Tag Archives: Gowlett

Old Stone Age Diet Depended On Latitude

There isn’t any single Stone Age diet, according to J.A.J. Gowlett, who (whom?) I assume is an archeologist with the University of Liverpool.

(I was tempted to write “there isn’t a monolithic Stone Age diet.”  Get it?  “Lith” is Greek or Latin for “stone.”)

This is probably old new for you guys who have been interested in the paleo diet for much longer than I.

Here are a few more of Gowlett’s ideas:

  • The Stone Age is is more accurately referred to as the Old Stone Age.
  • Hominids (the family of human ancestors) branched off from ape ancestors around eight to 10 million years ago.
  • Roots and tubers have been a part of our ancestral diet for perhaps as long as three million years,  which “places starchy carbohydrate consumption as part of the deep ancestry of human beings.”
  • Meat eating assumed greater importance about two million years ago.
  • Migration to colder environments necessitated more meat consumption because plant foods were more limited.
  • Our ancestors migrated from tropical to temperate latitudes about by 1.7 million years ago.
  • Early humans began using fire for cooking between 500,000 to 1.5 million years ago.
  • Neanderthals were heavily carnivorous.
  • “Ancestors of modern humans are now believed to have evolved in the tropics, probably in Africa, from about 200,000 years ago.”  Their diet was perhaps 70% plant-based.
  • “In contrast, modern humans entering Europe 40,000 years ago would have adopted a meat-based diet by necessity, and maintained this over hundreds of generations.”
  • “Modern hunters and gatherers echo the variety of past diets, ranging from largely plant based in the tropics, to being also heavily meat based in the arctic.”
  • No ancient human population depended heavily on cereals or non-human milk.  “Fruit certainly came first of all….”

Potential Implications For a Paleo Diabetic Diet (highly speculative)

Diabetics with tropical lineage may do better with a plant-based diet.  Those with northern European ancestry may do better with meat-based.

Paleo diets likely had very high fiber contents, reflecting the degree to which they were plant-based.  We’re looking at 70+ grams of fiber daily.  That much fiber would tend to reduce the effect of carbohydrate on blood sugar levels.

Fruits and roots have a high concentration of carbohydrate, with potential adverse effects on blood sugar (raising it, of course).  Diabetics eating paleo-style may need to avoid or limit certain fruits and roots: the ones with lower fiber content and higher glycemic index.  Blood sugar responses will vary from one diabetic to another.  Monitor blood sugar levels one or two hours after carb consumption to learn your idiosyncratic response.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Gowlett, J.A.J.  What actually was the Stone Age diet?  Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, 13 (2003): 143-147.