicated as a driving force in human evolution. Changes in the type of food consumed and the manner in which it was gathered have been linked with the growth of the brain and the emergence of bipedalism, as well as ecological, social and cultural evolution within the hominin lineage.

The papers appeared in the June 3 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Most of the funding for the research was through grants from the National Science Foundation.

Two of the papers, ???Isotopic evidence of early hominin diets: Past, present, and future??? and ???Diet of Australopithecus afarensis from the Pliocene Hadar Formation, Ethiopia,??? include Institute of Human Origins (IHO) director William Kimbel and research associate Kaye Reed as coauthors among a group of researchers from across the U.S.

Australopithecus afarensis was discovered and named by a team led by IHO founding director, Donald Johanson, who found the fossil skeleton "Lucy" at Hadar, Ethiopia in 1974. Kimbel and Reed are professors in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

In the new work, the scientists used carbon isotope analysis to extract the dietary signal from fossilized teeth of African hominin species dating from 4.5-1.5 million years ago.

Isotope analysis is based on the concept that ???you are what you eat.??? The carbon isotopic composition of past meals is incorporated into the forming tooth enamel, frozen in time, yet recoverable after millions of years. Carbon isotopes are especially valuable for distinguishing diets based on ???C3??? or ???C4??? plants, which differ in how efficiently carbon is recovered during photosynthesis. C3 plants include trees, shrubs and herbs, and predominate in forested conditions or around well-watered areas. C4 plants are the grasses and sedges that inhabit primarily open environments. In living animals, carbon isotope ratios in tooth enamel readily distinguish grass feeders, like zebras and wildebeests, from fruit or leaf eaters, like chimpanzees and giraffes.

http://discovermagazine.com/2013/april/17-paleomythic-how-people-really-lived-during-the-stone-age

Bfddc0ab925c8ea0e0c2e87198514907

on June 07, 2013
at 02:42 AM

Masterful.......

7a6529ea25b655132fe58d793f95547a

(2040)

on June 06, 2013
at 01:49 AM

We don't need to eat poop, the body makes all the poop you need. An all grub diet is probably the most optimal.

5583b82f29a6b24264ca4b9836abd925

(261)

on June 05, 2013
at 02:40 PM

well for the poop, it would have to depend on what the deer ate, right...? So it couldn't be much.

76026e8ef496039d5075440ff731aa0d

(5386)

on June 05, 2013
at 02:37 PM

How many carbs in the poop exactly...couldn't find it on Livestrong or Nutrition Data...are the grubs free range also?

Cb9a270955e2c277a02c4a4b5dad10b5

(10989)

on June 05, 2013
at 02:21 PM

C4 can include tubers, which makes this a pro-paleo argument, meat n tubers and other plant material ftw.

Cb9a270955e2c277a02c4a4b5dad10b5

(10989)

on June 05, 2013
at 02:20 PM

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2212678/Early-man-hunter-ate-meat-regularly-survive-suggests-skull-fragment-dating-1-5m-years.html

Cb9a270955e2c277a02c4a4b5dad10b5

(10989)

on June 05, 2013
at 02:09 PM

So I should or shouldn't stop eating deep poop?

Cb9a270955e2c277a02c4a4b5dad10b5

(10989)

on June 05, 2013
at 02:08 PM

All these articles downplaying paleo, how about for two seconds they step back and analyze the effects of pufa dense seed oils, hfcs and copious amounts of dwarf wheat on the human condition?

Cb9a270955e2c277a02c4a4b5dad10b5

(10989)

on June 05, 2013
at 02:07 PM

Lol, apes move to grasslands and eat c4 tubers, omg that's so unpaleo, unless you're part of the paleo niche that eats tubers and root veggies, then there is no contradiction whatsoever. Does that mean I can take this article to support my paleo perspective of lean meats, tubers, veggies and nuts? Or did paleo man get the majority of his calories from dwarf wheat, hfcs, and pufa rich seed oils? Come now, this is ridiculous.

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5 Answers

8
7bf306ada57db47547e9da39a415edf6

(11214)

on June 05, 2013
at 02:47 PM

You are treading dangerously close to "this isn't a real question," but let me put my two cents in, even though I grow weary with the apparent lack of understanding on this subject.

The 'paleo' or 'evolutionary fitness' provides us a framework with which to generate hypotheses. We already see differences among the people who use this framework- the original researchers said 'lean meats.' I think this is bunk, and that our ancestors went for the fattiest parts of the animals. I also think the salt requirements were a lot higher than they recommended initially.

So what does having a framework like this do? It allows us to generate hypotheses that have a plausible chance of telling us something about reality. We want to test these hypotheses, and many of us test them on ourselves. Meanwhile we have a big, centralize research industry that pretends our framework for generating hypotheses is, instead, merely a myth. For instance, pretending that people who follow 'the paleo diet' don't know there were many different diets in the paleolithic. This is just stupid. Maybe a newcomer doesn't know the score here, but us info-junkies? The AHS lectures are on youtube.

No, what this criticism comes down to is fear of being held to logic. Already, when they put out a stupid study, people who care take them down. This still looks like, to people of average intelligence, a bunch of uneducated people taking on well educated people. What they don't realize is that Denise Minger can take down the China Study like she did, not because she is intelligent (she is intelligent, but that is beside the point), but because she (and everybody else) is like the little boy in that story about the emperor who has no clothes. To function as that little boy did, you don't need a phd. Now, it is nice to have a more sophisticated takedown than some kid pointing a finger, but even just pointing the finger serves this end.

The framework however, is more dangerous to them. It means we have a priori logic- a standpoint from which we can judge whether or not a study should be done at all. It means, when they try to vilify red meat by suggesting TMAO is atherosclerotic we can say this stupid study should have never been done at all, from a logical standpoint, because humans are clearly adapted to eat ruminant animals. Besides we have all the other stupid things they've done- like demonizing cholesterol- and so we know when they push us away from red meat people end up eating more dangerous things, things with phytosterols in them, which are more atherosclerotic than cholesterol and probably worse than TMAO.

I've heard the content of the study doesn't actually support their conclusions. Something about TMAO levels being higher in the folks who weren't eating red meat or something, but I digress. I didn't read the study because I can reject it out of hand. It begins from a false premise.
One of the clearest examples of this can be found in economics. If something ever could be settled, both by logic and by historical example, then the manipulation of the money supply by governments would have been ended long ago.
So, even though they might be vaguely upset about some little peon critizing them on the web, the real scary thing is to have science just sort of route around them. A framework for generating hypotheses that generally pushes our knowledge envelope forward is subversive to the existing system.

Bfddc0ab925c8ea0e0c2e87198514907

on June 07, 2013
at 02:42 AM

Masterful.......

5
Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on June 05, 2013
at 01:37 PM

Let's say we uncover some definitive evidence that our ancestors ate a diet predominantly of beetle-grubs, deer poop and wild garlic leaves. We then look at our ancestors' bones and see they appear more healthy then the average person today and indicate far less specific nutritional problems.

Then we mine the biological sciences and come to the conclusion that eating beetle-grubs, deer poop and wild garlic leaves is not a bad idea in comparison to bread, cookies and cola; but just not the best idea in relation to the demands of the modern life, especially since we have access to foods that provide a greater nutritional wealth than beetle-grubs, deer poop and wild garlic leaves.

Imagine for a second someone says they want to eat beetle-grubs, deer poop and wild garlic leaves because it was the "original human diet".

Imagine for a second you pick up a large salmon and slap them across the face.

5583b82f29a6b24264ca4b9836abd925

(261)

on June 05, 2013
at 02:40 PM

well for the poop, it would have to depend on what the deer ate, right...? So it couldn't be much.

76026e8ef496039d5075440ff731aa0d

(5386)

on June 05, 2013
at 02:37 PM

How many carbs in the poop exactly...couldn't find it on Livestrong or Nutrition Data...are the grubs free range also?

Cb9a270955e2c277a02c4a4b5dad10b5

(10989)

on June 05, 2013
at 02:09 PM

So I should or shouldn't stop eating deep poop?

7a6529ea25b655132fe58d793f95547a

(2040)

on June 06, 2013
at 01:49 AM

We don't need to eat poop, the body makes all the poop you need. An all grub diet is probably the most optimal.

4
C6648ab69e5a1560c7585fe3ba7108fb

on June 05, 2013
at 05:23 PM

So, the ultimate claim of the Discovery article is that "grasses and grains have been part of the human diet for millions of years." Most of the species cited as evidence for this are pre-Homo or early-Homo species; I don't have access to the full text of the studies (poor college student is poor) so I'm assuming from their claims that ancient hominins had a "primarily C4 diet" that they're looking at roughly 35-50% of their diet stemming from these C4 plants. So...35-50% of their calories came from grasses, sedges, and grains. In species which had primarily not yet discovered tools or fire (tools came about with Homo Habilis and fire [we think] with Homo Erectus), so these species were eating these grasses, sedges, and grains raw and unprocessed. Do you know of any human that can eat raw grains and grasses for 35-50% of their diet and survive? (if you do, I'll be surprised) We have to heavily process the grains and seeds currently consumed (and have had to do so for thousands of years) in order to make them digestible.

This means one of two things: the digestive capabilities of these ancestors were so different from us that they might as well be considered apes in terms of relativity to our current digestive capabilities or those grasses, sedges, and grains were getting into our ancestors' diets in some other way -- most likely from herbivores that consumed those foods and were subsequently consumed by our ancestors (<--note, that conclusion was straight-up stolen from someone who answered ANOTHER post about these articles yesterday. Sorry for whomever I stole it from!) Or it could mean some other thing I'm not smart enough to figure out. Long story short, it means that concluding that grains have been a part of our diet for millions of years is at best a leap of faith and at worst a severe misrepresentation of the findings.

3
531db50c958cf4d5605ee0c5ae8a57be

on June 05, 2013
at 07:57 PM

Ahh, this old chestnut. Part of the problem is that some paleo people look to this as hard-and-fast science, while others embrace it like religion. It's neither. Yeah, there's science involved, but so what? Science is not infallible. And religion? Who wants to change their way of eating based on faith?

So you do what you do, with an eye toward science and with an eye toward that which makes you click in your gut, literally and figuratively.

Articles like these just bore me. And so does anybody telling me I shouldn't eat tomatoes. Or cheese. Ever had fried queso blanco and tomato and basil done up like a caprese salad? If this isn't good for me I don't know what is...

0
96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on June 06, 2013
at 04:42 PM

Anyone else notice the fallacy? "What researchers haven’t been able to answer, however, is exactly what our ancestors ate." If that's so, then how do they know that our ancestors never really ate "The Paleo Diet" (whatever that means)?

Sounds like more of the same "We need to find something to write an article about, or our editors will fire us, I know, let's go bash something... what's popular these days?"

If this were true, “Humans are one of the few primates to figure out how to access this resource {grains, grasses, and sedges}, which they appeared to do sometime between 4 and 3.5 million years ago", then we would be more likely to develop countermeasures to gluten, WGA, and other antinutrients in grass seeds, but this isn't the case, or we wouldn't have so many people's health improving when they move away from grains. So where did this dumb idea come from?

Vanilla and Cinnamon carbon? Really? If they need to dumb it down that much, what other liberties have they taken?

And what plants other than grains have similar C3/C4 ratios to grains? Perhaps some other plant was used, or more likely the carbon atoms in ungulates and other grazing fauna's meat was what was detected. But the obvious interpretation is this: If you eat the meat of grass eaters, would you not also get the carbon isotopes from their meat, which came from the grass? Amino acids do contain carbon atoms.

“These studies are important mainly for their novelty,” - indeed, this is the absolute most important take away in the article.

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