6

votes

Saturated fat composition of paleolithic megafauna

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created September 22, 2010 at 12:24 AM

An interesting comment on the HeartScanBlog got me thinking about Cordain's issues with saturated fat sources from wild game.

http://heartscanblog.blogspot.com/2010/09/robb-wolfs-new-paleo-solution.html?showComment=1285021496272#c5084417538433961918

"Cordain's anti-saturated fat view of nutrition- that is one of the biggest issues I have with Cordain's take on paleolithic nutrition. The biggest problems with speculations on paleolithic nutrition is the extinction of the megafauna that were the basis of human global expansion. Fatty acids in modern deer doesn't tell us anything about fatty acids in mammoths, cave bears, and aurochs."

Do we have any info on the fat profiles of animals like that?

D5db204527668aa712504995c0f8f96f

(551)

on September 24, 2010
at 03:41 PM

As with any other animals, it's possible that humans hunted some animals only to eat a few parts. So, even if we do know that they scrapped the meat, we don't know for sure if they ate the whole animal or not.

3864f9a2af09b1b447c7963058650a34

(3703)

on September 23, 2010
at 12:59 AM

No I believed we evolved from marine animals/fish! 'Evolution is circular' (Red Queen, Ridley) Eating marine sources appears our most optimal food... insects aren't bad but fish/marine better IMHO.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on September 22, 2010
at 05:19 PM

Intramuscular fat is not classified as visceral fat, if I recall correctly. Obese humans do have a higher percentage of visceral fat than do normal humans. But it still pales in comparison to subcutaneous fat (about a 1 to 3 ratio).

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on September 22, 2010
at 10:01 AM

Actually Kamal, obese humans are more likely to carry the nasty visceral fat than subcutaneous

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on September 22, 2010
at 09:59 AM

We most likely evolved from insectivores

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on September 22, 2010
at 09:57 AM

Which forums if you don't mind sharing

5be844214037850c304c1e6a05dc5277

on September 22, 2010
at 06:14 AM

I agree, I think insects would have played a HUGE role in human evolution! Just look at Bear Grylls on Man vs Wild ;)

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on September 22, 2010
at 04:47 AM

Yeah, or could be it is just the KIND of carbs currently available, that were not available then. I would expect the human body probably gives some leeway. The Kitavans can eat a lot of starch and still be healthy. But they were not exposed to high fructose corn syrup, corn oil, white flour, etc in large quantities. In each of us, there is probably a threshold beyond which, the system starts to destabilize. And SAD eating is clearly beyond that tipping point for many of us.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on September 22, 2010
at 02:31 AM

Isn't that still quite low for muscle meat? Lemme see...maybe polar bears don't move around much, so they don't need much intramuscular fat? They always seem really slow and still in those Coke ads.

5be844214037850c304c1e6a05dc5277

on September 22, 2010
at 02:19 AM

You just gave me a new nickname for my kitchen: The Lab!

5be844214037850c304c1e6a05dc5277

on September 22, 2010
at 02:11 AM

I'm starting to think this all part of evolved mechanisms with regards to satiation mechanism for carbs, because typically they were only seasonally available and hunter-gatherers being active and fairly short lived (reproduction wise), then gorging on carbs provided a net-positive for human evolution.

Af842c68e3d07fa0e35b4274f3acaeec

on September 22, 2010
at 02:01 AM

I wouldn't be surprised, they don't need fat to retain body heat.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on September 22, 2010
at 01:55 AM

Nutrition data is probably giving info for muscle meat.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on September 22, 2010
at 01:43 AM

From what I hear elephant is pretty low in fat.

6fa48935d439390e223b9a053a62c981

(1676)

on September 22, 2010
at 01:20 AM

@Drew: But that would only apply to people living in those biomes. Not everyone lived in Europe and North America. I'm not so sure that knowing about the fatty acid profiles in those particular species tells us much about ideal human nutrition, since people everywhere all ate differently. It would be nice to know, though.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on September 22, 2010
at 01:19 AM

Oh yeah, obese humans also carry their fat in a thick layer on the surface of the muscle!

6fa48935d439390e223b9a053a62c981

(1676)

on September 22, 2010
at 01:19 AM

But that would only apply to people living in those biomes. Not everyone lived in Europe and North America. I'm not so sure that knowing about the fatty acid profiles in those particular species tells us much about ideal human nutrition, since people everywhere all ate differently. It would be nice to know, though.

Af842c68e3d07fa0e35b4274f3acaeec

on September 22, 2010
at 01:10 AM

Yep, here it is: "Polar bears are superbly insulated by up to 10 cm (3.9 in) of blubber..." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polar_Bear#Physical_characteristics

Af842c68e3d07fa0e35b4274f3acaeec

on September 22, 2010
at 01:08 AM

I'm pretty sure that artic animals like the polar bear carry their fat in a thick layer on the surface of the muscle, so the numbers there might not be taking this into account.

Af842c68e3d07fa0e35b4274f3acaeec

on September 22, 2010
at 12:59 AM

Well, for one, we can see the evidence of tool marks on those animals, and perhaps spearpoints embedded in bones and such. Archaeology, it's a great thing, eh?

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on September 22, 2010
at 12:40 AM

Let me go outside and catch one and analyze it in my kitchen lab.

Frontpage book

Get FREE instant access to our Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!

8 Answers

5
5be844214037850c304c1e6a05dc5277

on September 22, 2010
at 01:40 AM

In the last few months I have been getting very active in some health forums who are investigating the cutting-edge of what is optimal health, and many members have obviously come across the Paleo diet and it's principles, and are actively practising and researching it... However after becoming a little more familiar with the underlying science, and probably more importantly an idea of the scientific investigation currently under way in metabolism and nutrition, etc, I am starting to more and more see these type of questions as not really relevant to investigating what's optimum health (but that doesn't mean it's not worth thinking about--just look at my nickname!).

The point is we know a standard Paleo-type diet is ~90% of the solution. Do this and you will mostly avoid the diseases of civilisation, which translates to a healthy old age. Now whether you go Kitavan or Inuit is totally up for debate, and potentially answers that final 10%, but looking back to 'what our ancestors did' will not give an evidence-based answer. I'm in the low-carb camp, because I have found that is what works for me, but I am left with no argument against the Okinwan's low-fat and high-carb diet producing the longest-lived people in the world. In essence I am aligning much more with Stephan Guyenet who typically espouses traditional diets over the Paleo name tag.

The Paleo diet says meat is good, fat is good, grains are bad, processed food (typically) bad, basically if we weren't eating it ~20K+ years ago, don't eat it now. It is a guiding principle. However I think it is an unfortunate truth, that if we want to know the PERFECT macronutrient breakdown for optimal health, it will have to be through some future human clinical trials, or even the newly emerging field of Nutrigenomics, i.e. we may all have different "optimal" ratios of protein/fat/carbs. My ancestors likely never consumed tomatoes, or green tea, or daily blueberries, or dark chocolate/cocoa, but modern medical science has robust evidence for the positive effects on health these compounds have, and thus I consume them. I think Art de Vany said it best "Its the fusion of the stone-age with the high-tech!"

Oh and finally, and I thought it was pretty standard knowledge that Cordain was bowing to the powers that be a little bit with his stance on SAFA, and has gradually been back-peddling for a while to the point where he will probably be endorsing it in a few years...

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on September 22, 2010
at 09:57 AM

Which forums if you don't mind sharing

4
5841391284e7af8c495c54bd90d3a795

(2764)

on September 22, 2010
at 06:18 AM

Another thing people ignore is the seasons. Whether it's equatorial monsoon and droughts or temperate and sub-polar summer and winter the composition of the food and the food animals changed throughout the year. After winter or a long drought the animals probably had/have an entirely different fat percentage - subcutaneously, marbled in their muscles and distributed viscerally - than they would at the end of summer or the rainy seasons. Therefore, those that prey on these animals would be eating a different diet in those seasons.

Slightly off topic, I think another thing that bothers me is that a lot of grass-fed beef proponents say that ruminants like cows don't naturally eat grain. Well, I'd be willing to bet that when the grasses they're eating are in seed those cows don't hold back. Heck, if nothing else, it helps them build up a fat reserve for winter or drought season! Even so, they surely wouldn't get the monotonous CAFO diet.

3
2d372dd8feff8c88d788095011eebbfa

on September 22, 2010
at 05:49 AM

Meat is not just the megafauna. Also the small creatures. And how would those quantities relate to each other?

And a lot of people seem to ignore insects consequently when thinking about how a paleo diet originally would have looked like. Some sort of modern-day food bias... ;)

Yes, they are small, but so are nuts.

(Or am I starting a new thread here?)

5be844214037850c304c1e6a05dc5277

on September 22, 2010
at 06:14 AM

I agree, I think insects would have played a HUGE role in human evolution! Just look at Bear Grylls on Man vs Wild ;)

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on September 22, 2010
at 09:59 AM

We most likely evolved from insectivores

3864f9a2af09b1b447c7963058650a34

(3703)

on September 23, 2010
at 12:59 AM

No I believed we evolved from marine animals/fish! 'Evolution is circular' (Red Queen, Ridley) Eating marine sources appears our most optimal food... insects aren't bad but fish/marine better IMHO.

3
D5db204527668aa712504995c0f8f96f

(551)

on September 22, 2010
at 12:56 AM

The problem with your quote is this:

a) animals and plants can become extinct over time.

b) Some animals or plants evolved just like we did. People forget too often that evolution is not a human characteristic but a nature's characteristic.

c) How can we know for sure that they actually ate those animals?

d) in a similar fashion to C), how can we know which part were eaten?

Hence why most of the paleo evidence often comes from modern tribes.

6fa48935d439390e223b9a053a62c981

(1676)

on September 22, 2010
at 01:19 AM

But that would only apply to people living in those biomes. Not everyone lived in Europe and North America. I'm not so sure that knowing about the fatty acid profiles in those particular species tells us much about ideal human nutrition, since people everywhere all ate differently. It would be nice to know, though.

Af842c68e3d07fa0e35b4274f3acaeec

on September 22, 2010
at 12:59 AM

Well, for one, we can see the evidence of tool marks on those animals, and perhaps spearpoints embedded in bones and such. Archaeology, it's a great thing, eh?

6fa48935d439390e223b9a053a62c981

(1676)

on September 22, 2010
at 01:20 AM

@Drew: But that would only apply to people living in those biomes. Not everyone lived in Europe and North America. I'm not so sure that knowing about the fatty acid profiles in those particular species tells us much about ideal human nutrition, since people everywhere all ate differently. It would be nice to know, though.

D5db204527668aa712504995c0f8f96f

(551)

on September 24, 2010
at 03:41 PM

As with any other animals, it's possible that humans hunted some animals only to eat a few parts. So, even if we do know that they scrapped the meat, we don't know for sure if they ate the whole animal or not.

2
0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on September 22, 2010
at 08:41 PM

I have seen this argument put forward before, generally refering to the animals inhabiting ice age Europe. Below are the main large mammals inhabiting Europe during the last ice age that our ancestors came in contact with (I hope I havent forgotten any):

Woolly mammoth, Cave lion, Cave bear, Cave hyena, Woolly rhinoceros and Irish elk - these all became extinct by the end of the ice age.

Brown bear, Wolf, Ibex, Chamois, Moose, Reindeer, European bison, Musk ox and Red deer - these all still exist in the wild although many in small numbers now.

Aurochs and Wild horses - these are extinct as species but continue in their domesticated forms as modern cows and horses.

In southwest France there is evidence that Neanderthals and our Cro-Magnon ancestors that replaced them hunted pretty much the same prey species.

The animals ??? ungulates such as reindeer, red deer, roe deer, horses and chamois were the most common prey ??? were the mainstay of humans in this part of the world, according to Grayson.

There is no doubt that hunting of mammoths, woolly rhino, cave bears and lions did take place, they are due to their size, less common animals. Some may have depended on mammoths but I think that for most ice age Europeans the day-to-day meat came from more common and less lethal prey animals that are still around today, particularly reindeer, aurochs and horses. Animals like reindeer and horses tend to rely on fur for insulation from the cold rather than layers of fat.

As for domestic animals, horses have always been quite lean animals as they need to run to escape predators. Domestic cattle may be smaller than the wild aurochs but I doubt that cattle were bred to be leaner.

It is my opinion that a good idea of the meat and fat composition of the diets of ice age Europeans can be worked out by studying surviving species.

1
62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on September 22, 2010
at 02:02 AM

Ancient animals probably had fat profiles similar to current animals. Because current animals have a variety of profiles. Some are very fatty and some much less so. Some fish are very fatty and some much less so. The fatty ones taste the best to us humans. I wonder why that is? Maybe it's cuz fat is good for us. On the flip side, I do find there is a limit to how much fat I feel like eating. I eat a certain amount and then I don't feel like eating any more. What that tells me is that my body likely knows how much is good for it and discourages me from over eating, even though it tastes so good. And that makes me suspect that my body is adapted to deal with both conditions of not enough fat, by making me like it and want more, and that it is adapted to dealing with conditions of too much fat, by kicking in satiation mechanisms.

Whereas with carbs, that satiation mechanism seems to have slowly broken down with time, such that I overeat and still am not satiated. Therefore, logic would suggest that my problem lies with the carbs. It is the only macronutrient that obviously unbalances my system.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on September 22, 2010
at 04:47 AM

Yeah, or could be it is just the KIND of carbs currently available, that were not available then. I would expect the human body probably gives some leeway. The Kitavans can eat a lot of starch and still be healthy. But they were not exposed to high fructose corn syrup, corn oil, white flour, etc in large quantities. In each of us, there is probably a threshold beyond which, the system starts to destabilize. And SAD eating is clearly beyond that tipping point for many of us.

5be844214037850c304c1e6a05dc5277

on September 22, 2010
at 02:11 AM

I'm starting to think this all part of evolved mechanisms with regards to satiation mechanism for carbs, because typically they were only seasonally available and hunter-gatherers being active and fairly short lived (reproduction wise), then gorging on carbs provided a net-positive for human evolution.

1
21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on September 22, 2010
at 01:04 AM

The biggest animal I could find data on was polar bear...raw Alaskan polar bear meat has 26 grams of protein per 100 grams, with 3 grams of total fat and 1 gram of saturated fat. Doesn't that seem low for an arctic animal? Sometimes I suspect nutritiondata is pulling a fast one on me...

http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/ethnic-foods/8078/2

I suspect the answer to your original question is...no. But I can see why you ask--if they kinda know what our macronutrient ratios were like, it's not that much of a leap to know what megafauna were composed of. But like others have said, we don't know what was eaten, we don't know how it evolved, etc etc.

Af842c68e3d07fa0e35b4274f3acaeec

on September 22, 2010
at 01:08 AM

I'm pretty sure that artic animals like the polar bear carry their fat in a thick layer on the surface of the muscle, so the numbers there might not be taking this into account.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on September 22, 2010
at 01:55 AM

Nutrition data is probably giving info for muscle meat.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on September 22, 2010
at 01:19 AM

Oh yeah, obese humans also carry their fat in a thick layer on the surface of the muscle!

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on September 22, 2010
at 05:19 PM

Intramuscular fat is not classified as visceral fat, if I recall correctly. Obese humans do have a higher percentage of visceral fat than do normal humans. But it still pales in comparison to subcutaneous fat (about a 1 to 3 ratio).

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on September 22, 2010
at 10:01 AM

Actually Kamal, obese humans are more likely to carry the nasty visceral fat than subcutaneous

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on September 22, 2010
at 02:31 AM

Isn't that still quite low for muscle meat? Lemme see...maybe polar bears don't move around much, so they don't need much intramuscular fat? They always seem really slow and still in those Coke ads.

Af842c68e3d07fa0e35b4274f3acaeec

on September 22, 2010
at 01:10 AM

Yep, here it is: "Polar bears are superbly insulated by up to 10 cm (3.9 in) of blubber..." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polar_Bear#Physical_characteristics

0
Af842c68e3d07fa0e35b4274f3acaeec

on September 22, 2010
at 01:03 AM

Well, I don't have any data, but we know that as the animal gets larger, the fat percentage generally goes up. So we may be able to assume that with the larger animals, we might have been getting slightly more saturated fat than would be estimated by current animals. Then again, this is just conjecture.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on September 22, 2010
at 01:43 AM

From what I hear elephant is pretty low in fat.

Af842c68e3d07fa0e35b4274f3acaeec

on September 22, 2010
at 02:01 AM

I wouldn't be surprised, they don't need fat to retain body heat.

Answer Question


Get FREE instant access to our
Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!