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Were there many paleo diets?


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Multidisciplinary attempt to reconstruct human nutrition through the Paleolithic shows that a highly carnivorous (meat based) diet was not only prevalent but essential to the existence of our species for almost 2 million years.

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Were there many paleo diets?

  1. 1.  Miki Ben-Dor  Department of Archaeology  Tel Aviv University, Israel  AHS13  August 2013
  2. 2. Conklin-Brittain NL, Wrangham R, Smith CC (2002) A two-stage model of increased dietary quality in early hominid evolution: The role of fiber. In: Ungar PS, Teaford MF, editors. Human diet: Its origin and evolution: Greenwood % weight (Conklin-Britten 2002) % calories (Assuming 1.5 cal. fat/1 gr fiber) Full explanation and references at Anatomy
  3. 3. Smaller Colon is of a smaller gut, ¼ of Chimp colon, Little B12, max. 8% of energy Colon is of the gut, Source of fat and B12 Milton, K. (1999). Nutritional characteristics of wild primate foods: do the diets of our closest living relatives have lessons for us? Nutrition 15:488– 498 Anatomy
  4. 4.  Wrangham proposed that cooking by Homo erectus 1.8 million years ago allowed humans to consume tubers despite their significant fiber content and humans smaller colon and teeth.  However: ◦ Archaeological evidence shows habitual control of fire only begin 1.4 million years later ◦ Genes that promote significant starch metabolism appear at the earliest only 1.6 million years later. ◦ Genes to cope with tubers’ low folic acid content and detoxification of tuber glycosides appear only recently and only among agricultural populations that consume domesticated tubers. ◦ Starch dependent bacteria found in human teeth plaque only after the Agriculture Revolution indicating low starch diet pre-agriculture. ◦ Nitrogen Isotope studies confirm low plant consumption in the late Paleolithic even though cooking was well established. ◦ Meat and fat consumption offer more parsimonious solution to the fiber problem as they are energy dense and do not have fiber so do not require cooking to be metabolized.
  5. 5. Genetic adaptation only in groups with post-Paleolithic consumption of tubers to: •Starch and sucrose metabolism •Folic acid biosynthesis •Detoxification of plant glycosides Genetics
  6. 6. Microbiology
  7. 7. Genetics Uneven Very recent?
  8. 8. Archaeology
  9. 9. Archaeology
  10. 10. Grinding tools and storage structure found in sites dated to a period just before agriculture Archaeology
  11. 11. Archaeology
  12. 12. 81% 87% 80% 89% 61% 78% 29% 68% 26%? 54%Animal foods Caloric percentage of animal food for groups who were systematically studied Ethnography
  13. 13. Isotopes
  14. 14. Isotopes Humans
  15. 15. Strontium and Barium analysis in human and animal teeth from approx. 2 MYA show: “Early Homo (is) indistinguishable from carnivores” (Nature 2012) Strontium
  16. 16. Africa 1.5 MYA - “The appearance of Homo is marked by a sharp drop in the number of large carnivores (>20 kgs) but not small carnivores” Italy 0.5 MYA – Homo appear. Large carnivores drop despite increase in large herbivores. Werdelin L, Lewis ME (2013) Temporal Change in Functional Richness and Evenness in the Eastern African Plio- Pleistocene Carnivoran Guild. PLoS ONE 8(3): e57944. Large Carnivores Small Carnivores Homo erectus Paleontology Signs of competition between early humans and large carnivores
  17. 17. “there is incontrovertible evidence of the convergence of human behavior with carnivore behavior” Animal Behavior
  18. 18.  Wolf (Canis)  Social  Monogamy  2nd Widest geographic distribution  Endurance locomotion  Prey size: 1000 kgs – 1 kg  Preying on young and old  Homo  Social  Monogamy  Widest geographic distribution  Endurance locomotion  Prey size: 6000 kgs - 1 kg  Preying on adults Animal Behavior Joint venture?
  19. 19. “our findings highlight the emergence of carnivory as a process fundamentally determining human evolution.” Weaning in humans 2-3 yearWeaning in Chimps 4-5 years Life History
  20. 20. Kuhn, S. L., & Stiner, M. C. (2006). What’s a Mother to Do? The Division of Labor among Neandertals and Modern Humans in Eurasia. Current Anthropology, 47(6), 953-981 Ethnography
  21. 21. Life History
  22. 22. Inter-disciplinary evidence supports One Paleolithic Highly Carnivorous Diet Life History Archaeology N Isotope Strontium Anatomy Genetics Animal Behavior Ethnography Paleontology Bacteriology