- Cecilia Baria
- BBC News World
The “caveman” diet is popular with some people looking to lose weight. They believe that eating like Stone Age humans will make them healthier.
This type of diet was called the Paleolithic diet. To try and break this trend, remarkable qualities have been attributed to this diet: It is said to improve skin, boost immunity, solve digestive problems and, of course, help you lose weight.
But how could the Paleolithic eat? The diet includes fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, foods that humans are believed to have eaten when they were hunter-gatherers.
The Paleolithic diet excludes foods that became more common when small-scale farming began 10,000 years ago: grains, legumes, and dairy products.
It all seems very coherent, except for one detail: It is not true that humans followed this diet in prehistoric times, according to Hermann Pontzer, professor of evolutionary anthropology and global health at Duke University in the US.
“There are many myths about what humans ate in the past,” says Ponzer. “These are romantic beliefs, based on the assumption that there will be a normal diet.”
But after working directly with a community of hunters, the scientist was able to observe and measure what they actually eat.
Hadza in Tanzania
Bonzer went to Tanzania to study and live with the Hadza, a group of hunter-gatherers. They are the closest people today to the life our ancestors lived.
Rather than farming or raising animals, the Hadza live off what they find when they travel long distances.
Pontzer has spent the past decade studying the health and physiology of this group. The Hadza people walk up to 10 km a day, hunt wild animals, collect honey, dig the ground for tubers, pick fruit or haul water and firewood.
After examining the data obtained from these and other societies around the world, the researcher finds that, in fact, “there is no Paleolithic diet,” since hunter-gatherers had several diets, depending on the climate and season. And many other circumstances. .
It is true that game, tubers, and wild fruits contain fewer calories, salt, or fat than foods currently consumed by humans.
But it also turns out that most diets in the societies studied are not as high in meat and low in carbohydrates as some Paleolithic diet enthusiasts would claim.
Contrary to popular belief, anglers eat a lot of carbohydrate-rich, sugary, starchy foods, tubers, honey, and even grains, according to Pontzer.
There are records from two hundred years ago with information collected by researchers. In them, there is evidence of feeding this type of group. And the descriptions indicate that there is no single human ancestral diet, according to the professor.
“Usually a hunter-gatherer diet includes a balance of plants and animals, but it varies a lot,” says Pontzer.
Why are we fatter than our ancestors?
“This is the million dollar question,” says the researcher.
there are many reasons. One is that we eat highly processed foods, according to Pontzer. We cut out fiber and protein, add sugars and oils, as well as artificial additives and flavorings.
He adds that our bodies are wired to eat simple foods, but the food we sell in the supermarket does not come directly from the trees or the ground, or from animal hunters.
So it is not easy to eat healthy.
“I try to avoid highly processed foods, but I’m not a perfectionist and I’m not on a strict diet,” he says. “Like many people, I sometimes fall prey to the temptation to eat deliciously processed foods.”
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