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Popular weight loss diet, the Paleo diet, may have had various versions: study

Posted:  Friday, January 02, 2015

The journey towards weight loss is typified by a certain frenzy, especially towards fad diets. One such diet that rose to prominence was the ‘Paleo Diet’. Modern weight watchers have started adopting this ancient diet of early humans to record stark weight loss. However, a group of American researchers say that these ancestral diets may have differed substantially over time, thus casting doubts on its consistency.

These findings are published in The Quarterly Review of Biology. The study examines anatomical, paleo-environmental and chemical evidence as well as the feeding behavior of living animals. It also covers earliest hominid evolution, from about 6 to 1.6 million years ago and deals with the beginning of the Paleolithic era spanning from 2.6 million to roughly 10,000 years ago.

Based on their study, the researchers put forth certain points that weight watchers need to consider before adopting the Paleo diet:

• The Paleo diet suggests certain percentage consumption of protein, fat and carbohydrates. However, these recommendations are based largely on estimations from a limited number of modern human hunter-gatherers and not from early humans who may have consumed a broader diet. This makes characterisation of the Paleo diet difficult.

• The range of environments the early humans lived in dictated their diet. For example, hunter-gatherers in a northern climate may have consumed an almost exclusive animal-based diet, while hunter-gatherers near the equator may have relied heavily on plant-based resources. Thus, the present day Paleo diet may not be completely representational of the actual one.

• The foods available today differ from those that were available in the olden days. The researchers came to this conclusion by observing the diet of the langur monkeys based in the Nepal Himalayas. During one season, there were wild strawberries on the ground, which the monkeys did not eat. When the researchers tasted these strawberries, they realised they were highly bitter. This means the strawberries consumed by humans are of a different variety and similarly other foods consumed by early ancestors could also differ.

• Early humans had shorter lifespans; this casts a doubt on the nutritional value of the foods consumed by them.

• The early ancestors favoured survival over nutrition and hence ate with that sole purpose. This again makes it difficult to judge whether their diets were healthier and can be aped.

With the advent of modern day technology, foods have witnessed a radical change in their cultivation, nutritional content and processing techniques. Hence, the currently perceived form of the Paleo diet could well be different than the one adopted by our ancestors!

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