January 2015

Cavemen Did Not Necessarily Follow the Paleo Diet

Cavemen ate what was available to them, but did not necessarily follow the recently popularized Paleo diet, according to recent research.

The Paleolithic Age, otherwise known as the Old Stone Age, occurred from approximately 2.5 million years ago until approximately 10,000 years ago (from when stone tools were first used by humans until the emergence of agriculture). The present-day paleo, or caveman, diet is based on the diet believed to be commonly consumed during the Paleolithic Age. Some experts suggest that this diet is the healthiest for humans. Up to 40 percent of calories come from meat and fish in the paleo diet, with the remaining calories coming from unsaturated fat (up to 35 percent) and fruits and vegetables (up to 45 percent). Carbohydrate intake is low, as fruit is the major source of carbohydrates. Foods including grains, legumes, dairy products, potatoes, and refined salt, sugar, and oils are generally excluded.

In a recent study published in the Quarterly Review of Biology, researchers discuss the common misconceptions around what “diet” was followed throughout hominoid evolution. According to the researchers, early humans did not necessarily follow any one specific dietary pattern. Focusing on any dietary model disregards the fact that early humans lived in a wide-range of habitats, and therefore their diets were largely composed of what was available to them. For example, humans in northern climates likely ate an animal-based diet, while those in southern climates were more likely to survive on a plant-based diet.

The authors concluded that focusing too narrowly on any one specific food diet or strategy as it relates to early humans should be viewed with caution. There were likely many different dietary patterns, all of which depended on available resources in the environment.

For information about the Paleo Diet, please visit Natural Standard’s Health & Wellness Database.


  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.
  2. Sayers K, Lovejoy CO. Blood, bulbs, and bunodonts: on evolutionary ecology and the diets of Ardipithecus, Australopithecus, and early Homo. Q Rev Biol. 2014 Dec;89(4):319-57.

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