Stone Age diet beats Atkins

The latest diet fad seized on by hopeful weight-watchers can be traced back two million years, it has emerged.

The Stone Age diet advocates eating the sort of food which was around before society was civilised and before agriculture developed.

It encourages the consumption of lean red meat, fruit and nuts, but forbids pasta, bread and milk.

But the diet differs from the hugely popular Atkins Diet because, rather than allowing followers to eat as much fat as they want, the Palaeolithic style of eating only permits natural fats such as those found in nuts and fish.

Jane Griffin, sports dietician and nutritional consultant for the England cricket team, said she was wary of the new diet.

"Bits of the diet are right, but I really have worries about cutting dairy out completely," she said. "You need that source of calcium."

She particularly questioned the lack of carbohydrates as, from a sports point of view, carbohydrate is needed in the diet.

She added: "People should just eat less of this and more of that. But getting the healthy eating message across is difficult - people do not understand more or less.

"Going to extremes and cutting things out is so much easier, but it does not equal a balanced diet."

Researchers in Liverpool have explored the primeval diet, which claims to be the most attuned to the human digestive system.

Their findings, published in the Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine this month, involved the study dietary evolution from eight million years ago.

The researchers found the development of agriculture and introduction of grains into the diet 10,000 years ago dramatically changed the way humans eat.

Bread and milk are generally seen as difficult to digest and according to nutritionists, humans are the only mammals to drink another mammals' milk.

But eating nuts ensures consumption of natural fat, rather than clogging the body with saturated fat.

Fish and nuts contain omega-3 and omega-6 oils which are vital for the functioning of the brain.

In the Stone Age, a large proportion of meat, offal or seafood was consumed, accounting for 45 to to 65 per cent of the daily diet.

There was no set diet, just what was available depending on the seasons, but beans, lentils, grains - anything that had to be cooked - were avoided.

The diet is high in protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals but low in salt and saturated fat.

Research has found that rates of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease were low in people following this primeval diet.

Aboriginals and other hunter-gatherer groups still living in Australia, Africa and South America experience low instances of all of these diseases until they switched to a modern diet.

Critics argue people in the Stone Age did not live as long and so never got the stage where rheumatoid arthritis or osteoporosis was a problem.

Fans of the Palaeolithic diet argue that as the diet was practised during much of human evolution, it is the food that humans were originally designed to eat.

They claim that although people in the Stone Age did not live as long, they were healthier, taller and stronger.

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