Experts find cavemen ate mostly vegan, debunking paleo diet

Experts find cavemen ate mostly vegan, debunking paleo diet

A new study has debunked the general meal plan behind the Paleo diet, with findings suggesting that some Stone Age people ate a mostly vegan diet.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the Paleo diet was adapted to mimic the nutritional plan adopted until 2000 BC.

“The Paleo diet, also referred to as the caveman or Stone-Age diet, includes lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds,” the University explains. “Proponents of the diet emphasise choosing low-glycemic fruits and vegetables.”

Most of the diet is centered around protein intake, promoting the consumption of grass-fed beef for its omega-3 content. In general, the idea is to consume the foods that were available during the Paleolithic period for health benefits since “our genetics and anatomy have changed very little” from that time, per the HSPH.

Now, a study published by the Nature Ecology & Evolution Journal researched and analysed the chemical signatures of the Paleolithic group, the Iberomaurusians, specifically within bones and teeth. Their findings suggest the general idea of meat being the primary source of protein during this time isn’t valid.

Stable isotope analysis was used, focusing on the nitrogen and zinc isotopes in teeth enamel and collagen to look at the meat consumption associated with the Iberomaurusians, as well as carbon isotopes to discover whether meat or fish was the primary source of protein.

“Our analysis showed that these hunter-gatherer groups, they included an important amount of plant matter, wild plants to their diet, which changed our understanding of the diet of pre-agricultural populations,” Zineb Moubtahij, the lead author for the study stated.

Additionally, researchers saw an abundance of cavities in the buried remains in the Taforalt caves, the places where Iberomaurusians would lay the dead to rest. According to the study, these cavities suggested the consumption of “fermentable starchy plants” like beets, corn, rye, and cassava.

Klervia Jaouen, a co-author of the study, noted that the “high proportion of plants in the diet of a pre-agricultural population” was “unusual”. However, their findings weren’t indicative of the protein intake for all individuals in the Stone Age.

Still, Jaouen pointed out that this was the first finding by isotope techniques that saw a “significant plant-based component in a Palaeolithic diet”.