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Wien Klin Wochenschr. 2009;121(5-6):173-87. doi: 10.1007/s00508-009-1139-1.

[Human nutrition in the context of evolutionary medicine].

[Article in German]

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Abteilung Ernährungsphysiologie und Humanernährung, Institut für Lebensmittelwissenschaft und Okotrophologie, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Germany.


Evolutionary medicine has gained increasing attention in recent years by implying that a food selection similar to that of the Paleolithic may prevent diseases. This article is an attempt to characterize the food selection during hominid evolution based on current paleontologic research. Hominid evolution can be divided into multiple phases; and the nutrition ecology of the plio-pleistocene hominids can be tentatively characterized. According to new results of isotope analysis, the Australopithecines did ingest small amounts of animal food already 4.5-2.5 million years ago, while consuming a mainly plant based abrasive diet, which was similar to that of recent chimpanzees. Compared to the Australopithecines, the first representatives of Homo such as H. erectus and H. habilis (2.5-1.5 million years before today) were likely to consume a diet providing more energy and nutrients, which might also have been related to the more gracile dentition. Like H. sapiens the members of this species also consumed an omnivore diet. Assumptions about the nutrition ecology of the archaic and the modern H. sapiens are often concluded by analogies based on the living of historic and recent foragers (hunter-gatherers). As the few detailed ethnographic data show, the diet composition of the individual hunter-gatherer groups varied considerably and ranged from a nearly pure animal-based diet to a diet dominated by plants. All in all the eating behaviour of prehistoric humans was, like that of their pleistocene ancestors, very flexible. Except for focussing on an energy and nutrient-rich diet there was neither specialization in certain foods, nor a typical plant-animal ratio nor a defined macronutrient distribution. Correspondingly, it is impossible to justify details given by representatives of evolutionary medicine on "the Paleolithic diet" empirically.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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