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News2015August › Paleo Diet could be missing key food group › August 2015

Paleo Diet could be missing key food group

The Paleo Diet-which encourages us to eat only foods that were available before intensive farming methods gave us cereals, grains and wheat-could be missing out on a food group that accelerated the human race and made it smarter, new research suggests

The Paleo Diet-which encourages us to eat only foods that were available before intensive farming methods gave us cereals, grains and wheat-could be missing out on a food group that accelerated the human race and made it smarter, new research suggests.

Carbohydrates, and especially the starches-such as cereals, beans and potatoes-may have been responsible for making us smart, says Dr Karen Hardy from the University of Barcelona. Although human brain size is believed to have increased because of meat-eating and the introduction of cooking, its growth accelerated once cooked starch was introduced into the diet.

If true, this suggests that our ancient ancestors were indeed eating food groups usually associated with farming methods, she says.

The human brain uses up to 60 per cent of the available glucose in the blood, and these high-glucose demands are unlikely to have been met on a low-carbohydrate diet, she says.

And even before farming, starches were in ready supply in the form of tubers, such as potatoes, seeds and some fruits and nuts. And once cooked, the starches would have been digestible.

Humans are among only a handful of primates that produce amylase genes from the salivary glands, and these also increase our ability to digest starch.

(Source: Quarterly Review of Biology, 2015; 90: 251)


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