Paleolithic hunter-gatherers’ dietary patterns: Implications and consequences
The human diet has passed through several revolutionary changes since the introduction of agriculture, which has led to substantial modifications in individuals’ nutrition behavior. Overwhelming evidence supporting that diet is a key environmental risk factor affecting the now rampant incidence of the diseases of affluence such as obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular diseases, and certain types of cancer. Findings on the health implications of low carbohydrate-high protein diet are inconsistent and controversial. Unlike modern humans, it was argued that the eating patterns of the Paleolithic hunter-gatherers could have beneficial effects on human health by reducing diet-induced chronic lifestyle diseases. Hence, the objective of this review was to outline the main aspects of Paleolithic hunter-gatherers’ dietary patterns and its main long-term health consequences. Paleolithic diet is based on the assumption that our hunter-gatherer ancestors were nourished on low carbohydrate-high protein diet. Yet, the majority of literature on Paleolithic diet is anecdotal and reflects two opposite viewpoints. First, advocates and proponents argued that human’s genome could have been modified a little since the early stages of agriculture. Thus, genetically, humans remain Stone Agers-adapted for a Paleolithic dietary regimen. As such, consuming a diet similar to that consumed during the Paleolithic era would be more compatible with our genetic makeup and might reduce the occurrence of diet-related lifestyle diseases. Second, critics asserted that the Paleolithic dietary recommendations and restrictions are not evidence-based. Adherents of Paleolithic nutrition claimed that modern populations who maintained Paleolithic lifestyle are totally free of the diseases of affluence. Nonetheless, information about the Paleolithic diet have been drawn from studies of surviving hunter-gatherer populations, archeological records, and analysis of wild plants and animals plus other methods. Recommendations of the Paleolithic nutrition are not based on interventional studies, thus the adoption of which could have negative health consequences. Hence, before adopting low carbohydrate-high protein diet, it seems logical to undertake a well-designed population-based longitudinal studies to evaluate the long-term health consequences of the Paleolithic nutrition.
Keywords: Paleolithic, lifestyle, carbohydrate, protein, health
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