Evolutionary nutrition science and dietary recommendations of the Stone Age – the ideal answer to present-day nutritional questions or reason for criticism?

A. Ströhle, A. Hahn, Hannover

“Evolutionary nutrition science”, like other disciplines, attempts to analyze biotic phenomena on an evolutionary basis. Methodically, such an evolutionary approach is expected to find out what diet is optimal for people living today.

The normative postulate of those advocating a paleo diet is that the best diet of contemporary humans is just the diet our human ancestors ate millions of years ago. People of the 21st century who wish to stay healthy, fit and slim are advised to follow the paleo diet concept which comprises meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and nuts, but no cereals, milk and other “neolithic” food. Supporters justify this diet by several theses referring to evolutionary ecology and genetics established in the light of the adaptationistic paradigma.

The logic behind such attempts seems to be plausible, but is actually based on unilateral adaptationistic thinking. Mainly because one does not differentiate between aptation and adaptation, wrong conclusions are drawn. In addition, there are empirical problems of reconstructing paleolithic diets prevailing millions of years ago. Archeological data only vaguely suggest some dietary trends.

A change in the nutritional behaviour which was essential for human evolution occurred aproximately 2.5 million years ago when our ancestors switched to a diet, characteristic of which were increased energy density and digestibility and, later, an improved utilization of nutrients due to the use of fire for cooking. The trend towards maximizing nutritional energy has been continuing.

Key words: adaptationism / evolutionary theory / paleo diet / human evolution

Sie finden den Artikel in deutscher Sprache in Ernährungs-Umschau 01/06 ab Seite 10.

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