Paleo diet devotees stay away from grains and other starches, but new research shows that the very hunter-gatherers they emulate may have actually eaten the stuff.
Dental analysis of people who lived in the Mesolithic age — before agriculture is largely believed to have started — showed residue from starches that researchers say proves they consumed cereal-type grains.
The results challenged the existing idea that domestic grains were introduced to the Balkans region in Europe around 6200 B.C., as part of a "package" with farming-type artifacts and domesticated animals, according to the authors of a new study.
"There has been a long-standing view that for the most of the Palaeolithic times, but also in the Mesolithic, animal protein coming from meat and fish was the main staple food with a very limited role of plant foods," Dusan Borić, the study's lead researcher, told Business Insider.
Mmm, bread. (Photo: Gettystock)
Evidence came from plaque scraped off the teeth of skeletons found on the border between Serbia and Romania — remains that dated as far back as 6600 B.C., according to NBC News, which obtained a copy of the study.
The material resembled grains like red wheat, millet and barley, as well as other starches like beans and peas.
The researchers also discovered that some of the people had lost their teeth at an earlier age, which suggested they might have consumed a lot of sweet, starchy foods, according to the outlet.
The plants, which weren't native to inland foragers, ended up in their mouths thanks to social networks between them and early farmers, according to the study.
'Simply acquiring enough calories to survive'
These findings agree with another study from 2014, which concluded that far from relying solely on meats, nuts and vegetables, ancient humans likely ate a lot of different foods to sustain them.
While that research didn't weigh in on the purported health benefits of going paleo, the authors did stress that those hunter-gatherers probably didn't care too much about nutrition.
"They were simply acquiring enough calories to survive and reproduce. Everyone would agree that ancestral diets didn’t include Twinkies, but I’m sure our ancestors would have eaten them if they grew on trees."
Maybe current science is a better source for nutrition advice than cavemen. Just a thought.