The fad for eating like our 'caveman' ancestors was announced as the cure to all kinds of modern ailments - but is there any evidence to support it as a healthy lifestyle.
But what did our ancestors really eat? How close is the reality to the fad diet? And were our ancestors actually better off as a result?
All these questions and more will be answered at a University of Aberdeen event hosted by an archaeologist from its School of Geosciences.
At the Café Scientifique event in Aberdeen on Wednesday June 17, lecturer Dr Kate Britton will explain what scientists think our early human ancestors ate, and explore human dietary variability to weigh up evidence for whether or not the archaeological and palaeoanthropological record suggests there is an ‘optimal’ way we should all be eating.
“The diet industry is huge! There seems to be a new book out every week on what we should or shouldn’t be eating to be fit, healthy and live longer,” Dr Britton explains. “The paleodiet movement has been very big, and there are many diet plans that promise results if you avoid processed foods and eat like your ancestors. But how much of this is really grounded in fact? It’s important to look back to the archaeological record itself, and see what evidence there is for human dietary diversity – is there really only one answer?”
Archaeologists investigate past dietary habits in a number of ways, for example, through the study of past hunting tools, pottery and the study of the remains of the plants and animals people used to eat.
Dr Britton adds: “My research focus on the use of chemical analyses of archaeological bones and teeth to reconstruct past dietary habits directly from skeletal remains. My projects, and those of my students and doctoral researchers at Aberdeen have used these techniques to study past diets from a range of different sites and time periods – from Medieval Aberdeen to prehistoric Alaska. The more we learn about dietary diversity in the past, the more you query whether there is ever really a ‘one size fits all’ answer to what we should be eating.
“I hope this event will make people think about the relationship academic research in subjects like archaeology and palaeoanthropology can have to modern day issues. Many people are very interested in archaeology, and find it fascinating, but perhaps haven’t previously thought about the broader scope of archaeology or the big questions archaeology can help answer.
“Whether you are interested in the effects of climate change, designing the ‘perfect’ diet, or investigating the spread of modern epidemics, looking into the past can provide great insights.”
The event takes place at Waterstones, Union Bridge, at 7pm on Wednesday June 17. Admission is free.
Author: Euan Wemyss