The cities we live in today are a long way
from the world of our ancestors where they got everything they needed from the environment around them. It’s an appealing idea to think we could solve many of our health problems if we just lived as our stone age ancestors did. Eat the Paleo diet and we’ll cure most
modern ills. But can we really run the clock backwards and find the optimal way to live, the way evolution designed us to? Sadly, it’s an impossible dream and it’s based on a set of fallacies about our ancestors. In the past, we lived in groups of a few dozen people and shifted camps up to sixty times a year. That would mean moving home at least once a week, every week, just to keep yourself and your family fed. That’s a lot of box packing. Life was difficult and very short. Most people died before five years of age and very few survived beyond forty. There were no doctors, hospitals or dentists, no medicine, no schools, no transport and life was very hard and regularly quite violent. We actually have no idea exactly what most of our ancestors ate. Short of inventing a time machine, it’s simply impossible to know and it’s likely that most foods they ate simply aren’t available to us anymore as the planet has changed a lot in the last ten thousand years. The amount of meat, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and other foods eaten depended entirely on where they lived. If you lived by the coast, you ate lots of seafood and spent a lot of time fishing or collecting shellfish. But if you lived in the desert, you took massive hikes for days on end just to try to catch the odd antelope or kangaroo and survived on bugs, bulbs, nuts and berries. Our ancestors exploited foods as they became available to them each week and every season and ate a vast range of foods throughout the year. The one universal was that people everywhere ate meat. But from many different kinds of animals. There were no vegetarians and for some people, almost 100% of their food came from animals. If we decided to start collecting from the wild again, we’d quickly destroy the planet with seven billion mouths to feed. The invention of farming ten thousand years ago marked a major new phase in our evolution. Many many changes in our genes resulted from this new lifestyle and the diets of these early farmers. Those of us with farming ancestors, a vast majority of people alive today, differ genetically from hunter-gatherers. So going back simply isn’t a choice anyway. If anything, we ought to eat the prehistoric farming diet our ancestors ate five or ten thousand years ago. In the end, the choices we make about what to eat should be based on good science, not some fantasy about a lost stone age paradise that never actually existed.